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Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis

01-07-2022 , 12:40 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phat Mack Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
I just got around to watching the Milius interview this morning. This could be interesting.
It was an excellent find, though I think Coppola was being too modest. Seems like he had the idea in mind to give over all possible credit for the film to Milius, which was nice of him, but not at all true. Coppola at the least put several touches in there that changed the whole course of the film.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mendicant loafer Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
which version of Apocalypse Now are you planning to review?
Both for sure. There's some interest, I think, in comparing the two versions.
01-08-2022 , 11:13 PM
Apocalypse Now Commentary
Part I: The Art of Violence




Interviewer: Why the need for so much gruesome, graphic violence? Why not let us imagine a little of it--
Tarantino: Because it's so much fun, Jan!


As a reformed grade-school bully, I am opposed to real world violence, along with the many varieties of threats and challenges and posturings which accompany and engender it. In my adult life, whenever I've been confronted with the possibility of a fight breaking out, I've chosen--perhaps not always the best de-escalation solution in the moment--but an approach which at least resulted in fists left unflown and weapons undrawn.

Spoiler:
Or maybe I've just been lucky.


We humans are only another variety of violent ape, kin to gorillas and chimpanzees. What we have over apes and chimps is a much higher level of imagination and creativity, thanks to having brains with more and deeper and more intricate wrinkles.

This evolutionary development has given us storytellers and visual artists and musicians and developers of sports and games, all of whom often help us to process and sublimate our inherent violence, and to work through it without ever having to throw a fist or draw a weapon.

Not every piece of art need have violence in it, but some of our best artists have used it extensively in their works. My point here is: artistic violence is perfectly fine; the great majority of us know the difference between real and make-believe, and we can enjoy the hell out of as much make-believe violence as we can stand without having to feel the least bit guilty about it.

Apocalypse Now was originally conceived as an old-fashioned, straightforward war movie, and thus the violence in it--like the violence in humanity--is inherently baked in.

John Milius wrote the screenplay for the movie. Looking at his resume, which includes Conan the Barbarian, Dillinger, Dirty Harry, Dirty Harry: Magnum Force, Red Dawn, Clear and Present Danger, 22 television episodes of Rome, a Medal of Honor video game, and the Homefront video game, we can see violence as a common theme in his storytelling. Certainly, he's made a number of successful and well-loved projects wherein violence has been essential to advancing the story.

Milius was a contemporary and close colleague of Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. He was their conservative--I won't say mascot because they all had a tremendous amount of respect for his filmmaking--but he was the conservative in the group. Years later, Milius would befriend the Coen brothers, who based the Vietnam-obsessed character of Walter in the Big Lebowski upon Milius.



After Milius wrote Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola became interested in producing it. Coppola had taken his Godfather money and formed American Zoetrope, an independent production company designed to provide young and talented filmmakers like Lucas, Spielberg and Milius the money and the means to film their visions, outside of the stultified big studio environs.

George Lucas was originally slated to direct Apocalypse Now, with production starting around 1976, but the young director begged off to instead make a high-budget children's space adventure.

Eventually, Coppola gave the directing job to himself. It wasn't his style of movie--acts of violence in his films were invariably saddled with tragic consequences, plus he had been ambivalent at best about the USA's imperialist excesses in Vietnam--but the movie had something he was looking for, and that was the potential to become a big blockbuster war movie, like the Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen or John Wayne's The Green Berets.

From the start, Coppola planned to spend his Godfather money lavishly to make Apocalypse Now big and loud and horrifying and beautiful, with the highest quality, most earth-shaking sound mix, and the most expensive cameras and the biggest sets and a huge cast. Then, after raking in the proceeds, Coppola planned to use them to fund smaller, more personal projects to be made by and with his contemporaries.

To get the asses in seats, Coppola calculated that he'd have to play the movie straight: nothing weird, nothing political, just massive, gung-ho blockbuster war porn, filmed exactly the way Milius had written it.

Spoiler:
"Basically, he wanted to ruin it, liberalize it, and turn it into Hair"

"He sees himself as a great humanitarian, an enlightened soul who will tell you such wonderful things as he does at the end of Godfather 2 -- that crime doesn't pay. We may come up with a great statement at the end of Apocalypse, to the effect that war is hell."

"To make an anti-war movie as Francis it trying to do, is about as foolish as trying to make an anti-rain movie. It's gonna rain."

-John Milius


In the movie, Special Ops Captain Benjamin Willard, played by Martin Sheen, is sent on a top secret mission to assassinate a Special Forces Colonel named Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando, who has gone rogue way up in Cambodia, where Americans weren't supposed to tread--per several Vietnam-era agreements--but where we went anyways, only secretly; only Kurtz was not being secret about his activities, which involved openly torturing and slaughtering suspected North Vietnamese and Viet Cong agents and sympathizers, along with assembling and training a cult-like force of Cambodian, Vietnamese and Montagnard tribal fighters, who worshiped Colonel Kurtz as a god--spreading terror and dismay amongst his enemies.

To reach Kurtz, Willard must hitch a ride on a Navy river patrol boat and then sail up the Nung River through South Vietnam and up into Cambodia. But to get to the river, he first requires the assistance of Colonel Kilgore and his Air Cavalry.



My assumption about the character of Kilgore had long been that Milius admired him, and portrayed him as heroic--if a bit over-the-top, while Coppola--who does a nice meta cameo in the above clip--turned Kilgore into a parody of the gung-ho American war pig, subtly, with the aid of Robert Duvall's superlative portrayal, and without changing much if any of Milius' stellar dialog.

However, in the interview I posted upthread, Milius said that--rather than admiring Kilgore--he considered him to be akin to Polyphemus, the Cyclops from the Odyssey. Polyphemus was a dimwitted one-eyed, man-eating giant who stood in the way of Odysseus's epic journey, and in this spot Milius had Willard in the role of Odysseus.

Coppola, meanwhile, filmed two small scenes highlighting Kilgore's humanity: one in which the Colonel offers his own canteen to a wounded enemy fighter, and one where he makes sure that a wounded Vietnamese baby is airlifted out of the combat zone. Milius may have written those scenes, but Coppola and Duvall made them stand out.

So my initial conceit of casting Milius as the jingoistic war hawk and Coppola as the anti-war peacenik turned out to be more complicated than I'd envisioned. Now I think I might be a little closer to the truth if I employed the Ying Yang symbol to their contributions, and credit at least a little of both elements to either side.



This post is getting long, so I will conclude it with the most famous scene in the movie. The helicopter Flight of the Valkyries scene.

This scene plays fairly early in the movie, when Coppola was still trying to play it straight and make a big booming war spectacle and stay true to Milius's screenplay.

The Valkyries scene plays out almost precisely how Milius wrote it--word for word--beat for beat, with the exception of two little vignettes (as Coppola called them), meaning two little mini-scenes where the director added his own stylistic flourishes for us to meditate on. See if you can guess which two they might be.




Up Next: Psychedelia and the Dark Heart of Imperialism

Last edited by suitedjustice; 01-08-2022 at 11:22 PM.
01-10-2022 , 01:29 PM
No guesses?

Eh, I probably shouldn't be giving out homework in any case. I'll spoil the answers tonight...maybe.
01-10-2022 , 02:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by suitedjustice Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
No guesses?

Eh, I probably shouldn't be giving out homework in any case. I'll spoil the answers tonight...maybe.

Didnít realize we had HW, Iíll try to get it to it today.
01-10-2022 , 02:21 PM
Can I get an extension?
01-10-2022 , 11:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by suitedjustice Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
No guesses?

Eh, I probably shouldn't be giving out homework in any case. I'll spoil the answers tonight...maybe.

I donít know the young child left behind that gets dragged to wherever the school kids are going. Maybe the surf board heavy vs light discussion or the sitting in your helmet? I thought the idea of the Colonel drinking from a coffee cup was a nice touch. Man a lot going on in that scene.
01-11-2022 , 03:24 AM
A few maybes:

The guy riding with his hand on the rocket pod.

The children in the school courtyard.

At the very end, the guy being pulled out of the huey. (usually they were pushed out, but this was much more cinematic.)
01-11-2022 , 07:58 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fidstar-poker Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
Can I get an extension?
You have until midnight 12 January.

Spoiler:
1 hour

Quote:
Originally Posted by Da_Nit Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
I don’t know the young child left behind that gets dragged to wherever the school kids are going. Maybe the surf board heavy vs light discussion or the sitting in your helmet? I thought the idea of the Colonel drinking from a coffee cup was a nice touch. Man a lot going on in that scene.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phat Mack Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
A few maybes:

The guy riding with his hand on the rocket pod.

The children in the school courtyard.

At the very end, the guy being pulled out of the huey. (usually they were pushed out, but this was much more cinematic.)
You're right about the schoolkids lining up.

Without bogging down the scene, it's a quick way to show that the enemy is not a monolithic villain. There are always kids involved when we invade a country, whether we were invited in or not.

I like that we don't see any kids get hurt. That would have been heavy-handed. Instead, the idea of innocent bystanders sticks around in the back of my mind while I enjoy the cinematic carnage.
01-11-2022 , 09:25 AM
I find the kids lining up as a surprising omission that I thought wouldíve been part of the original script.

Last edited by Da_Nit; 01-11-2022 at 09:45 AM.
01-11-2022 , 11:07 AM
The Valkyries scene plays out almost precisely how Milius wrote it--word for word--beat for beat, with the exception of two little vignettes (as Coppola called them), meaning two little mini-scenes where the director added his own stylistic flourishes for us to meditate on. See if you can guess which two they might be.

prayer scene?

somewhat tangentially; have you read Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes? 2010 novel, unforgettable combat images. Equal to the best of Sebastian Barry and James Jones ( I am thinking Long Long Way, and Thin Red Line).
01-11-2022 , 11:46 AM
I guess Coppolas cameo and the scene where the soldier repeatedly shouts "I don't want to go!".
01-11-2022 , 12:09 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morphismus Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
I guess Coppolas cameo and the scene where the soldier repeatedly shouts "I don't want to go!".

Was the Coppola cameo in the clip? I must of missed it.

The guy shouting I donít want to go was a good one but also to me something you would think theyíd include in the original screenplay.

Last edited by Da_Nit; 01-11-2022 at 12:31 PM.
01-11-2022 , 12:12 PM
Coppola cameo appears prior to Valkyries scene...though the prayer scene might also be mis-placed in my memory.
01-11-2022 , 07:56 PM
Ah yeah the Coppola cameo was when they first met the 1/9th; mixed that up.

Missed that one scene was identified already; I stand by my other guess.
01-12-2022 , 08:44 AM
Confirmed that the Coppola cameo is from an earlier scene. That was a Milius scene. They'd hired actors to portray the TV crew, but a huge typhoon hit the Philippines (and wrecked the set) and the actors couldn't make it, so Coppola and his crew stood in for them.


A little more about the writer, John Milius:

Before he went to USC Film School, Milius was a surf bum for several years around Camp Pendleton near San Diego, thus the surfing scenes in Apocalypse Now

A lot of his fellow surfers were marines and ex-marines from the camp who had been to Vietnam, and other surfer friends were drafted into the war, being unmarried, not in school, and having no rich parents to find them exemptions.

Milius had volunteered for the war, but he was rejected due to having asthma. He garnered stories from the war from his surf buddies, and those turned into the Apocalypse Now screenplay.

One of Milius's main themes is that Vietnam was a "California war," in that the USA took its late-60's West Coast culture with it to the war: the rock n roll, the drugs, the surfing and waterskiing, the cookouts with steak and beer, the Playboy bunny USO shows, and the massive overwhelming firepower and technology. One of his points is that all this importation of the culture just made the soldiers want to be back home all the more.

In any case, Milius's focus in the movie is always on the American soldier: what is he thinking, how is he experiencing and processing this chaos and madness?

Coppola, on the other hand, likes to check in with the Vietnamese from time to time. What do they think about us? How did they beat us given the massive differences in technology and firepower?



As an example, here's another scene by Milius with a quick Coppola vignette at 2:33.
01-12-2022 , 09:28 AM
Also, I'll spoil the second Coppola vignette in the Valkyries scene tonight. It's a bit of a troll, and I would be surprised if anyone got it, other than by process of elimination.
01-12-2022 , 09:44 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by suitedjustice Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
Also, I'll spoil the second Coppola vignette in the Valkyries scene tonight. It's a bit of a troll, and I would be surprised if anyone got it, other than by process of elimination.

Tease
01-13-2022 , 05:13 AM


When the Americans swoop over the village around 5:19 they encounter a gun emplacement with a WWII-era .50 caliber, and 25 seconds later they blow away the crew that's manning it.

Around 6:24 the Americans spot the villagers trying to extricate the .50 cal in the back of an old CitroŽn automobile rolling across a wooden bridge. Kilgore announces "Clear the area, I'm coming down myself" and his chopper blows away the car with a missile. Kilgore says, "These people never give up." and sips from his coffee mug as flaming pieces of the car and its former occupants drop off the bridge.

That's Coppola's second added vignette. He's showing the old gun and the CitroŽn car as the sum total of the technology the villagers can array against us, vs our attack choppers, our mounted automatic weapons, our missiles, artillery and bombers, and our high-quality sound system blasting Wagner operas.

Coppola also mentioned that the set department had built him a nice bridge, so he felt somewhat obligated to blow something up on it.

Last edited by suitedjustice; 01-13-2022 at 05:26 AM.
01-19-2022 , 11:43 PM
The big reveal generated much less discussion than us guessing what it was. I guess Iím not surprised.
01-20-2022 , 06:16 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Da_Nit Suitedjustice's Ongoing Mid-life Crisis
The big reveal generated much less discussion than us guessing what it was. I guess Iím not surprised.
I think we covered Part I pretty well. I'm happy with it.

      
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