- Apocalypse Now is the second best film of all-time, which makes it the greatest war film, perhaps the greatest singular usage of set pieces in cinema, coppola’s finest film, amongst other praise I’d love to heap upon it.
- Coppola’s use of smoke as a visual device stuck out to me– so much dry ice/smoke is used in this movie. The colored usage during the wagner score attack and used by the emcee after the playboy bunnies dance. Atmospheric for sure. It seems like it’s the rare scene/set piece where it isn’t used.
- Synthesizer score. Of course the film has a brilliant rock and roll soundtrack and I just mentioned the wagner attack scene. You have jim morrison’s epic “the end” playing over the opening and finale. It’s devastating and, I think, the best two sequences of the film which would mean they rank amongst the greatest sequences in film history. You have the stones “no satisfaction” and then “Susie Q” during the bunnies’ dance. The simple guitar chord played while the boat finally arrives to brando’s camp is wonderful as well. However, this time, I was blown away by the near Vangelis-like blade runner synthesizer score that plays in-between these other elements. It’s eerie and a splendid addition to the score/soundtrack and of course legendary sound mixing achievement
- When I mentioned Coppola on my top 100 directors of all-time countdown I talked about the final bull slaughtering sequence and how I was one of the better editing sequences in cinema history. I think I’ll just have to add the entire film. Have you ever noticed just how many long dissolves there are in this film? I mean the opening has one, the finale has one, and there are just a ton in between. It’s extremely effective and beautiful and I wish more films used this. I can’t recall a film that leant more highly on the use of the dissolve edit.
- So successfully captures the lunacy of war
- Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s greatest achievement
- The opening sequence with the dissolves is really like montage that doesn’t fully edit. It so wonderfully blends the helicopter and ceiling fan with the face of sheen and the bombing of the jungle (which is either foreshadowing or a surrealism sequence—either way superb)
- It’s the greatest voice over narration of all time with all due request to taxi driver, clockwork orange and goodfellas amongst others – sheen’s vocal work is so impressive- he’d do it again, albeit briefly, in the opening of 1991’s JFK from oliver stone
- No opening credits at all
- Brando is an important piece of casting (despite the weight gain—which I think Coppola does a wonderful job of shooting around)—the role needs brevity—to a lesser extend the brad pitt character in assassination of jesse james needs a star as well. Magnitude.
- Grand scope, size, extras and clear attention to larger set pieces and ambitious filmmaking
- Meditation on the ridiculousness of war—some catch 22 in there- rock and roll, surfing, camera’/filmmaking them (with coppola as a cameo), bunnies… It’s a satire amongst other things
- Duvall’s 11 minutes on screen (Oscar nom) are electric
- Alice in wonderland similarities with set pieces, la dolce vita (the whole move is set piece to set piece) set up as well, Aguirre, wizard of oz
- The Madonna sequence in la dolce vita in comparison with the bunny sequence here. Lighting and spectacle while a criticism of those there
- Very very busy sound design. The greatest sound design ever
- Interlaces dissolves of sheen’s eye in close up with voice over
- Frederick forrest is electric- it’s his best performance as is hopper who is pitch perfect
- The do lung bridge sequence… it’s an absolute visual jaw-dropping set piece
- Coppola is a genius of, amongst other things, casting and talent, It cost him a fortune to reshoot it with sheen but he’s so perfect and coppola is well known for discovering talent (pacino, duvall, cruise, fishburne, lane, cage, talia shire (granted those 2 are family amongst others).
- The smoke as a visual is coppola designing mise-en-scene like a painter
- So many singular images to capture- amongst the best of them are the creative ways he lights brando
- Giant Masterpiece
Undoubtedly a film worthy called “the greatest of all time”. What in your opinion are the things that make it #2 of all time ? Of course you express some of your thoughts here but if you have to sum it in few words what would that be?
As I said I have a problem with the Searchers as #1 ( I’m not that far, it’s my #14 of all time ) but you said Apocalypse Now was your #1 for a long time and then moved at #2. What made you put the Searchers ahead of it ? In your opinion what makes the Searchers superior?
@Cinephile– good questions. I think the editing specifically– this section here. I mean the set-pieces are jaw-dropping as well. With a film this great there isn’t one thing of course- and we all know that. But I would point to this.
——When I mentioned Coppola on my top 100 directors of all-time countdown I talked about the final bull slaughtering sequence and how I was one of the better editing sequences in cinema history. I think I’ll just have to add the entire film. Have you ever noticed just how many long dissolves there are in this film? I mean the opening has one, the finale has one, and there are just a ton in between. It’s extremely effective and beautiful and I wish more films used this. I can’t recall a film that leaned more highly on the use of the dissolve edit—
It may not be fair (again I’m really splitting hairs– but I just can’t get past the opening and closing of The Searchers. It blows me down every time. To be clear though if someone said “Apocalypse Now is greater” — I’d be like “ok”- haha.
Which version out of the 3 do you believe it is superior? Whits better represents the artistic power of Apocalypse Now ? If you were counting a version you don’t think it’s the best, Apocalypse Now would still be your #2 ?
@Cinephile. I guess I don’t think about them as much as separate films. I enjoy the longer gestation of the redux, but do find myself going back to the original more often. I have not yet seen the Final Cut. planning on that later this year. I guess I haven’t looked at it like I do Blade Runner with it getting better each time up to the final cut.
Do you think Martin Sheen should have won the academy award for best actor for Apocalypse Now?
@Janith. No, since he was not even nominated, he can’t win something he wasn’t nominated for, if he had, absolutely he deserved to win
There’s an interesting documentary on the DVD about the making of the score.
If Apocalypse…is the best war movie all time, what is second?
@ Johnny henry- thanks for visiting the site and the comment. I have my entire top 500 here http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/04/10/the-best-500-films-of-all-time/ so #2 would the Malick’s The Thin Red Line with Kubrick’s Paths of Glory #3 if we’re talking straight war movies
When the embargo lifts, where do you think Dunkirk will fall on that list? You’ve got it #4 of the 2010s, while The Thin Red Line sits #4 of the 90s, and Paths of Glory sits 14th of the 50s…
@Matt Harris– man that’s a good question. Well I need to see it again- that goes without saying but it has now been three years since the two viewings in theater in 2017– far too long. But gun to my head right now I’d say third– but only Apocalypse Now feels off the table in terms of ceiling.
I also don’t include things like Potemkin or Gone With the Wind where war is obviously a big part of the film- if I had to ask “is this a war movie?” I threw it out.
Thanks for the quick reply. I posted once before on your site, which I enjoy, with regards to Taxi Driver.
But that’s an interesting take. I only watched last year The Thin Red Line and liked it. It has the Malick feel. I love Tree of Life.
What compelled me to post today was because Deer Hunter is showing right now on cable. I’ve seen it a couple of times already so I can’t watch it again. It’s a tough one to watch multiple times as great as I think it is (that said I’ve seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Irishman at least 4 times each), but that’s what got me to wondering what your second favorite war film was (with consideration to your qualifier of straight war films).
I agree wholeheartedly with Apocalypse…as the greatest war film ever…no doubt, and maybe the greatest film of all time for all the reasons you mentioned. It’s absolutely devastating. I saw it as a 14 year old kid in the theater when it first hit with friends, and have seen it so many times since; more than I can remember over the years, including under the influence of LSD, which heightened the experience multifold.
I think I made one other comment here several months back (aside from the Taxi Driver one), but I can’t remember where exactly. It had to do with the lens that you use to view cinema.
I like the way you look at film. I especially liked your insight into the visuals on many of the Japanese films…Ozu in particular. Sansho the Bailiff being one of my personal favorite films of all time.
I was lucky to have a father who brought me to films when I was a kid like The Exorcist, Blade Runner, Alien, and The Shining among a few others. Memories that will never fade.
Sorry for the interlude. I was talking about the lens thing. I noticed in looking, just now, at your review of Apocalypse Now, that you spoke alot about Coppola’s use of sound in that picture.
But your focus seems to center it’s gaze on the visuals. Considering your attention to the visual aspect, where do you put story/narrative (script) as far as judging a film?
*it’s gaze, not it’s
@Johnny henry- great stuff here- that’s so cool about your father bringing you to those movies and making memories. Thanks for sharing. I think a good story/narrative is a major factor– somewhere behind the overall visual style and form of the film (often married to the narrative/story) but most often times ahead of the acting and say musical score and/or sound design. These are just my typical standard though- there are always outliers or films/filmmakers that excel at one aspect that make me rethink my “rules”. I’m pretty calculated about how I approach these films but I also acknowledge that this isn’t math with an inarguable equation and it isn’t sports with a clear winner/loser. Sorry for the long-winded response.
There was no reply button to respond, but thanks for your reply.
Top 10 scenes/sequences in film history?
Hey Drake,Which version of Apocalypse Now is better in your opinion?
@Radman– thanks for the comment. So I haven’t seen the newer “final cut” yet- look forward to it. I think both the original cut and the redux are spectacular– I go back to both of them– but have to admit I go back to the original more often.
And which version of blade runner is superior in your opinion?
@Radman– go with Final Cut if you can find it
A movie i just saw The hustler depends heavily dissolves, there are easily more than 20 and these are not vague dissolves, where a direct cut should be used, are sustained.
Also the roaring twenties (although not so frequent) use dissolves in the news sections.
There are more, i just don’t remember, i mention them because i have them fresh in my memory.
And the reason it is not used is because it is considered amateur techniques according to the editors. It is also considered a classic and old-fashioned technique, they should not be used, instead goes the direct cut.
Okay i just saw Twin peaks fire with me in the theater and it makes great use of the dissolves, deserves to be added in this section, there are easily more than 10 sustained dissolves that are extremely effective.
As for the film, i did not understand anything at all, when i thought i began to understand something i felt much more confused.
What are some of the greatest opening sequences of all time? I lack the audacity to attempt a ranked list, but here are some suggestions:
Touch of Evil
La La Land
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Last Year at Marienbad
Strangers on a Train
Once Upon a Time in the West
Written on the Wind
Three Colors: Blue
The Wild Bunch
Cries and Whispers
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Big Lebowski
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Assassination of Jesse James
The Dark Knight
Inside Llewyn Davis
There are, of course, many more. Does anyone have additions?
Well, what do you know. I’ve already thought of five more:
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
A Clockwork Orange
No Country for Old Men
So many Bergman films mentioned here but not The Seventh Seal?
Haha. In fact, I only mentioned two Bergman films (Persona and Cries and Whispers), but that’s a valid comment. The Seventh Seal deserves a spot.
Again, a couple more:
Here are screenshots of the dissolves on Apocalypse Now, in case you update the review or for the 1979 update, in the comments of the tweet there are also more screenshots
I was going to suggest some movies with the best sound design, but could only muster a small group.
I found a nice list here: https://www.indiewire.com/gallery/films-great-sound-design-making-waves/making-waves-sound-designer-walter-murch-courtesy-of-aint-heard-nothin-yet-corp-2/
The link here is actually more about films that were important landmarks in cinema sound innovations than ones that have great sound in general, but it fits both questions nonetheless. I’d also add Raging Bull, The Conversation, and Dunkirk.
The works of David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky cannot be left out of the conversation on the greatest sound design in cinema. That being said, Apocalypse Now is the finest example; from end-to-end a sonic haze.
@Graham and @Zane- great work here- I think we mostly agree on Apocalypse Now. Coppola took sound design seriously– think of the train whistle in Pacino’s head as he kills Sollozzo & McCluskey. I’ve always thought Aronofsky has an ambitious take on sound design- particularly in his debut Pi.
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Duvall gives maybe the funniest performance in such an intense film, it is a unique performance in that way. He completely dominates the 15/20 min he’s in. Brando gets a lot of the praise (deservingly so) but I find Duvall to be phenomenal as well even if his role is not as crucial to the films success.
I am curious what version do people like best?
I just rewatched the Final Cut, I prefer it over the Redux (it trimmed about 20 min)
I am torn between the original cut which is as lean as possible and the final cut which has scenes that slow down the narrative (in particular the entire French plantation scene) but give a more epic feel to the film and offer a bit of reprieve from the brutality of the film which presents increasing levels of madness.
Perhaps it is just a matter of what mood you are in. Both the original and Final Cut are excellent, I guess I would go with The Final Cut but completely understand why people would prefer the original
Haven’t seen the final cut but I’ve seen both the other two this year. I think I like the film better when it’s lean but I love the extra scene of Brando reading the news paper. You can’t go wrong with either really. Overall leaning towards theatrical (which I saw first).