Holy mackerel, where do you start with Apocalypse Now?
Revered as one of the Greatest Films Ever Made for longer than Bono has been famous, modern culture is unthinkable without riffs on its lines, scenes, images – even the title!
It’s a kick-ass men-on-a-mission film, it’s a savage satire and it’s a hallucinatory dive into man’s dark heart. Francis Coppola said at the time that he wanted to make the first film to win the Nobel Prize.
Well, 1979’s literature gong went to Greek poet Odysseas Elytis, but 30 years on, where’s his glorious three-disc Blu-ray edition? For all the critical hosannas it receives, it’s worth remembering that Apocalypse is as watchable as films get.
The plot’s deceptively simple: Martin Sheen’s jaded special-forces type freaks out in a Saigon hotel, then gets sent to kill a renegade US Colonel operating in Cambodia – and that’s it.
His resulting odyssey through the Vietnam war’s loonier quarters takes in massed helicopter attack, Robert Duvall’s finest turn as surf-nut Kilgore, waterskiing, Playboy bunnies, a tiger, cold-blooded murder and a beach party, before his final confrontation with Marlon Brando’s officer-turned-batshit-philosopher-king.
Miraculously, though, it hangs together – and one look at Hearts Of Darkness, the notorious Making Of welcomely bundled with this package, and the awe increases.
Coppola has attracted many myths suggesting he mirrored Brando’s Kurtz by going bananas in the jungle. Maybe he did, but if you can battle typhoons, hire helicopters from an unreliable tyrant and cope with your leading man’s heart attack, all while handling the twin nightmares of Brando and Dennis hopper, then you are a filmmaker, my son.
And however much he comes across as a whiny narcissist, Hearts is far better proof of Coppola’s place in the front rank of filmmakers than any gangster picture.
Long unavailable here, Hearts is the tip of a vast iceberg of extras. Most are imports from previous deluxe DVD editions, but they were so comprehensive in the first place, it’s tough to see how they could be improved.
Best of the new material is a lovely hour-long chat between sheen and Coppola shot last year. Incredibly, considering what he put him through, sheen seems hugely affectionate toward Coppola. Maybe that’s what you earn when you put people in masterpieces?