Apocalypse Now Redux (Francis Ford Coppola, 2001)
[originally posted 28Mar2002]
It is a long-known fact of Hollywood life that directors and studios are most at each others’ throats when it comes time to edit a film for final release. Judging by the various directors’ cuts I’ve seen over the years, ninety-nine percent of the time, the director is right (anyone who’s seen both the theatrical release and directors’ cut versions of Profondo Rosso knows exactly what I’m getting at, and it’s hard to argue with the superiority of directors’-cut releases of such films as Aliens, Bladerunner, etc.). One percent of the time, the director is wrong. Francis Ford Coppola’s new, fifty-three-minute-longer, cut of Apocalypse Now rides right on the line.
It’s hard to call Apocalypse Now Redux a true director’s cut; the full film runs two hours longer than Redux (and can be found on the underground market readily, if one knows where to look). However, the almost-hour of footage put back in to the film gives the viewer an idea of where Coppola was headed with the full version, and in all honesty, it’s nowhere the original cut doesn’t go. Much of the extra footage just repeats the same themes over and over again that we got the first time, and the repetition, along with the greater continuity one gains in the longer cut, dull the dadaist quality that makes the original such a hallucinatory experience.
Not to say that all the cuts the studio made originally were right on. The two climactic episodes in the film, those with Apocalypse Now Redux (Francis Ford Coppola, 2001)Kilgore and Kurtz, are lengthened nicely; while Marlon Brando could have been much better-used (as he seemed to be in the original cut; here, he goes from being a haunting, psychotic dictator to just another antiwar protestor who’s gone way out of control), Robert Duvall’s turn as Kilgore is underlined as the brilliant role it always has been, and during the Kurtz scenes, Dennis Hopper and Martin Sheen both shine more than they previously had. The lengthenings of these two parts are a minor portion of what got put back in, but they’re well worth the cost of a rental for those who are familiar with the original cut.
The main portion of the restored footage, though, could have been left on the cutting room floor without too many people noticing. They’re there to reinforce the horrors of war, etc., but it’s not as if even the less astute viewers of the original cut aren’t going to pick up on the theme without having these extra scenes added.
I never thought I’d say it, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the new cut. Twenty or so years from now, maybe we’ll get an official release of the five-and-a-half hour version that’ll redeem this, but for the moment, I strongly recommend seeing Apocalypse Now Redux only for those who have already seen the original and want to deepen their understanding of what Coppola was on about. Those coming to the movie fresh would be better served by finding a pal with a really good home theater system and renting the DVD of the original release first. Coppola said of the original cut, “Apocalypse Now is not about Vietnam; Apocalypse Now IS Vietnam.” Given that, Apocalypse Now Redux is, unfortunately, “about” Vietnam in a way the original cut never was. ** ½