Friday, April 26, 2002

Notable Rental -- Apocalypse Now Redux (IMDB) (Netflix)

Francis Ford Coppola's director's cut of the 1979 Apocalypse Now--longer, but more coherent and therefore more powerful. Saw it again in a Coppola film class, where it got the second most votes for best Coppola film, behind The Godfather trilogy (which seems to be cheating a little), putting it far ahead of The Conversation. Based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," with Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz, who has gone so far off the Vietnam war reservation that Martin Sheen is sent to "terminate his command" with "extreme prejudice." Along the way he meets Robert Duvall's Lt. Col. Kilgore, who gave us "Charlie don't surf!," "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" and best of all, "someday this war's going to end" (in the context of the movie, this is very funny, trust me). While the story may seem wildly over the top, it was in fact based on stories coming back from the war about troops surfing after battles and officers going native.

There's a delicious tension between rightie screenwriter John Milius, war buff George Lucas, and the dovish Coppola that simultaneously creates bloodlust for and revulsion at what you see on the screen, which is beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro (thought of by his fellow cinematographers as the best around), and hear (Walter Murch did the sound, which won an Oscar). As many have observed, the production was also Coppola's personal Vietnam: the Pentagon refused to help, the Philippine Army helicopters kept flying off the set to fight Islamic fundamentalists (we're watching that movie again now), a hurricane shut down production for a couple months, Brando hadn't prepped mentally or physically and had ballooned to almost 300 pounds, Sheen had a heart attack, and Coppola was having an affair with one of the crew while his wife shot a terrific documentary about the production (Hearts of Darkness). That Coppola pulled this out of the quagmire and produced a film that falls #28 on the American Film Institute's all-time greatest list is miraculous.