“Apocalypse Now” Redux

by Joe Rosenberg
I went to see “Apocalypse Now Redux” yesterday.

If you disliked the earlier version because of its anti-military, anti-war sentiments, you'll very much detest the added footage, especially the scene on a French plantation, where the French residents of a rubber plantation compare American and French attitudes towards the War and the Vietnamese.

Actually, this picture was not about Vietnam or the military; it is really an extended and convoluted improvisation on small "w" war and morality. What Coppola has done in this revision is take a scholarly tome with extensive footnotes in the back, and moved the footnotes to the text.

What was left to our imagination about Captain Willard is now expressed, and the vague ending is made less vague as Willard decides not to blow up Kurtz's compound and goes off in the boat. There is still ambiguity about why Willard is an assassin and why Kurtz went over the edge, but now you know more about their characters.

To me the movie still dies when we meet Colonel Kurtz. Now Brando's lines make some sense, but the pace is fatally slowed. What the revision has lost is the crisp, Hemingway-like narrative. It is now like Brando, bloated, with scenes meant to enlighten that are just wordy.

I like my imagined insights better. However, the film is a long, extended riff on the nature and morality of warfare, and as such is still magnificent.

I watched this movie not for accuracy on what happened in Vietnam, but for how war exaggerates the good and evil in each of us. It is still "the horror."

Joe "Beppe" Rosenberg served in the 4th Psychological Operations Group in Saigon from 8/67 to 9/68.


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This story was published on November 7, 2001.