Apocalypse Right NOW

28 05 2005

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but Francis Coppola rocks my world. I’ve worked with him a few times and have always been impressed by his Big Picture thinking and his artistry, even if the film isn’t always the best.

Last night I saw APOCALYPSE NOW; REDUX at the Cinematheque and it’s an incredible work at the same time that it fails.

First, this is truly a deep movie. Deep in the sense that there is plenty of room for discussion afterwards and plenty of psychological travel that the Willard character and the audience must go through in order to reach the amazing conclusion.

Next, this is a flawed film, even more so in the REDUX version than in the original version which I saw at the Ziegfeld in New York when it first came out (as well as the Dome at here). It is a road movie of epic proportions and, like most road movies, is incredibly episodic. In the original version this aspect of it was glossed over by a shorter running time. Now, with nearly 50 minutes added, bloating its running time to 3 hours and 22 minutes, you get to see the seams. Some of the new scenes are helpful but there are two that create more of an episodic feel than the film can handle, even if they do add some character and background.

In one, two of the Playboy bunnies who we’ve seen run away from a concert gone crazy (like everything else in the war) are found stranded in a muddy encampment, nearly out of their minds. Both of them submit to the sexual advances of our men while clearly being miles away in their own heads. Ignoring the conundrum of why a completely driven and obsessed Willard would even allow for a lengthy stop on his quest (not to mention, giving up two containers of boat fuel), the scene makes a small point at great length.

The other added scene is a lengthy sequence on a French plantation in which a family of industrialists argues about their future in front of Willard. One, a beautiful widow who eventually takes him to bed, uses the scene to tell Willard the relatively important but obvious fact that he has two sides to him — a peaceful, loving side, and a warrior side. Once again, it is a point that is, while not as obvious as the Playmate one, takes way too long for its payoff.

Still, the film is a masterpiece of character study, both for Marlon Brando’s Kurtz and Martin Sheen’s Willard, as well as the keenly observed crew on the boat that takes Willard up the river to the Heart of Darkness.

If you can see this film on the big screen — DO IT!!

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