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Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Francis Ford Coppola
scr John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola
with Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Aurore Clement, Colleen Camp, Christian Marquand, Harrison Ford
release US 15.Aug.79,
REDUX 2001: 3h22
release US 3.Aug.01,
FINAL CUT 2019: 3h03
release US Apr.19 tff,
ALL-TIME TOP 5 FILM
BEST FILM OF 1979
CANNES FILM FEST
An American masterpiece, this is one film that should never be watched on video, no matter how big your home screen might be. This is an immense, overwhelming cinematic experience that envelops and rattles the viewer with its massive imagery and pungent themes. Everything about the film echoes and resonates, from finely tuned performances that feel like they're on the edge of madness to the way Francis Ford Coppola orchestrates the mind-bogglingly elaborate set pieces without using digital effects. Find it in a cinema with great projection and sound, any chance you get.
The story, based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, centres on Captain Willard (Sheen), a US Army intelligence officer with a mission to travel into Cambodia and terminate ("with extreme prejudice") the command of the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Brando). Along the way he bonds with the crew (Forrest, Bottoms, Fishburne and Hall) of the boat taking him up-river as they encounter a gung-ho surfing colonel (Duvall), a sexy French woman (Clement), a few Playboy Bunnies, a free-wheeling journalist (Hopper) and more war-time horrors than they could have imagined.
On 2019's Final Cut: I'm not one for watching endless versions of favourite films, as it can be quite risky (I've had a few favourites ruined by tinkering directors). But Coppola says he's finally done switching things around here. Basically, what he's done is take the Redux version with its re-inserted scenes, then tightened it into something less meandering. This version has a fierce sense of focus both in its plot and in the character journeys. And it ends on a much more hushed note, which is refreshingly jarring. It's also been digitally transferred to the highest image and audio standards, a 4K transfer that still looks like 70mm and sounds even better. Timeless in every way.
On 2001's Redux: Coppola's 1979 masterpiece gets the director's cut treatment, with 49 minutes of previously edited footage reinserted to bring the film in line with the director's original vision. And the result is stunning, making an astonishing film even more powerful ... but changing it completely in the process.
This has always been a magical, gruelling, brilliant movie, so it's surprising that Coppola has tampered with it in such significant ways. But he says this was his original intent -- less a war movie and more a film about truth and restraint. In this sense, the new edit is a triumph, because the film's numbing chaos is now much more finely focussed on its themes, even if the story itself is more rambling. Diversions into two new scenes now break up the narrative; a second sequence involving the Bunnies sits nicely in the story, while an extended detour to a French plantation brings the plot to a haunting halt but sets up the final thematic cataclysm much more sharply. Other insertions add a much-needed camaraderie among the boat crew, which makes their transformation into "hollow men" more evocative. And unnerving political discussions about government and media misinformation create a clearer context; these were ahead of at their time in 1979, but they're pop-culture today.
All of these changes have not altered the film's genius. It's still stunningly beautiful to look at, remarkably moving and horrific, and jammed with memorable characters in unforgettable situations. Coppola's direction is impeccable, capturing both the intimate detail, overarching spectacle and layered depth of meaning, often all in one shot. And it hits us squarely between the eyes.
R E A D E R R E V I E W STorsten Simons, Cologne: "Horror ... the horror! This movie isn't a typical Nam war movie like We Were Soldiers or others. It shows the ways a man could get crazy in that time. It's a movie you must think twice about to get its sense. It's a must-see-film. There a lot of movies which show the sadness of war, especially the Nam war. But no movie can ever the beat the cruel details of Apocalypse Now Redux." (15.Apr.04)
marc780, California: "You'd have to have seen the original, tight, 1979 movie, more than once, to appreciate its place in film. Audiences everywhere i saw this movie marveled, applauded, gasped and cheered like i never have seen before or since. And in these days of CGI, its safe to say that no one will ever make anything like it ever again. I haven't watched Redux because i havent found a reason the original should be altered. The editing was impeccible, the storyline and characters never more fineley drawn, and the music (from Coppola's father, Carmine) could not possibly have been any better. This movie will have film buffs debating their own mortality for the next hundred years at least. There are plenty of complaints about this movie, and pretty much all of them are from people who fail to see the movie for what it is: Apocalypse Now is art, and not an army training film. It is war, it is peace, it is life, death, power and the illusion of same. It is a study of human nature pushed beyond the limit. I challenge anyone to watch this movie and be unchanged." (9.Dec.07)
© 2001-2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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