Saturday, June 22, 2013

Apocalypse Now

1979, 196m, Coppola
The war as a subject of film making has been milked dry. This spectacular marathon re-instructs us about the hardening and debasement of humanity wrought by the engine of war. My second encounter with this acclaimed movie was as laborious as the first. It is certainly not worthy of the creator of Godfather. What stays in the mind is the grandeur of the equatorial rain forests and rivers, with towering trees and human sized foliage. The formation of helicopters closing in to devastate a village as a loudspeaker blares Wagner is a sequence of bizarre beauty. Consigliere Duvall memorably reincarnates as a bloodthirsty cowboy joker in khaki. The film brings to mind Kwai and Aguirre in terms of camera work and locales but lacks depth and drama. I am sure the earlier shorter version would be preferable to this unwieldy redux.
Roger Ebert:
"In any event, seen again now at a distance of 20 years, "Apocalypse Now" is more clearly than ever one of the key films of the century. Most films are lucky to contain a single great sequence. "Apocalypse Now" strings together one after another, with the river journey as the connecting link. The best is the helicopter attack on a Vietnam village, led by Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), whose choppers use loudspeakers at top volume to play Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" as they swoop down on a yard full of schoolchildren. Duvall won an Oscar nomination for his performance and its unforgettable line, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." His emptiness is frightening: A surfing fanatic, he agrees to the attack only to liberate a beach said to offer great waves ("Charlie don't surf")."
Vincent Canby:
"...the film means to deal with ...such heavy things as the human condition, good, evil, fate... subjects which in an earlier century, would demand to be capitalized..."
Time Magazine:
"...while much of the footage is breathtaking, Apocalypse Now is emotionally obtuse and intellectually empty..."

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