Before Francis' APOCALYPSE NOW: THE FINAL CUT hits Tribeca on April 28th Let's Examine the REDUX To See What Could Possibly Be Left on the Cutting Room Floor...
UPDATED ON May 1st, 2019:
This article was originally written AHEAD of the world premiere of APOCALYPSE NOW: FINAL CUT. The updates, in bold italics, are to see how close I got in my estimations of what would get cut and what would stay....
The above video was taken before the screening (at a time when the Tribeca folks were not yet stopping people from taking videos-- as they did during the longer Q&A after the film) so hopefully it won't get flagged and forced to be taken down.
On April 28th, 2019 Francis Ford Coppola will premiere APOCALYPSE NOW: THE FINAL CUT at the Tribeca Film Festival where afterwards Steven Soderbergh will no doubt ask him all about why he didn't just shoot the damn thing on an iPhone!
I've got my tickets already and am excited to see what is in store for the select few who will be in attendance-- HOWEVER I wanted to take this opportunity (ahead of time) to tell you the sequences I feel in my heart of creative hearts are the ones that should forever remain in REDUX and which sequences it could totally do without.
COLONEL KILGORE ARRIVES (KEEP)
About 26 minutes into REDUX we meet Robert Duvall's iconic Bill Kilgore and for whatever reason it's trimmed in the theatrical cut. I feel like Coppola will end up keeping this additional 60 seconds or so-- as well as a slew of other tiny cuts throughout the film that range from a few seconds to 15 seconds.
I've mentioned this one in particular because Kilgore's entrance is an important moment and REDUX handles it better than the theatrical cut-- but I will NOT be commenting on every tiny difference but rather focus on the big scenes/sequences from here on out.
VERDICT: This moment was indeed kept from the REDUX cut.
THE SURFBOARD THEFT (KEEP) Around 51 minutes into REDUX Willard grabs Kilgore's surf board and steals away with it down the river. In the next scene Willard and the crew are hidden away under the canopy of the river as Kilgore has sent some helicopters down river with a pre-recorded message blaring from a megaphone promising no harm to the men if they return the board.
I feel like although this isn't super important to the story-- and even takes away from the intensity of what would have been a cut from Kilgore's famous, "One day this war is gonna end" line straight to the crew back on the river with the dark, moody music and shadows of the canopy-- Coppola will keep it in THE FINAL CUT because it
a.) gives us a nice comedic break from an otherwise unrelentingly dark movie and also
b.) it seemingly ISN'T part of the story. It's like the helicopter air-lifting the cow. It is weird and out of place and illustrative of the way many people felt about Vietnam. It was a long, strange trip that at times didn't make much sense and Coppola made sure he got this point across in REDUX more so than in the theatrical cut.
VERDICT: This sequence was also kept from the REDUX cut and indeed adds a nice little comic relief.
POST PLAYBOY (KEEP SOME/CUT SOME)
After the crew leaves the military outpost where they've seen the Playboy bunnies perform there is a sequence of scenes in REDUX tied to the Playboy bunnies. First Chef brags about his Playboy collection and then Clean tells a story of some guy killing someone over a Playboy magazine. While I think there's potential for both these scenes to remain intact in THE FINAL CUT my guess is we'll just see one of them-- perhaps the story Clean tells only.
Then after Clean dances to "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones (which appears much earlier in the theatrical cut but will most likely stay where it is in REDUX) there is a much longer scene in which the crew arrive at a seemingly abandoned outpost where the Playboy bunnies from earlier happen to be stuck. Willard trades gas for sex basically and a very weird sequence ensues.
Unlike the earlier surf board scene that I felt was weird and should stay this is one scene I feel will get cut from THE FINAL CUT. It's just a little too tangential to the story and in this day and age plays in a much different way than it did even when REDUX was originally released.
Potential Time Cut here: around 10 minutes
VERDICT: Francis cut the bunny stuff later on but kept the surfing right where it was in REDUX. I'm 100% accurate so far!
THE FRENCH PLANTATION SEQUENCE (KEEP)
So this is one of my favorite additions in REDUX and while I hope it mostly stays in THE FINAL CUT, I still feel like it's a bit long regardless. With that being said I feel Coppola is going to keep the whole thing but I personally wish he would cut the final scene of the sequence in which Willard smokes opium with the daughter of the plantation owner.
Again, the absurdity of the American soldiers running into a French plantation in Vietnam is the whole point here so this section will stay.
VERDICT: The French remained in FINAL CUT (even the scene I personally wanted gone).
KURTZ READS WILLARD EXCERPTS FROM TIME MAGAZINE (PROBABLY CUT)
Now I could be totally wrong with ALL these predictions of course BUT while I feel fairly confident on everything up to here this is the one scene I'm most on the fence about.
After Willard is tied up in the rain-- and Chef's head is served to him in his lap-- there is a 5 minute scene where we discover Willard being kept in a cell of sorts and Kurtz finally comes in, reads him excerpts from TIME Magazine about Vietnam and then tells him he's free to walk about. Kurtz leaves and Willard collapses. In the following scene (which appears in both cuts) Willard is being carried into Kurtz's room and nursed back to health.
Now although I feel the above scene with Kurtz and Willard is strong on it's own-- and could very well warrant inclusion in THE FINAL CUT I also recognize that
a.) it's getting towards the end of the film so Coppola might want to just move it along at this point but perhaps more importantly
b.) we've already seen Willard in a cage on the hill when the Photographer comes and rambles crazily to him, then Willard is in the rain tied up and Chef is killed. This to me is the end of Willard's rope and so to see him being carried into Kurtz's room and nursed at this point makes sense to me. There's nothing wrong with elongating his journey here by including the longer scene from REDUX where he is interrogated by Kurtz via the TIME Magazine article but it also doesn't necessarily add anything at this point in the game.
Potential Time Cut here: around 5 minutes
VERDICT: He did cut this scene from the FINAL CUT and it goes right from Willard being tied up in the rain to him being carried inside to Kurtz' room-- just as I presumed it would be!
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Even if Coppola is very generous with what he ends up cutting from REDUX to create his more perfect APOCALYPSE NOW: THE FINAL CUT expect it to run closer to the 3 hour 16 minute REDUX than to the 2 hour 27 minute theatrical cut. Once again, I could be wholly off and he could end up cutting a hell of a lot more than 20 minutes-- but only time will tell...
I'll be sure and update the article once I see the film on April 28th and the mystery has been revealed. Till then, what do YOU think he's going to cut?
FINAL VERDICT: I did a damn good job guessing which scenes were going to remain in APOCALYPSE NOW: FINAL CUT!