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Okay, I've bandaged my hand and recovered from this injustice. Now it's time to rave about the brilliance of Apocalypse Now.



I said earlier that I adore this film. That was the wrong word choice. I revere this film. I drop to my knees and bow before its magnificence like one of Colonel Kurtz's tribal worshipers. I start waving my hands about like Dennis Hopper because I'm not worthy, man; this film is genius, man; it transcends other films, man--- I mean, can't you dig it, man? Apocalypse Now, in my not so humble opinion, is the greatest movie ever made. That's right: The. Greatest. Movie. Ever. Made. You can have your Citizen Kanes and your Godfathers and your Casablancas. Give me tigers and decapitated bulls and purple haze. Give me unsound methods and recitations of T.S. Eliot. Give me terminations with extreme prejudice. Give me the horror. Give me the madness. Give me the motherf**king napalm!

Whether it's fair or not, when I think of greatness, the ambition of the projects weighs heavily in my calculations. I have more respect for the writer who succeeds in crafting an excellent tome of a novel as opposed to a perfectly written novella. I love Billy Wilder, for example, and I think The Apartment is a flawless film, but it doesn't reach for the stars or share the same level of ambition as Apocalypse Now. When I think of the greatest films ever made, I think of the films that fill me most with awe and reverence. I think of films that attempt the impossible. Films that threaten to fly off the rails as they careen toward greatness. I want a director who transforms into a mad scientist hell bent on creating a masterpiece. And Apocalypse Now, whether you think it's flawed or not, is a masterpiece, because it ventures into territory that no film has ever ventured. It is a bold, daring, miraculous achievement, a marvel of film-making, and one of the greatest works of art that man has ever created--- in any medium.



Apocalypse Now isn't a war film, not in the traditional sense. Instead it's about the war inside of us: it's about the heart of darkness; it's about chaos and insanity and madness; it's about the horrific depths of humanity and mankind's hellish impulses and desires and actions. We fear comets and asteroids and spiteful gods as harbingers of apocalypse. Yet look around and we're starting wars and dropping bombs and killing our own sisters and brothers. We're our own apocalypse and it's here right now. So the Vietnam War isn't the subject, but the setting. We've gotta get past the gunfire and the helicopter strikes to reach our destination. The war is just an obstacle along the way, and a symbol of the movie's biggest theme.

So Captain Willard is supposed to assassinate Colonel Kurtz because he's insane and a murderer? Like Willard says in his narration, "that's like giving out speeding tickets at the Indianapolis 500." Everyone in the movie is either crazy or on their way to the asylum. Willard is supposed to be our hero, and he's the one least affected by the horrors around him, yet he's like a sleepwalker: a man so desensitized to violence and death and destruction that he has become numb to the world, but that's what makes him a perfect choice to carry out the objective. Colonel Kurtz, whose mind is sound but whose soul is mad, has resurrected himself as a God--- a beacon amid the chaos and a magnet for the broken minds and deteriorating souls. The last act, which many say is the weakest part of the film, is by far my favorite part. All film, as we drift down the river, we hear of Kurtz's accomplishments; his mystique grows and so does our fascination. By the time the boat arrives at its destination, and we see corpses hanging from trees and painted faces of tribesman and people who resemble zombies more than humans, goosebumps break out all over my body. My favorite scene is our eerie introduction to this god of chaos, now fat on idolatry: his bald head protruding in and out of the shadows, his voice floating out of the same darkness which threatens to devour us. When the final credits roll, I always just sit and stare at the screen for several minutes, "the horror, the horror," echoing in my mind, still in a trance from this hypnotic masterpiece.



So yeah, I love this movie, and I haven't even seen the documentary that members previously alluded to. Like Burden of Dreams increased my already profound appreciation for Herzog's similarly ambitious masterpiece Fitzcarraldo, I'm sure Hearts of Darkness will do the same for Apocalypse Now. Heart-attacks. Nervous breakdowns. I read somewhere once that Coppola thought the film might kill him, and he asked some of his filmmaker friends to finish it for him in the event that he died. That's dedication to your craft, man. How many directors are willing to risk everything, including their own sanity and life? ("Did you know that 'if' is the middle word in 'life,' man?") Filmmakers are rarely this ambitious, and even if they are, studios no longer allow the budgets and resources to attempt this sort of gargantuan behemoth of a film. The advancement of CGI and technology has caused films to lose their authenticity. We can't trust what our eyes see anymore because most likely it's done on a computer. Filmmakers aren't out on location trying to manage dozens of helicopters and boats and explosions. The actual war scenes in the film are a wonder to behold. The script is one of the best ever written and full of memorable quotes (Robert Duvall, during his brief yet iconic role in the film, gets many of them, including "Charlie don't surf" and "I love the smell of napalm in the morning . . . smells likes victory"). And the music! "Ride of the Valkyries" is and always will be associated with this movie. Plus I was just discovering The Doors the first time I watched this film, and "The End" has been one of my favorite songs ever since. You'd think Jim Morrison penned the song exclusively for this movie it fits the tone and spirit so perfectly. "The killer awoke before dawn . . . he put his boots on . . . he took a face from the ancient gallery and he . . . he walked on down the hall! . . . it hurts to set you free, but in the end, you'll never follow me . . . this is the end, beautiful friend, the end."

Apocalypse Now was #1 on my list. Hell, it might have even been my #1 if this countdown encompassed all decades and not just the 70's.