by Brian McKay
I always enjoy seeing director's cuts, restored footage, deleted scenes, alternate endings, and all of that hoo-haw. Not because they necessarily make the original "better", but because it's fun to see what way the ending might have gone, or see some extra snippets that might give more insight into the characters. So, naturally, when I finally found a video store with a copy of "Redux" available, I couldn't wait to get home and watch the Fifty-something extra minutes of footage. Now that I've seen them, I think it's safe to say that I could have lived without 48 of those minutes, and so could this movie.I remember the first time I saw "Apocalypse Now". I was 15, getting high with my friend at his house when his parents were out of town, staying up until two in the morning to watch it on his dad's Betamax (Yes, I know, I'm an old fuck). We thought that everything Dennis Hopper's character said was pure genius -probably because we were high and 15. But from the beginning I fell in love with that movie, with it's beautifully surreal and morbid atmosphere. I've seen it many times since then, older and sober, and it never fails to captivate me.
"Sometime Less is More . . ."
I was excited to see the new footage. Excited at what great insights it would give me into the fascinating world of Colonel Kurtz and Captain Willard. I was especially looking forward to the French Plantation segment, as the thought of finding such a place in the middle of the insanity that was Vietnam seemed like the perfect crowning touch to Coppola's surrealist vision.
300 minutes later, however, I found myself more dissapointed than intrigued. There are quite a bit of new scenes added, most of them short and subtle, but many of them extensive. Very few of them, however, contribute in any real way to the film. In fact, many of them drag down what is already a somewhat overlong film.
I won't go into a plot synopsis here. If you've never seen "Apocalypse Now" to begin with, I wouldn't recommend starting with this version. See the original. Then, if you like it, you can try this on for size. What I do want to do is discuss the new material.
The first significant added scenes are actually the best. There are some small bits with Kilgore (Robert Duvall) during the "Charlie Don't Surf" segment, such as him helping a Vietnamese woman and her injured baby by sending them out to safety on his medvac chopper - a nice touch, since it gives Kilgore a bit more humanity. But after the napalm strike, Willard and Lance quickly make haste to get away, before Kilgore can insist that Lance goes surfing amid the barrage of artillery fire. On the way out, Willard steals Kilgore's surfboard, which was both surprising and hilarious. The crew has a good laugh about it afterward, and while it really seems out of character for both Willard and the film itself, it's nice to see that Willard has a funny and mischevious side to him.
Unfortunately, the added footage begins to make less of an impression after that. The part where they find the playboy bunnies from the USO show, stranded up the river when their chopper runs out of fuel, is pointless. (why the hell would they have flown UP the goddamn river anyway, instead of back toward the relative safety of the south?) Willard trades the USO promoter (and part-time pimp, apparently) two drums of fuel if each of his men can have a go with the playmates. What follows is rather long scene where you get to see a lot of the playmates' tits (surprisingly ungratifying, after having wanted to see them since that first time I watched it at 14), but not much character development. Boobs or no Boobs, I could have gotten by just fine without this scene, although it was funny to watch Clean (Lawrence Fishburne) keep interrupting the other soldiers so that he can try and get his turn (BUNNY: Who are you? CLEAN: "Hello Ma'am, I'm Next!")
From there they go further up river, following Clean's death, and stumble upon the French Plantation, a holdover from the French-Indochine occupation that occured some 60 years earlier. Willard and his men are treated to some French hospitality at first, but are then berated by the Patriarch and his people for their part in the war. The whole thing is a hamfisted commentary on the foolishness of America for getting involved in a war with a country that the French failed so miserably at only a few generations earlier. It may be a valid point, but it's all very long-winded and unconvincing, with such bits as a weeping frenchman saying "Mon Dieux, why can't you learn from our mistakes!" Yeah, whatever. The worst part, however, has to be the Patriarch's daughter, and her seduction of Willard, all done to some cheesy synthesized "romantic" music, followed by them doing a bong load together before she gets naked. Again, nice tits, but this isn't really doing anything to keep the momentum of the story going. In fact, this is probably the biggest yawner of the new scenes.
What remains is mostly longer scenes detailing the interrogation of Willard by Kurtz, who reads articles from Time and Newsweek that talk about how "America is winning the war", then looks up and asks "Does it look like we're winning to you, soldier?" They're really not necessary and in fact they sort of de-mystify Kurtz a bit, which I didn't care for.
There are other brief scenes thrown in here and there, however, that don't seem to add to or detract from the film, but serve as mere filler. Overall, however, of the four major sequences added, I think only the ones revolving around Kilgore and the pilfered surfboard are enjoyable enough to watch again."Apocalypse Now" is, in my book, an undisputed five-star masterpiece. It is a painting that is equally beautiful and disturbing. Every stroke has its place on the canvas, and none of them are wasted. "Redux" is like taking a great painting and touching it up, airbrushing it, throwing in some extra strokes for flourish, slapping it into a new frame, and calling it the "finished" masterpiece. Well, it became a known as a masterpiece long before all of these later "finishing" touches, so why fuck with it? Worth a single viewing for the curious, but definitely not for the purist.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5491&reviewer=258
originally posted: 01/22/02 18:26:13