Monday, November 24, 2003

Okay, let's do something here to get my mind off the ticket. Although, as a quick update, as I understand the pricing of these things the cost of the ticket will pretty much be the surplus of money I've made in the last two weeks of Christmas rush in my business. Part of me is thinking, "Hmm. How long will I go to jail if I don't pay it?"
And with that I move on to today's movie review.

HEARTS OF DARKNESS

First off, this was my first time seeing this and it may well be my second favorite documentary unless you count American Splendor as a documentary in which case Hearts moves to #3. #1 is Bowling for Columbine.
Apocalypse Now is a film that I've always had a hard time with, as well anybody should. I mean, it could be called one of the clearest communications of the madness of the Vietnam War, or possibly any war. It's beautiful, rich and dark in ways and levels that only early Coppola can deliver. Having said that, I've only seen it three times in my life and even after seeing this documentary I'm not in any hurry to see it again. And this is coming from the guy who argues with people who claim that they usually only want pure entertainment from movies. This from the guy who rails on about the transformative potential of acting for both performer and audience. Apocalypse Now is one of those rare transforming experiences with so much power that I rarely feel up to it.
I feel the same way about acid. Although I might see Apocalypse Now again before I leave this world and I could go the rest of my days without ever dropping acid again.
People who know me know that I've experienced first hand several transformative theatrical experiences, that is to say ones that work on an elevated level that work on the audience and the performers rather than simply lead them through an evening of entertaining narrative. This is part of why I'm separated from the theater now. It's because I saw the potential and then saw the vast ocean of Neil Simon and bad musical comedy that is the majority of what gets produced in "real world" theater. This revelation weighs heavy on my heart to this day. In other words, like so much of western life, what makes money is made rather than what changes the world.
I worked on The Phoenix, Pippin, The Creation, Hamlet, The Grapes of Wrath, et al. In these I worked as writer, performer, assistant director, stage manager and lighting technician. This is the experience I'm speaking from.
I tell you all of this to say that I don't see why everybody says Coppola went nuts on this film shoot. As far as I could see he acted like every director I've ever worked with. They all at some point say that they're going to shoot themselves in the head, they all never have enough money for their production, and they all have to deal with difficult actors.
And I don't think Apocalypse Now made him stop making great films. Tucker was a great film. The Outsiders was a pretty good film. The Cotton Club was okay too. Dracula was wonderfully directed, it just had a horrible script and Keanu Reeves. And The Godfather Part 3 wasn't a bad film. It just wasn't as good as the first two.
I mean, this should be so obvious. He became a producer, a wine maker, and a semi-retired cultural icon. I would too if I had hundreds of millions of dollars. This should be so obvious because George Lucas appears in Hearts of Darkness. This should remind everybody that The Godfather part 3 looks like genius compared to either of the recent Star Wars films.
Coppola might have slipped in the past few years, but don't lets forget the ones who have fallen. In my opinion that includes pretty much everybody from his generation of filmakers with the glowing exception of Scorsese, who is making as good if not better films than he's ever made. I may be saying all of this out of hero worship though. S'possible.
I didn't see the breakdown of Coppola in Hearts of Darkness. I saw a director working on one of the most difficult film shoots ever.
The same with Martin Sheen. He had a heart attack, granted, which is highly uncommon. But the breakdown we see him go through is not uncommon for method workers. I guarantee that Sheen was back to as sound a mind as ever long before they finished editing the monster.
The whole film is totally enthralling. It really pushes you into the story of the filming.
The scenes that really pushed this documentary over the top though is the part that was looming over it and you knew was coming from the beginning. That is the arrival of Brando. And by golly it's just about as nutty as you'd expect. Then we get to see some awesome and frusterating improv and text work (as most improv and text work is.) We also get to see Coppola get very close to smacking Dennis Hopper aside the head to get his brain back on track.
Like all great stories, there are many definite although seemingly unintentional morals to the story. I can't emphasize enough how much this film is for everybody, not just film buffs. It's gorgeous, harrowing, and holds a mirror up to artists.

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