By BRUCE DENNILL
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut / Directed by Francis Ford Coppola / 16VL
There are many phrases that come to mind when watching Apocalypse Now (however many times you’ve seen it), but one of the most noteworthy is this: they simply don’t make movies like this anymore.
This is not only a comment on the actual production process, which among much else, involved huge chunks of the script and story being improvised; having the shoot run more than 10 times as long as it was scheduled for; borrowing helicopters from the local government and their army; shooting in monsoon season and having dysentery run through (as it were) the crew; killing a water buffalo live on camera and having director and leading man having mental and physical breakdowns respectively. It’s also an acknowledgement of the scope of the piece – how extraordinarily it satirises and criticises war (and in particular the Vietnam War and the American government that was driving it) and its unrelenting critique of hubris (ironically, given all of production drama) and the collateral damage incurred as a result of pride, whether that’s on powerful people or bit players.
How to best package all of that has long been a challenge for Francis Ford Coppola, who apparently, after the epic shoot, had 240 hours – 10 full days! – of footage to begin editing down. And this on celluloid, with the far more energy-intensive processes required to trim down or streamline enormous swathes of content.
This Final Cut, according to a brief introduction from Coppola before the film starts, is the version the director originally imagined. The original 1979 version featured too little of what he intended, but it was thought that the market could not handle a three hour-plus marathon at the time. His first “director’s cut” – Apocalypse Now: Redux – then had the kitchen sink thrown at it and, in retrospect, Coppola felt that he’d over-corrected. Final Cut sits in the middle of its predecessors in terms of running time, at a breath over three hours, and even though it is a substantial commitment for the viewer, it never feels bloated.
That said, there are still sequences where the film feels like a treatise rather than a war film – even one with a particularly strong message. Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) party’s interaction with the French plantation owners is more history lesson than entertainment – important context for the film’s contemporary audience, who would have had diverse opinions on the Vietnam conflict, but something of a luxury here, further developing Willard’s doubts about his mission to kill rogue colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), but otherwise not adding too much.
Brando’s performance – mired in controversy at the time after the actor failed to learn his lines and improvised his part, and also required that his character spend a lot of time in darkness so as to play down the actor’s weight issues at the time – remains murky and mysterious. The legend created around the character, and the archetype he represents (Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness protagonist and others) helps to make Brando’s time on screen important and significant, but he is not nearly so memorable as some of his colleagues.
That Sheen never became an undeniable A-lister after this project is baffling, though it is perhaps the hardships he endured in getting this job done – battling with alcoholism; having a heart attack while on location – that rather dimmed his appetite for the spotlight. Robert Duvall’s remarkable turn as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore has lost none of its gonzo power, though. In every iteration of the film, his utterly nuts character provides all the proof that Willard needs to be sure that Kurtz is just a tiny part of the greater problem, rather than its focal point.
Watching this film’s massive set-pieces on an IMAX screen gives them even more thrust and energy than they already had, which is saying something given how stirring Kilgore’s Flight Of The Valkyries attack and other battle scenes already were.
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut does deliver as the most compelling version yet, its visionary aspects outweighing its remaining flaws. And sadly, the activism at its heart is as valid as ever. Some lessons will never be learned, it seems.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Blogger.
It’s a term that’s almost spat out, like a condition you might catch if you discuss it for too long. As media platforms go, blogs are often classed somewhere between penis enlargement flyers pasted onto suburban dustbins and first-time press releases written by a greenstick intern at a local public relations firm (for the record, the former is better written).
This may be because the worst of them are little more than plagiarised scrapbooks, cobbled-together cut-and-pasting that collects six or seven dozen followers invited via the creator’s Facebook page. Flush with notoriety, these bloggers then venture into “writing” – because they have their own website now, you know – supplementing the cribbed material with insightful paragraphs exclusively beginning with the phrase, “I was invited to …” and ensuring that the name of the event, the brand of booze on offer and the PR contact on whose list they’ve found themselves are all repeated, tagged and complimented at least four or five times each.
That formula ensures smiley face emoticon responses and triple exclamation marks in enthusiastic follow-up emails from whoever is paid to punt the clients that were mentioned in conjunction with whatever clichéd superlatives that particular blogger specialises in. Someone gets praised: they enjoy the feeling, so they invite the blogger to the next event they’re holding, beginning a cycle of sycophancy that sees the blogger becoming more popular as their readers perceive them to be more important, with advertisers responding by spending money on their platforms. In a cynical, short-sighted way, that makes sense: a product is guaranteed an endorsement, therefore the endorser is guaranteed a reward.
And so a bunch of people enjoy a happy beginning, and perhaps even a happy middle. There won’t be a happy ending because readers are fickle and because there’s only so far you can stretch a dearth of any sort of useful knowledge. The reproduced press releases will be available on the sites of the companies that issued them in the first place and a new crowd with lovely fresh clichés will be attending events and turning the heads of marketing executives seeking more glorious hashtags. And when that new crop of bloggers fade into obscurity, readers, advertisers, clients and publicists will, if they have any sense, seek something that is, if nothing else, more permanent and, ideally, of value.
In this latter context there exist bloggers who write well and with insight, either for passion or for a living, and who exist in that particular digital space as a result of a number of practical concerns. It’s likely that their chosen niche either doesn’t exist in print or broadcast form or that, if it is there, they are not able to get or keep a job in that sector due to the available remunerations. Or, particularly in the case of writers with considerable experience, it may be the case that, due to a profound dissatisfaction with the state of either the quality of coverage of the topics they’re interested in or the commitment to carrying content about those topics on the part of larger and perhaps more traditional platforms, the only way they see to get the stories they feel are important published at an acceptable standard is to do it themselves.
Now of course there is, when considering these more worthwhile blogs, a range of quality and of perspective on the part of the writer or – and here it’s possible to consider that the term might be accurate – journalist responsible for the content. And it’s almost guaranteed that the subject matter, if not the way it is written about or the opinions voiced, will be replicated in many cases.
But that is, and has always been, the case when considering why to get news on a topic of interest from a particular source of any type. Newspapers and magazines have and continue to sell their own version of what matters, differentiated by the insight evident in the editorial, the quality with which news is reported or the astuteness with which a point of view is expressed.
It is self-evident that this range – and the potential for quality – is available online now, and from solo operators rather than corporates. And that compact scale can and should work in favour of marketers and advertisers looking to benefit from an association with a skilled blogger, one who is interested in research, balance, ethics and excellence. In this relationship, the integrity – which should be an attractive quality in a reporter, critic or prospective business partner – of the blogger can be monitored easily. The value of what they do – commercial, abstract or otherwise – can be more accurately calculated than is the case with a larger entity that has more facets. And real partnerships, based on shared vision rather than superficial intersections of commercial interest, can be built up because a single journalist or critic or whatever label most accurately applies can be held accountable in terms of the role they play.
It shouldn’t be a swear-word, or a synonym for “spirited amateur”. Very often, that person has done a better job covering whatever field they occupy than the associated mainstream professionals, and the readers who know this have long stopped investing in the products those professionals work on. If that is the case, but the blogger’s online platforms is still being dismissed for not fitting an old-fashioned formula that is provably ineffective, the wisdom of those making a call on where to invest going forward is suspect. Standards are crucial, but those standards are increasingly being met outside of bustling newsrooms, broadcast studios and other conglomerates, where a single hard-working individual is able to create something of equal or superior quality to the efforts of large teams, governed by boards and committees.
If a blogger, in creating a quality product, has done their research, but you, in forming an opinion about such platforms, haven’t done yours, you have no place sneering at their efforts. Pay attention. It’ll pay dividends.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]