Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Yesterday we saw Apocalypse Now Redux. (For those who are unaware, this is a re-release of Francis Coppola's classic 1979 Apocalypse Now, with about 45 minutes of additional footage that was cut from the original release.)

More than twenty years later, this is still an amazing movie. I saw it in its original limited release about ten times, but I'd not seen it since then. Yesterday, I was pleased with how well it still held up, and how quickly it moves for a movie that's now about three-and-a-half hours long.

I was also unsure, going in, if I'd be able to identify all the changes and additions, but I had no problem knowing which were the three wholly new sequences right from the first frame. And, although the rest was still so familiar that I knew each line of dialogue while it was being spoken, it was still fresh and more enlightening than any new movie I've seen in years.

Of the three "new" scenes, I can clearly see why the first two were cut. I'm pleased to have seen them, they're well directed and acted, they contain important information, but I don't think they really add anything to the picture and, in some ways, they actually detract from Martin Sheen's character and slow the story down. (These are the return of the Playboy bunnies scene and the French plantation sequence).

My feeling about these two sections is that they show a weaker side of Sheen's personality that seems out of character with the rest of his performance. Also, in light of his opening monologue about getting his strength from the jungle, it is odd that he'd show any weakness, or let down his guard, at these points along the voyage.

Additionally, the plantation dinner scene comes off more as a history lesson that might have been better placed at the beginning of the film, but slows the action here. Leslie would also like to point out that the music for the "romantic" scene that follows is just too corny, didn't fit, and must be left over from a different picture entirely.

The third new scene, while not the best of the Marlon Brando section, does add to the picture from his mighty presence, and make an important transition in the relationship between him and Martin Sheen. This is the only scene in which Brando is seen in full sunlight, and may have been cut because they thought that somehow de-mystified his character. Brando, in light or in shadow, is impressive enough that they didn't need to worry about that.

There was one other small bit in the transition from the Robert Duvall sequence that I didn't recall, and think may have been added. It's a bit of humor that I enjoyed, but wasn't entirely sure if it fit. In fact, it may not have been new at all, but just the one inconsequential part of the original film that I'd forgotten. (The stolen surfboard).

Other than that, there may have been a few small trims restored in other scenes, but they didn't stand out as anything new. On the whole, still a classic movie, definitely great to see it in the theatre again, but some of the restorations may not have been necessary.

(Incidentally, this was Leslie's first time seeing Apocalypse Now, and she also loved it and agreed that it's one of the best movies of the 20th century. She also could tell that the first two "new" scenes didn't fit and were what was probably added for this edition.)

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