9. Apocalypse Now

7 Jul

Apocalypse Now

dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola’s film is Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” melted into Picasso’s “Guernica”. The ultimate war movie that defined how to do Vietnam for all time. The opening shots of predatory helicopters, coiling napalm clouds, and exploding jungles, framed by Jim Morrison’s guttural need for “a stranger’s hand in a desperate land,” is at once a deeply visceral revelation of the innate, troubling beauty of war violence, a condemnation of the wanton destruction of the primitive, and, by the movie’s end, the seeds of the demise of one nation’s innocence in the dark jungles of another land. This mythology is borne on the back of Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard, who sails up the Nung in a PBR, headed for his Army-sanctioned target, the mad Colonel Kurtz – Marlon Brando as corpulent jungle Buddha, all sweaty philosophy and petty narcissism. The movie remains, nearly 40 years later, the epitome of uber-bravura filmmaking, 16 months of it, with Sheen, Brando, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper (as a kind of drugged-out John the Baptist with a Nikon F) all adding to the pastiche of ambivalent duty, rock and roll, and the darkest corner of the American psyche.

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