Apocalypse Now: Final Cut
“This is the End / My only friend, The End.” Jim Morrison
Back in 1940, Orson Welles abandoned plans to film Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” and made Citizen Kane instead. Thirty years later Francis Coppola returned to the idea, this time with George Lucas slated to direct from a script by John Milius, shot guerilla documentary style, on location in the middle of the Vietnam conflict. (Imagine how different the history of movies might have been!)
In 1976 Coppola took over the reins himself, for what would prove to be a tumultuous 18-month shoot in the Philippines, and the project mushroomed into a spectacular, hallucinatory phantasmagoria of war which took years to finish (if it is finished?). Released in 1979 it is the high point – or at any rate the climax – of Hollywood’s artistic renaissance of the 1970s.
Martin Sheen is Willard, dispatched up-river to terminate bonkers green beret Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz has “gone native” and become a political liability. It is implicit that while his methods may be extreme, Kurtz’s madness only reflects the imperatives of US foreign policy.
This is an extraordinarily powerful film – for once, the epithet “Sensational” is appropriate – but it’s also always been flawed and problematic. Has Coppola finally nailed it? He says this is the definitive cut, some 20 minutes shorter than the Redux released in 2001, 29 minutes longer than the original release, and all of it restored and polished for 4K digital projection, with 5.1 sound, bells and whistles.
Apocalypse Now is not merely the greatest film to come out of the Vietnam experience but one of the great works about the madness of our times.
Philip French, The Observer
A fusion of personal vision with the scale and virtuosity only Hollywood machinery can offer, Apocalypse is one of the monsters of ’70s filmmaking, and it holds the screen even more powerfully today.
Amy Taubin, Village Voice
Francis Ford Coppola
Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall
Palme d’Or, Cannes 1979; Best Cinematography, Academy Awards 1980
Francis Ford Coppola
John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola
Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald B. Greenberg, Walter Murch
Carmine Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola