TV Party Tonight! #76

TV Party Tonight! #76

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Thursday, 21 November 2019
COLUMN

Apocalypse Now!
40th Anniversary 4K
Final Cut Edition

It’s in graduate school that movies really hit me. Maybe it was the desire to gain a better understanding of the artform, or maybe it was the fact that I was stuck in the country going to school with nothing to do. I remember driving 20 minutes to visit a local CD Warehouse on a weekly basis, not to buy any CDs, but to marvel at their incredible used DVD selection (which would later also have a great used LPs selection), looking through the spines and recognizing movies I had always heard about but never really seen. I wanted to own these movies but I wasn’t going to buy anything I didn’t know I liked. So several times a week I would download classic movies, from Kurosawa, to Coppola and fill this gap in my knowledge. Enter Apocalypse Now!

See, if I let the AFI top 100 list influence my movie watching like I do now, I would have come across this one much earlier. I never even read up on it. I just watched it cold. And I was both confused and transfixed. I don’t remember exactly what I made of Apocalypse Now! the first time I watched it, and I certainly didn’t understand that it was made up of snippets of absurdities of the Vietnam war. Everything about it seemed “off” to me. Why was the hero acting like a crazy drunk at the beginning? Why were there no opening credits? Why were soldiers surfing? Who was Charlie? What’s up with the Tiger? I couldn’t just watch Apocalypse Now! I had to understand it, or at least try. I bought the Complete Dossier edition, watched both the original and redux, all the bonus features and listened to the commentary. I even read Heart of Darkness. After digesting all of this I have to say that not even the makers of this movie really knew what they were going for. It’s the perfect example of “more is more.” when you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, and production time and budget keep going over, and the media keeps hyping your movie, you sort of need some good ideas to get you out of a bind. When you don’t have an out, throw money at the problem until it solves itself.

Apocalypse Now! is a movie trying to explore the dark psyche of the human mind (whatever that means) in the context of an unjust war. It was written and directed by people who had no idea what the Vietnam was about but thought they did. It’s about biting off more than you can chew and trying to swallow it all down, both for the characters in the more and the production. In that sense, it’s a very meta movie, as what was happening behind the scenes would shape what’s going on on-screen. It’s both a confusing train wreck to watch and makes absolute sense every time you watch it. As you peel off the layers of this onion, you realize that maybe that wasn’t a good idea after all. Some things will always remain hidden and incomprehensible. And like the giant, transforming blob that was Tetsuo at the end of Akira, this movie commands respect. Everyone should reckon with it at some point.

I’m so glad Apocalypse Now! has gotten such a fantastic treatment for its 4K release. This gorgeous package has the original cut, the redux cut, commentary by Coppola, interviews, behind the scenes segments, countless featurettes, and the Heart of Darkness documentary which is essential to understand the movie. The color is sharp and immersive and the sound is crisp and haunting. It all looks so great! It’s simply the definitive version of a classic movie that is both stunning on the outside as it is on the inside. This belongs in every collection.

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