Sunday night saw New York’s stunning Beacon Theatre host the 40th Anniversary of the Oscar-winning Vietnam war classic Apocalypse Now, with a debut screening of the new Final Cut HD version of the film, as part of the 18th Tribeca Film Festival. The screening was introduced by the film’s director Francis Ford Coppola, who brought out one of the film’s stars, Robert Duvall, much to the delight of the Tribeca audience. Before exiting the stage to a standing ovation, Duvall shouted out one of his character’s most memorable lines ‘Charlie don’t surf!’ Coppola’s longtime collaborator, Apocalypse Now‘s editor and one of the film’s Oscar-winning sound designer’s Walter Murch was also present.
While introducing the world premiere of Apocalypse Now Final Cut, Coppola revealed to the audience that new version of the film was shorter than the Redux released in 2001, which had with 49 minutes of original footage restored, an edit he said was “too long”, but longer than the 1979 original theatrical cut which he said was “too short.” The film was remastered from the original negative in 4K Ultra HD, while Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos technologies were used for the picture and sound, with the Beacon Theatre specially kitted out for the evening with Meyer VLFC (Very Low Frequency Control) speakers and the rumblings of war were definitely felt throughout the auditorium.
Following the screening, Francis Ford Coppola was joined on stage for an interview conducted by fellow Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who revealed he had seen Coppola’s film seventeen times upon its original release.
Highlights of the conversation included Coppola talking about George Lucas’s vision for directing the film when he had originally been attached as director, “he wanted to shoot it in 16″ in black and white…if he had made it, it would have been very good, it would have been that style of movie.”
He then went on to describe his own initial vision for the film, “I had this idea to do it like The Guns of Navarone or some extraordinary big World War II movie thinking that if I could do a big exciting war movie it would be successful and then we could keep making personal films, which is always my thinking of how to make enough money in the established film industry to be able to subsidise a more personal film. I didn’t realise that Apocalypse Now was going to turn out to be such a personal movie, even though it was a big scale movie. That’s the irony of it, that when you go on those adventures you think you’re doing a big commercial project but if you follow your nose, follow the themes of the film it could be extremely not that. In fact Brando knew, I had a deal with Brando to come in at the end for three weeks. He was a very sharp man without a doubt and he looked at me and he said ‘well, you’ve painted yourself into a corner haven’t you?’ Which I had, because the movie going up the river had gotten so full of red, green, blue and yellow smoke and strange imagery and surrealism that a normal battle scene at the end, like a typical World War II movie, wouldn’t be appropriate and I didn’t know what would be appropriate in fact.
“The irony is that the movie took on its own life, became stranger and more surreal and in a sense it went in the direction correct for that issue because the Vietnam War was very strange. It was a West coast war, it was drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and surfing and West Coast characters. It wasn’t like the typical war and it it wasn’t a typical war film. Nobody wanted to finance it, nobody wanted to be in it, and because I stuck up what I had earned on The Godfather to guarantee it, we made it and then over the years it turned out that I owned it.”
The Tribeca Film Festival continues until 5th May 2019 in New York. For the full schedule and to purchase tickets head to the official Tribeca website. Watch this space for details of a UK cinema release of Apocalypse Now Final Cut.