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Apocalypse Now Redux (Francis Ford Coppola) 2001

The recent trend of re-editing one's masterpiece in order to improve it seems fairly detestable. There are a few cases in which the director was barred from releasing the film that he had wanted to release, to be sure, but not all of these re-edits have such a defense. The cynical side of me suspects it is more a ploy by the studios to create new product rather than a desire to complete a long unfinished work of art. I watched Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux a few weeks after re-watching the original release in preparation, and I think the new edit is slightly misguided. In the original cut of Apocalypse Now, we're placed in the shoes of the Willard character (who functions as an everyman) as he makes his journey up the river. The scenes that are added seem to have been intended to flesh out his & his boat mates characters, but I don't think that's the direction that the film should be taken in.

In order for Willard to function as our stand-in, his character cannot be too defined. By showing him fraternizing with the crew members or scoring with a chick, they're changing his role. In the original cut, he really only acts a few times in the film before killing Kurtz (most notably when he shoots the woman with the puppy). Here we see him as a much more active character. He's not simply an observer of the war's insanity... He seems an active participant. Apocalypse Now has always been an exceptionally introverted film, but this cut changes things a bit. To me, this takes away from my ability to feel that *I* have gone on the film's journey, and that *I* have seen the horror that man is capable of.

His fellow crew members on the boat once seemed almost iconic in their vagueness, but here they are mildly developed, to the degree that they become less iconic, but they are not so well-developed that they lose that generic feeling. The film reduces the function that they once had by showing us more of them. While they're still well-acted parts , it's somewhat disappointing. And, to address the biggest complaint the film has faced, the film's end, what Kurtz actually says remains as irrelevant to the film's message as ever, since he's still obviously insane. 

Basically, what I'm saying is that the additional scenes do more to damage the overall film (the French plantation sequence seems to hurt the pacing the most) than to help it. They aren't bad scenes at all, but they simply don't have a place in the film. Apocalypse Now Redux, like most "Special Editions" these days, is a reduction of the original.

***1/2

September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman