Re-viewing: Apocalypse Now

After working out hard on a lazy day off, blowing out my knee, and after listening to Charlie Sheen on the Jay Mohr podcast, I decided to tackle a deep viewing of Apocalypse Now. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the film. Probably a good ten years to say the least. Now, I know the film is a masterpiece, so I will delve into Redux. What follows are my thoughts as I watch frame by frame.

From the opening scene, I realized that in my first film I had take a couple cues from Apocalypse without even realizing it. As Willard is lying on his bed, with the frame upside down, the film Cade’s in and out between napalm strikes, choppers and a ceiling fan. It also cross fades over his desk and reveals the secrets of his breakup and divorce. Huh. I subconsciously did the same thing in The Other Half of Me. Must have had more of an effect on me than I remember.

We pick up Willard as a broken man. Lost, struggling between divorce, and covering up, subconsciously, the regrets and remorse that comes with the taking of human lives as a profession. His mission is clear, as delivered by what looks to be a teenage Harrison Ford. Yes, of course everyone knows Harrison Ford is in the film. You just don’t remember how damn young he is in this movie. And let’s not forget Fishburne.

The entrance of Robert Duvall remains one of the most important in film history and is such a strong and impressive character. Duvall makes the darkness of the first half hour fly by. This is where the film truly begins. This is where one also begins to reflect on budget. The scale of the film becomes apparent here for the first time in the film as the helicopter strikes begin and the explosions erupt on screen. Epic is defined here.

Whoa. Frank Whaley? Where did you come from? Lol

Epic is defined here. Very few films before have delved so deeply into such mass detail for blowing up a village. Of course we love when the F104s come in with the napalm strikes. Nothing else in the world smells like that. Honestly. I find myself speechless during this part. So goddamned detailed. The dialogue is spot on perfect. The background detail, exquisite.

Never get off the boat. The film lingers on ominous right here, while being peppered with comedic, yet tragic moments as the crew on the boat head further up the river. Kurtz went way off the boat.

Visually, the film is picture perfect. The cinematography is spot on and shows the beauty in the darkness that lies ahead. Again, nothing bad to be said here.

An hour in, Redux takes us to the USO show. A spot on surreal and bewildering moment for the crew as they pull in to port. Willard watches on. Introspective, more than amused. He’s been down this road before.

The unevenness of the score sometimes bothers me. Obviously everyone remembers the music, but no one remembers the score. At times, there it seems as if there is true orchestral score. Small moments of a classical score, with woodwinds and everything, and then at other points, the score veers off into symphonic with strange floyd-ian keyboards. It’s uneven at times. At the time, the moog synthesized score was groundbreaking and was to change the face of cinema. i am sure it was perfectly acceptable at the time. Now, I wonder if it fits. Take a listen to the Dirty Harry score. As timeless as these films are, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be a better idea to make the instrumental scores timeless as well. It’s a very dated form now.

Deeper into Redux, there is a lengthy segment added “back” in, where our gang stumbles upon a French plantation. Its quite obvious why it was cut. It’s simply a masked attack on the Vietnam war, in a time when this was still a very hot subject. There’s some more additional nudity here, which I suppose is always welcome. Haha. It is quite a tiresome piece to sit through. A long diatribe that really doesn’t belong. This deep in the film, from an editor’s stand point, it’s easy to cut that sequence.

Dennis Hopper finally appears. A welcome change after the last hour of drifting. Roaming. Floating up that river. His speech at the cage with Willard is everything you hope for in a vintage Hopper speech.

The film is coming to a close and it still remains such a strong, poignant introspective piece veiled under the horrors and spectacle of war. The finality of Kurtz’s speech resonates in its timeless Shakespearean tones. Morality. Murder. War. Without judgement. The fly that brings the moment of recognition to Captain Willard.

Here it is. Ten years after redux. Close to 35 for the original. It opens where it ends. It ends where it begins. It stands as one of the most important films ever made. Probably shouldn’t have been rebuilt in 2001. But, even with the added footage, its power on celluloid. From what I understand there is still another two hours of material out in the world. …let’s hope for the fiftieth a five hour edit doesn’t get released. It’s perfect in its original form. It’s like tattoos on a breast. Don’t mess with perfection.

And, can we get an honorary Oscar for Martin Sheen for his performance, before it’s too late?!

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