NZIFF 51: Apocalypse Now: Final Cut Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam war movie returns to the screen for a third tour, with a restored 40th anniversary print that film fans have to see at the glorious Civic.

The Heart of Darkness-inspired story is still the same, with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) sent on a dangerous mission to terminate the AWOL Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has set himself up as a god among a local Cambodian tribe.

First question is it any better than it’s predecessors? That’s debatable.

On it’s original release in 1979 Apocalypse Now – a year later than it should of after a disastrous shoot – the running time was two and a half hours, aimed at mainstream audiences to generate as much revenue to save Coppola from financial ruin.

In 2001 Coppola premiered a 197 minute long Redux version at Cannes. Almost an hour longer this sprawling psychedelic version split some critics with the addition of the oft-criticised French plantation sequence.

Now he’s back with what he describes as “just right”, knocking off 30 minutes for a three-hour hallucinatory descent into madness.

The original cut is still the leaner, meaner version – and the one that should be cemented in film history – but this yearlong restoration is a goddamn religious cinematic experience.

Coppola had 4k scans of the original negative, combined with Dolby’s HDR processing, gives cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s Oscar-winning visuals depth and detail like never before – just wait for the night time scenes of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz.

For me it’s the sound restoration that makes this version truly special. Original sound designer Walter Murch (who also features in the NZIFF doco Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound) and Coppola’s American Zoetrope archivist James Mockoski located one of the 1979 film’s six track print masters. Thanks to this they adapted his groundbreaking and Oscar-winning surround sound mix to Dobly Atmos.

Just wait for the iconic Valkyrie-sound tracked helicopter battle led by Kilgore (Robert Duvall). The rumblings reached with new low frequencies make for a visceral experience.

A cinematic experience like this doesn’t come around often. Fill your eyes and ears with the horrors of Coppola’s haunting masterpiece now before you regret it.

Clayton Barnett

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