Apocalypse Now Redux

on August 03, 2001 by Ed Scheid
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The sheer ambition and audacity of Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now Redux" dominated the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Coppola added 53 minutes of footage to his film on the Vietnam War that had received Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, in 1979. After well-publicized accounts of shooting delays in the Philippines and cost overruns, Coppola had edited the original film to a conventional length and a format that he hoped would attract an audience. "Apocalypse Now" was both critically acclaimed and a financial success.

Rather than inserting cut footage, "Apocalypse Now" was re-edited from the original raw footage by Walter Murch, one of the original editors. Vittorio Storaro, the original cinematographer, chose a dye transfer format in which the primary colors are on separate pieces of film and then combined--a method that gives the new "Apocalypse" rich, saturated color images

The revised "Apocalypse" adds to the stature of a genuine classic that remains a unique cinematic exploration of the insanity of war and the deceit that accompanies it. The script by Coppola and John Milius is based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," updated to the Vietnam War. Throughout, Coppola has staged stunning and often hallucinatory scenes that reflect both the craziness and the nightmare of America's Vietnam involvement.

Alone in his hotel room, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is deeply depressed, collapsing with raw, exposed pain. Willard is later assigned by his superiors (including Harrison Ford) to "terminate" the renegade Colonel Kurtz, who is leading a group of tribesmen in a remote jungle compound.

Willard journeys upriver on a patrol boat with a crew comprised of Chief (Albert Hall), Chef (Frederic Forrest), Lance (Sam Bottoms) and Clean (a 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne), whose characters and their journey are more fully developed thanks to the added footage.

Robert Duvall gives a brief but indelible performance as Lt. Col. Kilgore, who loves both surfing and the smell of napalm. Kilgore's helicopter bombing raid to the music of Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" remains spectacular, a memorable combination of image, sound and editing.

The new footage includes two extended sequences that were not in the original. After Willard learns that the visiting Playboy Playmates' helicopter has run out of fuel in a remote area, he trades some of his own fuel in exchange for sexual favors from the beautiful models, who are viewed as another commodity to be exploited.

A stop at a French plantation put America's Vietnam involvement into historical perspective. At the plantation Willard shares a tender romantic interlude with a French widow (Aurore Clement), unlike anything on the journey before or after.

The eventual encounter with Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) remains anticlimactic. The scenes with Brando are stilted and often heavy-handed. To disguise Brando's excessive weight gain, Brando was shot in shadows and with a body double. But with almost an hour of new footage (with one brief new scene with Kurtz), the Brando scenes have less importance and less total effect.

The new editing also clarifies "Apocalypse's" conclusion. Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and Frederic Forrest. Narrated by Michael Herr. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Written by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Kim Aubry. A Miramax release. Drama. Running time: 203 min

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