Saturday, March 26, 2011

Apocalypse Now

Coppola, 1979, 147m

The Vietnam war was a while ago and this film does not arouse the sense of immediacy it might have done in it's time and place. At best it is a lecture on the gruesomeness of war. The brilliantly colored photography captures the grandeur of the natural landscape. However, the continuous and prolonged scenes of villages on flame, the rattle of machine gun fire and swarms of helicopters swooping like birds of prey becomes tedious. The human story is weakly developed and one is held captive by the expectation of Brando's appearance at the end which proves the greatest disappointment. He is a bloated Godfather (a role which may have clung to him) who is scarcely visible, more comical than charismatic, as he is supposed to be. His speech expressing his admiration for the grit of the Vietnamese (mutilation of children inoculated by the Americans) makes them look perversely barbaric more than heroic. The film appears to be wallowing in narcissism in it's heavy tone  of contrition. The repentance seems weak and watery for an outsider. For all it's visual splendor, the film is lacking in substance and is quite burdensome.


Jack L said...

Did you see the original cut or the Redux?
I really like Apocalypse Now but I have one big problem with it, the normal cut feels slightly incomplete, the transition from scene to scene is often not so smooth, but the Redux is just way to long, and while providing much better transitions and a smoother story it has loads of unnecessary stuff...
And also Brando was extremely disappointing, I think Martin Sheen was very good though.

S. M. Rana said...

I saw he small one, and I think one's own state of mind, like the state of one's digestion, also affects one's response and evaluation. In the end, what I can admire is the psychedelic photography of the tropical jungle and rivers, and the helicopters also have their own visual splendor. But it was a hard watch and I must have taken twenty breaks.

Nathanael Hood said...

@Jack L



Just kidding....but despite all of his problems, I thought that Brando was phenomenal.

litdreamer said...

I have yet to see this film (in either form), but I'd be interested to hear how it compares to Heart of Darkness, which the "Brando half" of the movie is loosely based on.

Also, isn't there a documentary out there about how difficult this shoot was for everyone involved?

S. M. Rana said...

I haven't read the Conrad novella. But if the effort and the expense were to be a criteria, it may seem a bit mean not to have enjoyed it.