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Diane

Apocalypse Now

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I realize there

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The french scene was not in the original at all.

I recommend Heart of Darkness - the documentary on the making of the film. It's very interesting. In some ways, its a look behind the curtain that deflates the magnificence and horror of the film.

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Question: Was all that about meeting the French colonialists in the original?

spoilers1.gif WITHIN

No, this was added for Redux, as was the scene with the Playboy bunnies that takes place upriver in the driving rain.

Redux also rearranges some scenes from the original cut. For example, in Redux Willard steals Colonel Kilgore's surfboard and Lance later trades it at the amphitheatre for the waterskis. We then have the scene of Lance waterskiing on the river. In the original cut, Lance is shown waterskiing before they even meet up with Kilgore. And the stealing of Kilgore's surfboard never happens. There are several other scenes that got shifted around, but this was the one that stuck out in my mind. But it explained why, in the original cut, there is suddenly a surfboard in Lance's gun turret that hadn't been there in earlier scenes.

For me, it's a difficult choice as to which film I admire more. Redux has several small moments where Willard shares with the crew a different side to his character, a lighter side, than in the original cut. There are several instances where he jokingly tells Chief "don't leave without me", and the aforementioned stealing of Kilgore's prized surfboard. Or the fact that it's Willard who hooks up the crew with the Playmates, in exchange for fuel. These scenes make Willard seem almost like a regular soldier... one of the boys. These moments have a greater effect later in the film when Willard shoots the young Vietnemese girl injured on the sampan, and he then narrates "Those boys were never going to look at me the same way again." In the original cut, Willard was always a cold fish -- very stand-offish -- and I really didn't find it surprising that he would shoot that girl without hesitation. These small scenes really added a lot for me.

I'm on the fence about the Playboy bunny sequence that occurs before the Do Lung bridge. Again, it adds to Willards' character and the change in attitude the others will later have of him... but it goes on too long, and is pretty badly acted in many spots.

But then we come to scenes like the French colonialists. They just didn't work for me, espeacially the one night stand (and the awful music playing over these scenes). It was a moment that really stops the film dead in its tracks. Either they should have left the whole thing out, or just kept the scenes of Clean's burial and continued on upriver.

I think, in the end, I would recommend the original cut over Redux, but each version has its own flaws. It's up to you to decide which flawed version suits you better.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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I recommend Heart of Darkness - the documentary on the making of the film.  It's very interesting.  In some ways, its a look behind the curtain that deflates the magnificence and horror of the film.

Actually, it's at home right now and I have started watching it. Two words that fill me with terror and amazement: George Lucas. blink.gif Cannot believe he wanted to do this project. Two more words that fill me with a wistful thoughts of what might have been with Heart of Darkness: Orson Welles...but yeah, although he couldn't make a film version of Conrad's story, he did get his little consolation prize: Citizen Kane.

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Apparently Lucas even wrote initial drafts of the screenplay for Coppola. Crazy, eh?

Personally, I love Apocalypse Now and think it is easily one of the ten best films ever made. So powerful, so frightening. Just this past semester I had to write something on Conrad's Heart of Darkness and then watched AN right after. Talk about a way to mess a person up.

Another film that reminds me of Conrad is Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (or; Aguirre: The Wrath of God) by Herzog that is similarily powerful, bleak and frightening.

Oh, and the title of the documentary on the making of the film is Hearts of Darkness.

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FWIW, I am definitely among those who think Redux was the inferior of the two versions. I can't find my review right now, but as I said two message boards ago, "my take on Redux these days is that Coppola was apparently under the mistaken impression that his film is ABOUT the Vietnam War. It isn't. It may be SET during that war, but it is ABOUT something much bigger than that -- or at least, it was, when the film first came out. Ironically, the longer version narrows its focus on Vietnam more, and is a much smaller film as a result." Having said that, I have to admit that even seeing a puffed-up, over-padded, excessively-topical version of Apocalypse Now on the big screen beats seeing just about any new major-studio film these days.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Diane,

I see your point about the difficuly of finding much spiritual content (much less, value) in the film. But for me, sometimes an artistic experience is so emotionally overwhelming that it takes on something of a spirituality of its own. Images, artistry, and emotional response of such larger-than-life stature naturally bring one into greater awareness of that which is larger that our physical lives.

So perhaps the film shouldn't be labelled an externally spiritual one, but neither can art of that magnitude be separated from the spiritual.

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Wow, Jeff, that is great stuff. And, also, perhaps the majesty of a great film in and of itself is a spiritual experience. Like Buber taught, the natural and the spiritual are a lot harder to separate than we sometimes think.

Maybe I missed something and y
Edited by stef

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Jeff and Stef:

These are beautiful posts. I'll have more to say later, but just reading your words is having a powerful effect on me. I can almost feel the same emotions I felt while watching the film. And I totally understand your point of view...and feel myself on the verge of conceding to it. I wrote my thoughts above on the night I finished my viewing, when I was still feeling a bit sickened by the whole thing and wondering if I'd be able to sleep that night.

I recently complained that I hadn't really seen many films lately that blew me away. That buck stopped with AN. It repulsed me when I'd finished, but it's intrigued me ever since.

Well, I gotta get to work and get some caffeine, but I must point out this supremely important thing:

Dan is right.

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I guess the question is more a theological one than a film one, the question that comes to my mind is this: Are there situations in this world that are completely hopeless and lost?

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Disappointment with God...

Funny you should mention that, speaking of "hearts of darkness," that was the book i read at my lowest point, years ago. Can't remember a thing about it now, but i believe it was partially responsible for pulling me out of a real time of depression. Good stuff.

-s.

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I found that book many years after the absolute darkest days of my life. Really wish I'd known about it during that time.

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FWIW, this is the review of Redux that I sent in a couple years ago; I can't find the actual published review anywhere, so there may have been tweaks to this. Incidentally, regarding my line about how Coppola "has not produced anything all that noteworthy since," I have often remarked that you can see Coppola's career burn out over the course of Apocalypse Now.

- - -

In recent years, audiences have paid good money to see new, expanded versions of classic 1970s movies such as Star Wars and The Exorcist, so it was probably only a matter of time before Francis Ford Coppola restored roughly 49 minutes of deleted footage to his sprawling Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now. Coppola spent nearly three years of his life making the original film, which came out in 1979, and he has not produced anything all that noteworthy since, so you can appreciate why he may have wanted to go back and revisit this project. To hear him tell it, Apocalypse Now Redux is the great work of art he wanted to make before the pressure of serving a mainstream audience forced him to pare it down. But compared to the trippy, almost poetic original film, Redux feels like a rough cut that has not yet been trimmed of its prosaic fat.

There are four main new sequences, and they don't really add a whole lot to the film, except length. While the new scenes do humanize the characters to an extent that the original film did not, they also tend to repeat themes that were already present in the original film, and at times they get downright didactic. One of the longest sequences takes place on a plantation far up the Vietnamese river, where Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), the psychologically scarred soldier who is on a top-secret mission to assassinate a renegade American colonel, encounters a group of French colonists who have refused to leave their home. Over dinner, they lecture Willard on the ways in which America has failed to learn from the mistakes of the French, and the one-sided conversation feels like little more than a history lesson.

Similarly, when Captain Willard finally meets, and is captured by, the brutal and enigmatic Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), one of the new scenes shows Kurtz reading to Willard an old Time magazine article that is absurdly optimistic about America's chances in the war. This also happens to be the only time we see Kurtz in broad daylight, without shadows obscuring him and turning him into some sort of nightmarish figure, and the overall effect of the scene is to take the movie down from its hypnotic heights and make it more banal. Scenes like these have the strange effect of making a movie with an arguably timeless appeal seem even more tied to the past than it was before.

The other new scenes come earlier in the film, and their main purpose is to explore the relationship between Willard and the crew of the patrol boat that takes him up the river. At one point, they steal a surfboard from Captain Kilgore (Robert Duvall), the unflappable cavalry officer -- and surfing fanatic -- whose helicopters blare Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" over the loudspeakers as they swoop down on a Vietnamese outpost. Some time later, Willard makes a deal with the USO Playboy people, who are stranded in a deserted medevac unit, whereby the patrol-boat crew gets to spend a few hours with the Playmates in exchange for some fuel. This leads to one of those uncomfortable, and arguably hypocritical, scenes in which a woman bares her breasts for the camera while lamenting that men are exploiting her.

Still, quibble as one might with Coppola's decisions in the editing room, Apocalypse Now Redux has enough of the original film's disturbing, mesmerizing power to remind you of just how exciting and idiosyncratic movies used to be. From Sheen's cynical narration to Vittorio Storaro's sensuous cinematography, and from the entrancing music to the sometimes shocking violence, this is easily one of the most engaging movies of this, or any other, summer.

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I can't believe my good fortune. On the way home tonight, I stopped by my favorite used bookstore to find some last minute reading material for my 33 hour journey to Kenya next week, with Mr. Jason Bortz. While perusing the movie shelves, I came across an old copy of NOTES On the Making of Apocalypse Now by Eleanor Coppola... her journals that were used extensively in Hearts of Darkness. I'll let you know how the journal compares to the documentary, and see if there were any interesting tidbits the documentary may have left out.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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but about Sheen: yes, the man was incredible. Something about his eyes—I just can't forget them. I keep thinking of some Radiohead lyrics, and I see his eyes whenever I listen to the song "Knives Out": Look into my eyes/I'm not coming back.

I read/heard somewhere that originally that scene was supposed to be more about vanity - something like Coppola told Sheen that he needed to admire himself in the mirror - doing all those martial arts moves, but somehow Sheen ended up tapping into all this stuff about himself, and Coppola just kept on filming.

I love this film, but I have often asked similar questions about the complete darkness of it. To be honest, I quite like the absence of sense in the film -I especially like the Dennis Hopper/photographer scenes. They're really disorientating, particularly the scene where he's feeding Sheen water through that cane cage and saying 'Are they gonna say that he was a kind man, than he was a wise man...?. He does this thing where he lightly kisses the cane bars of the cage, and I found that particularly freaky. It almost comes across as if Hopper's rantings are the best attempt there is to make sense of anything in the film.

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I don't mention Hopper enough when talking about Apocalypse Now. His role here has to be one of his greatest moments in acting (some might make a case for Blue Velvet, but -- Ugh. I just have a harder time with his role in that film.) But, yeah Stu:

Why ? Why would a nice guy like you wanna kill a genius ?

You know that the man really likes you. He likes you, he

really likes you. He's got something in mind for you. Aren't

you curious about that ? I'm curious, I'm very curious. You

curious ?There's something happening out there, man.

You know something, man, I know something that you don't

know. That's right, jack. The man is clear in his mind, but his

soul is mad . Oh yeah. He's dying, I think. He hates all

this, he hates it! But ... the man's ... uh ... he reads poetry out

loud, alright? ... And a voice! A

Edited by stef

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Fantastic monologue here from a clearly messed up individual.

Meaning the character or the actor? wink.gif

Seriously, after finshing Hearts of Darkness this weekend, I don't know what kept Coppola from beating Hopper to a pulp during filming. But he did get a great performance out of him.

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Last night, I watched an interesting documentary called Final Cut: The Making of Heaven's Gate and the Unmaking of a Studio. It plays a bit like Hearts of Darkness but without the happy ending. wink.gif

http://www.trioplus.tv/plus/final_cut/

Unfortunately, Coppola's problems on Apocalypse Now played into Michael Cimino's hands. Execs at United Artists were unwilling to fire him or to even put much pressure on him because they assumed that he would put together a picture as great as Coppola's. He didn't, UA went belly-up, and for the better part of a decade American auteurs had much greater difficulty rounding up financing and getting final cut.

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Peter, thanks for digging up that review.

To hear [Coppola] tell it, Apocalypse Now Redux is the great work of art he wanted to make before the pressure of serving a mainstream audience forced him to pare it down.

How odd. Hearts of Darkness shows Coppola right after filming the whole French dinner scene, when he yells at the actors, crew, etc. that the entire thing basically was horrible and he didn't like anything about it, adding, "I'm just going to forget this scene was ever shot!" Maybe that was one take and they reshot it, but I didn't get that idea. IMHO, he should have gone with his first instinct.

Indeed, the documentary was an eye-opening work (and for me, at least, partially an eyes-closed work

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I only harass the ones i love the most.

-s.

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Just wanted to weigh in and ask that I be added to the ranks of those who prefer the original over Redux. Baal_T'shuvah, you make some interesting points about Redux perhaps humanizing the characters more...but I actually felt more sympathy for the crew in the original cut. Yeah, it helped that I didn't have to actually see them pawing away at the Bunnies, although, of course, they are yelling and screaming like everyone else in the crowd at the show.

And, for reasons that just aren't clear to me, I actually prefer Willard as a cold, almost robotic person. Why is that, I wonder? Studying his character is a fascinating challenge. He's our narrator, and we're allowed to get inside his head, so I feel like I'm definitely "with him" on this journey, almost as an outsider looking in, even in the middle of it all. And the first five minutes of the film alone win him my sympathy. So I do feel some sort of connection with him, especially in terms of witnessing the events, but I don't really want him connecting with others. It's confusing.

Oh, and Stef, how

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I have a soft spot for this thread so I don't mind reviving it even for something other than Apocalypse Now.

I just got back from a screening of Kristian Levring's The Intended and couldn't believe how the themes relate to what we've discussed here so far. Nor could I believe how the themes therein are the same themes, and not to mention the same setting, as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The film is set in 1924 on a trading post in Malaysia, and yes, it's even ivory that we're dealing with, and it's about taking advantage of the natives in that area. It's the same setting and the same themes combined with a brand new story that scares us all the same.

Levring is the master at landing people in a remote, isolated area and watching how they act when power still matters but civilization is long gone. What was The King is Alive if not a Time of the Wolf without any hope in sight? The Intended is like The King is Alive, not only in that they were both digital, visually stunning works, but also that in one we have a remote desert that can't be escaped from, and in the other, the same situation in an unescapable jungle. The characters still go mad, and the burrowing into depravity is clearly what takes them there.

It resonates with everything we've discussed on this thread so far, and I still believe these are important films. They reflect a thought pattern regarding the absence of the absolute, the hopelessness of chance, and the longing for more than just to make it through life alone. They reflect people that long for morals even when inhabiting what are essentially immoral situations. And that, from every angle.

This is just a quick note to say if you are a fan of the other films listed in this Hearts of Darkness thread, here is another film that hits us from the same parabolic ethos. If opportunity to see this one strikes, claim it at once.

-s.

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...here is another film that hits us from the same parabolic ethos. 

Thanks for the tip, stef! Sounds like a winner.

("parabolic ethos," eh? Wow. I want one of them!)

Ron

P.S. Down with the ads, down with the ads... cussing.gif

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