apocalypse now final cut release date

Extreme Prejudice

The biggest deal is that for 2019 they went back and scanned the original camera negative rather than the interpostive that was used for the previous release theatrically and on DVD/Blu-ray. Have any qualms you like about the additions, but the film looks jawdroppingly good. The opening sequence, with its multilayered approach, exhibits significant grain as should be expected, with no noticeable alteration to the vintage look. As the camera tracks into Willard’s dank hotel room the imagery stabilizes and we’re treated to a truly breathtaking digital presentation. Vitorio Storaro’s photography, with its slashes of shade and brilliant orange and yellow inclusions, erupts from the giant IMAX screen. For a film that’s a descent into hell, the images in the new restoration are truly heavenly.

Soundwise we’ve come to expect miracles from this film, and in a proper IMAX venue it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Jim Morison’s Oedipal pleas, made more explicit due to elements that were on the master tape but left off the original recording, hauntingly echo through the surround field, drawing us in immediately to this strange world. From the booming of the “Arclight”, the B52 bombs going off into the distance, right through to the analogue synth score and the caucophonous chants at the compound and chirping noises from the jungle this is an orgy of audio excellence, a work of such bravura sonic landscape that it continues to set a benchmark to this day. 

Ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas

The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now is a run of four films in one decade by one director that still leaves one’s head swimming. This culmination of Coppola’s decade of struggle and success is in many ways his touchstone film. While he made some great films afterwards, there never was the same level of risk and reward, never the same absolute gonzo need to get something on the screen no matter the emotional, physical and emotional cost.

Some audiences these days will balk at such factors, finding the film a perfect indication of everything that’s wrong with a particular kind of cinematic orthodoxy that relied upon reprehensible behaviour to get the job done. Apocalypse isn’t great because of these challenges, nor is it to be derided for them, it’s simply to accept that the film is, in every frame, a product of when and how it was made, yet those very frames are immortal in effect. The questions that it raises are as provocative and poetic now as ever, its ambivalent ending as raw and remarkable as when it first screened. It’s a film that needed to be, one that took a narrative that even Orson Welles failed to unlock and focused it on an existential open wound for the United States, a gash that even now continues to fester. 

At the IMAX screening some were rapt, others snoozed, but for the most part the response was as enthusiastic as one would have hoped. This is an ageless film that’s very much part of a time, and in some ways it serves to modern audiences the same way that the Plantation sequence plays for Willard. We’re sitting at Coppola’s table, he’s feeding us as we’re made uncomfortable by both the luxury and animosity of the event. We’re treated to a fine meal that comes at the expense of the exploited (Chef is shocked to learn that it’s “locals” who are preparing these dishes to the highest of Western standards). It’s a film about race, class, war, peace, technology, nature, humanity and moral rot, prejudice and perfidy. It’s literature ignited by lightning, blasted by thunder. If there’s any meaning left to the term “cinematic”, this film’s scope, ambition, hubris and exquisite accomplishments deserve the plaudit.

The horror, the horror…

It’s easy to say they don’t make films like Apocalypse Now now, because of course they don’t. And can’t. And won’t. So to have a film of this magnitude futzed with means we get a chance to see it in a theatrical space with a kind of newness. I envy those that will get a chance to see this film for the first time on a giant screen with magnificent sound. Yet for all its technical brilliance it’s the film’s cavernously deep intelligence that is what’s truly epic about the film. 

As canon (rightfully) is challenged, and people reflect back on what was celebrated versus what was overlooked, there’s plenty of ammunition for those that wish to somehow diminish what Apocalypse Now accomplishes. Yet any criticism about its excesses speaks exactly to what the film is about. Coppola continues to tinker with his most mercurial work, but it’s been some time since it was under his own control. We are all Willard, and we are all Kurtz. We are Chef not wanting to get off the boat and we are the Captain throwing our arms around the neck of the life that tries to take us down. We are bunnies dancing on the stage to leering audiences, locals looking in fenced out from the festivities, and we are errand boys and girls sent by grocery clerks to collect bills, and we are covered in muck as we find a way of getting the job done. 

In more than century of cinema there has been no film quite like Apocalypse Now, no work that most purely existed as the culmination of both production and product. It’s a definitive film, even as there seems to be debate about which version is definitive. It’s an experience to watch, and a set of ideas to behold. It’s spectacle and it’s surreal, but above all it’s as brilliant a dive into both the horrors and hopes of humanity that’s ever been put to screen. It’s an indictment of an entire nation, yet no other nation could have generated this work of art. It reeks of defeat, yet smells of victory. 

Apocalypse Now is now. Apocalypse Now is forever.

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