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apocalypse now
A dense satire of the Viet Nam war, modern government and the military-industrial complex. But the satire is only window-dressing on a deep incursion into the manufacturing of civility and an inquiry of the standards we all agree to in times of war and civilization-building.

apocalypse now was my favourite movie in high school. i don't remember how i first saw it, probably my brother colin.

apocalypse now is based on joseph conrad's novel, "heart of darkness" which is one of the thickest books i have ever read (it's not long - it's dense). i took the book up on mount shasta to read and just had to crawl through it.

the book, and the movie, travel up a river that leads to primitive territory, beyond the reach of the civilizing man, where his power no longer holds sway. in the movie, it's the viet nam war, and we're headed into cambodia. in the book, it's the congo river, and we're headed into darkest africa.

there, upriver, is a man, kurtz, (in the book's instance an ivory trader, and in the movie, a rogue general) who has passed beyond the reach of western reality. formerly an excellent, talented man, he has since learned methods of the natives, and now leads them, and is far more effective at the ivory trade/the viet nam war than the white society he has left behind.

since he has left society, and has reverted to savagery, he is a threat. if still accomplishing the goals of those who sent him, his methods force them to examine their project - he's too good a killer. the man we follow has been sent to reign him in, or if he cannot, to kill him. when he gets there, his combination of admiration and disgust overwhelms him, he adapts some to the methods of kurtz and comes to replace him.

the movie takes that storyline, adds about a sheet of lsd and maybe some coke, a fat dollop of 60s americana, and judging from the performances, some actual borderline insanity.

there are no women featured in this movie. there's one vietnamese woman who says nothing but hurls a grenade in a helicopter, and some chicks dressed up in skimpy cowboy and indian outfits who parade around to "suzie q" at an army base.

Coppola
Looks like it's Lurve
meeting Apocalypse Now Director Francis Ford Coppola at the Wired third anniversary party.
as i've gotten older, this rendering of "man journeys to the dark side of western rationality and sees himself stronger and scarier" seems increasingly indulgent. i guess it was a coming of age movie for me - more and more, the lines seems weighted by too much of a sense of profoundity. perhaps that comes from having seen the movie so much.

this was the type of film i would show my friends. or, the type of film i would put on again while doing other things. or, the type of film i would record on to tape and play during my radio shows. i own a well worn videocassette of this film. josh gave me a two cd soundtrack.

the sound is one of the best (spooky-evocative) features of the film. i believe the director's dad made it. unfortunately, the recordings i have of the movie, the official releases, do not seem to encompass the entire movie's mad-mood music.

but there is still something romantic about the group of guys going up the river. from different backgrounds. working out their tension. discovering a role model who encompasses both lightness and darkness.

perhaps the film is overwraught. few films take the subject of madness and white-exoticity and indulge in them so well.

this movie is beautiful to look at, as well. i think it was amy who said that copolla's movies are mostly light shows - this is certainly the case here. the fighting at night near the doe long bridge, with strings of bulbs and fireworks is mezmerizing. the darkness too: crawling around near the bridge, listening to jimi hendrix, with soldiers using voodoo magic and painted weapons.

the cast is pretty stellar as well, if a bit zoned: martin sheen seems to lose his shit, scrawny looking harrison ford in a funny, trivial role, robert duvall brandishes memorable bravado, marlon brando is ponderous, scott glenn, a 15 year old larry fishbourne, and dennis hopper, who had definitely lost his shit.

i met the directory, francis ford copolla, briefly at a wired party. really only long enough to have my picture taken with him.

if you are interested enough, i strongly recommend, "hearts of darkness," a documentary on apocalypse now, based on footage of the making of this movie taken at the time by copolla's wife.

The plot is linear, but Apocalypse Now is the first non-linear war movie. The war itself spreads in all directions, with alliances, fronts and directives all called into question.

Sheen is a fascinating hero, doing what needs to be done in increasingly strange circumstances. An uneasy man acting with confidence.

Apocalypse Now has a tough black sargeant, similar to Halo, but the Chief here is more of a straight arrow. He passes away, like most of them. Willard is left with two children.p>

Links:
A fan-typed Transcript of Apocalypse Now
Reflecting on Apocalypse Now after 20 years
Scriptwriter Milius reports that this story inspired Kurtz in the film: Col. Robert Rheault, commander of the Special Forces in Viet Nam, was charged with murdering a double agent.

Chocolypse Now - the post-Wonka chocolate factory story told using Apocalypse Now.

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