Day 362: ‘Revelation Now and Then’ 2018

Day 362
Wednesday 27 June 2018   11.58pm
‘Revelation Now and Then’  2018

Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)
A Francis Ford Coppola Film

Top 100 Films –
Apocalypse Now is #14 in the 2012 BFI Critics Poll.
Apocalypse Now is #6 in the 2012 BFI Directors Poll

Every now and again I think we – humans – need a little bit of revolution, revelation and revulsion. It wakes us up. Coppola’s latest do-over of his extraordinary 1979 war film, Apocalypse Now, fits that bill perfectly as it is definitely all three. Tonight it starts with Daniel. It’s appropriate that I watch the third last of the 100 films with him, given that Daneel and Giskard, as we know each other, have watched so many film together over the last eighteen years.

The film is loosely based on a novel I read in my university days by Joseph Conrad. A book that was a favourite of mine, following the adventure of Marlow, who has been sent to locate the mysterious Kurtz. When Apocalypse Now was released I was only sixteen and I didn’t see it in a cinema until some years later, probably at a popular independent cinema called the Glebe Valhalla. Before the age of Laser Discs, revival houses were how most people got to see films they’d miss when originally released. I saw it sometime in the 80s and I remember thinking it was over-rated by those who thought it was brilliant and underrated by those who thought it was an overreaching failure. I thought it was merely good.

When it was re-released in Australia in 1992 – from memory – I saw it with Simon, his partner Alex, and my girlfriend Annette, at the 600 George Street, Hoyts Cinema Complex. The sound was spectacular and the film blew both Simon and me off-the-planet. My memory is that Alex and Annette were less reserved in their praise. They thought it was amazing, but Simon and I knew it was extraordinary, one of the greatest films ever made. It was one of the most powerful and emotionally affecting films I’d ever seen, like A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

I never bought it on Laser Disc, but when the blu-ray came out I did buy the version with both the original theatrical release and the Redux version. That was a couple of year ago. Tonight I watched Apocalypse Now for the first time in twenty-six years and was similarly impacted, although not in completely the same way. It was so different to the first film that it elicited a different response. It wasn’t the overwhelming experience of 26 years ago, and that’s probably because the running time is so much longer now and it tells its story in a different way, allowing the viewer to spend a lot more time with the characters on the boat journeying to Cambodia to locate General Kurtz. It also contained a lot more of Kurtz when he appears, and the end was significantly re-edited to allow for seeing and hearing more of Kurtz.

So, instead of hitting me over the head and making me dizzy with its grandeur and scope, the Redux took me on, more of, an emotional and psychological journey. Still amazing. Still bold in how big and loud it is and still frightening. Still a story of megalomania and brutality. Some of the additional scenes I thought worked very well in the new version. Plus, the additional bits of information about Kurtz, which we get to know from Willard’s file, are fascinating additions to who Coppola thought Kurtz was and is. Is he mad and brilliant? Has he really gone crazy and become a lord of the jungle or is he quite aware of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it? One could probably write a book on it rather than a few hundred words in summary. If I watch the film again, I’ll almost certainly watch the original theatrical release because I want to know how that would affect me now. That’s a project for another day, I guess.