Full dis­clo­sure

Francis Ford Cop­pola re­flects on his strange, sur­real movie as Apoca­lypseNow gets ex­pan­sive Blu-ray treat­ment.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By GEOFF BOUCHER

WHAT’S it like for Francis Ford Cop­pola to go back into the jun­gle? “In some ways,” the 71-year-old filmmaker said with a warm laugh, “it feels like we never left”.

This week, a mas­sive three-disc edi­tion of Apoc­a­lypse Now ar­rives on Blu-ray with more than nine hours of bonus fea­tures and, more than sim­ple cin­e­matic cel­e­bra­tion, Cop­pola’s in­tense par­tic­i­pa­tion in the project was a mis­sion of legacy re­pair on sev­eral fronts.

For Apoc­a­lypse Now: Full Dis­clo­sure Edi­tion, Cop­pola not only went back to dig out pho­tos and doc­u­ments from the pro­duc­tion of the 1979 fever-dream film, he also sat down with star Martin Sheen and screen­writer John Mil­ius and in­ter­viewed them about their sig­na­ture con­tri­bu­tions to the Viet­nam War epic.

Cop­pola’s clear goal – es­pe­cially in the case of Mil­ius – was to share a spot­light that is of­ten aimed only at the di­rec­tor.

“I hoped for peo­ple to learn more about John Mil­ius and his true place in all of this,” Cop­pola said. “The big mo­ments of di­a­logue in Apoc­a­lypse Now, those lines peo­ple still re­mem­ber, all those were hatched in the mind of John Mil­ius long be­fore I got hold of the script. I wanted to give him his day in court, give him his due.”

The new edi­tion also delivers a widescreen ver­sion of the film on home video that Cop­pola says should quiet the howls of protest from “the afi­ciona­dos and the purists” about the screen as­pect ra­tio of past re­leases. The filmmaker di­rectly su­per­vised the trans­fers for the edi­tion, and with pride he pre­dicted a long life for this bur­nished ver­sion of his dark clas­sic.

“This movie is the one that peo­ple want when they test out their new Blu-ray and home the­atres, and this is the ver­sion they’re go­ing to want; it’s tech­ni­cally per­fect.”

Cop­pola, of course, didn’t have any­thing close to that kind of clar­ity dur­ing the mak­ing of the movie. The film was no­to­ri­ous even be­fore its re­lease for the as­sorted on-set calami­ties and ex­cess of ev­ery sort that re­sulted in a moun­tain of ma­te­rial – “a mil­lion feet of film,” fa­mously – and pre­dic­tions of to­tal cre­ative derail­ment for a movie that starred Sheen, Mar­lon Brando, Lau­rence Fish­burne and Robert Du­vall.

Cop­pola had sunk much of his own per­sonal wealth into the movie, and his spasms of anx­i­ety are clear in Hearts Of Dark­ness: A Filmmaker’s Apoc­a­lypse, the doc­u­men­tary as­sem­bled from be­hind-the-scenes footage shot by his wife, Eleanor Cop­pola, dur­ing some of the dark­est days of the pro­duc­tion.

“What you see is a di­rec­tor who be­lieves he is go­ing to lose ev­ery­thing,” Cop­pola said. “I was look­ing to my wife for en­cour­age­ment, and her re­ac­tion was, ‘Let’s get the cam­era.’ ”

The doc­u­men­tary, rep­re­sented in the new pack­age with au­dio com­men­tary by the Cop­po­las, was orig­i­nally in­tended for a one-time air­ing on Show­time but ended up reach­ing the­atres in 1991.

It’s taken on a life of its own, and Cop­pola con­cedes there are scenes in it that he still finds him­self re­gret­ting or ex­plain­ing, such as the point where he re­sponds to ru­mours that Sheen’s heart at­tack dur­ing film­ing was a fa­tal one.

“In the movie you see me say, ‘Martin Sheen isn’t dead un­less I say he’s dead’, and that sounds pretty bad, es­pe­cially if you don’t know the con­text of the moment,” the filmmaker said. “And maybe it still doesn’t sound so good ...”

Cop­pola said he set out to make a movie like The Long­est Day or The Guns Of Navarone, but in the end he de­liv­ered “a strange, sur­real movie that was like our in­volve­ment as a coun­try in the Viet­nam War – there was over-wattage, too much of be­ing in a sit­u­a­tion, a sort of mad­ness with equip­ment and technology and con­fu­sion in an age of psychedelia.”

At the time, the di­rec­tor was un­cer­tain what he had achieved, but the strange cen­tral quest of the movie – a mis­sion by Sheen’s com­mando char­ac­ter to as­sas­si­nate the off-the-grid colonel played by Brando – be­came a pivot point in Amer­i­can cin­ema.

“Af­ter Apoc­a­lypse, you couldn’t make a movie like Long­est Day any­more, it would have felt hope­lessly dated,” the di­rec­tor said. “I didn’t know that when I was in the mid­dle of it. I had no idea.

“I couldn’t see then what we all see now.” – Los An­ge­les Times/ McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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