Still working on the Sarah Palin post. In the meantime, please enjoy this August 23, 2006 post from my old MySpace blog.
Got “Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier:” from The Spot yesterday for $17.95. Two Discs containing both the Original 1979 Theatrical Cut and the 2001 “Redux” version. I haven’t had a chance to see both versions back to back. I’m saving that for a long day off. But I did spin “Redux” to listen to the Coppola commentary track which should be required listening for anyone insane enough to inflict their dreams at 24 frames a second to a possibly indifferent public.
The one fact that should be noted is that Coppola started with a script by John Milius that was more of a traditional war movie. But as shooting progressed, Coppola realized that the tone of the material was becoming too crazy and surreal to support Milius‘ original conception. So he began going off the script and essentially “winged it” for the remainder of the shoot.
Now junking your script is dicey enough for a small movie. For a mega-production like “Apocalypse Now” which was being shot on location where controls are at a minimum…well, trying to shape something halfway coherent out of a million and a half feet of shot footage would be a miracle. The fact that the film’s a near masterpiece should qualify Coppola and his collaborators for sainthood.
And yes, I mean near. I’m sorry but the film always runs out of steam for me when Brando shows up. Here’s a guy we’ve been hearing about for close to two hours. A hot shit Green Beret who’s been kicking the shit out of the Vietcong at every tern and when we finally see him, he’s this tubby guy in black pajamas quoting T.S. Eliot. There’s no denying Brando’s presence. And according to Coppola, he was responsible for the monologue about the inoculated children getting their arms cut off, so good on him for that. But still, after all that build-up…
(However it should be noted that my favorite Brando performance is as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls”. So take what I’m saying with a grain of salt.)
But still, there’s a lot to savor in this film. There’s Martin Sheen who manages to make passivity a legitimate tactic. You got Duvall as Col. Kilgore (CHARLIE DON’T SURF!) You got the helicopter attack set to “Ride of the Valkiries“. (Interesting side note, apparently Coppola showed the almost finished sequence to Akira Kurosawa for his impute. And he notes with a certain amount of pride on the commentary track that Kurosawa “Only had one or two small notes. Extra note: That one sequence took a year for Jerry Greenberg to edit.) You got Vittorio Storaro’s amazing color photography. You got…well, a hell of a lot.
And you’ve also got a record of what happens when a director just completely and utterly throws caution to the wind and embraces the process and just goes with it. It’s a hell of an expensive way to make movies and not everyone should do it. But in an age where even the best big studio films look like they were just lifted off their storyboards, there’s is something to be said about making chaos your friend.
EDIT: Corrected spelling errors at 8:11 P.M.