Apocalypse Now Redux
No one in a literate, civilized society should miss this film --- it is a stunning fusion of sight, sound, and sense.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
What do Orson Welles and Francis Ford Coppola share in common with Joseph Conrad? They all are geniuses obsessed with depicting the insanity of white colonial supremacy. Conrad started it all with "Heart of Darkness," the seminal existential-journey novella of the late 19th century; Welles dropped his film version of "Heart" and turned to the more malleable "Citizen Kane"; Coppola adapted it to Vietnam in a film masterpiece, "Apocalypse Now."
"Apocalypse Now Redux" is a director's cut adding 49 minutes of mammary glands, as it extends the Playboy/USO sequence; a French plantation dinner with romance for Martin Sheen's Captain Willard; and Brando's Kurtz reading from a "Time Magazine" article. The Playboy extension is awkward and gratuitous, as the original was. The plantation sequence provides a perspective needed 20 years later to show how countries refuse to let go of these colonial obsessions. And the "Time Magazine" addition gives a much-needed insight into a bright, seemingly sane Kurtz.
The over three hours are still absorbing and, to use Poe's word, "phantasmagoric," with visual imagery of the first order. The fully revived version of the old dye-transfer Technicolor is sumptuous, adding to the sensuality of the original in ways I had not thought possible.
Brando's Kurtz sums up the abyssmal condition of human greed in the 70's and beyond with the famous words, "the horror." The film, however, is one of the world's artistic treasures, best summed up in words more like "the beauty." No one in a literate, civilized society should miss this film --- it is a stunning fusion of sight, sound, and sense.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the Board of the Film Council of Greater Columbus.