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DVD Review: Hearts of Darkness...

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When you consider the numerous fiascoes that afflicted the production of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, you realize that it's sort of a miracle it was ever even finished (much less that it turned out to be a minor epic). What seems even more improbable, though, is that two relative newcomers like George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr would be hired to cobble together footage shot by Coppola's wife, Eleanor, and that the resultant documentary would become one of the finest films ever made about the process of filmmaking. That film, of course, is Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse and it is finally available on DVD.

The long overdue release does not arrive without controversy, however, as the front box cover seems to credit Eleanor Coppola as the film's sole creator, ignoring the huge contributions made by writer-directors Hickenlooper and Bahr. It's an embarrassing shame that they were shunted aside as their observations about the film's making would have been keenly appreciated had they been included on a commentary track. That said, the film still speaks with significant power. Though the transfer isn't the best (see my subsequent interview with Hickenlooper for details on that), this is absolutely essential viewing for any fan of Apocalypse Now.

In addition to the original film, the DVD also includes Eleanor Coppola's Coda, a 62-minute documentary focusing on Coppola's newest film (and first in ten years), Youth Without Youth. There is an attempt to thematically link Coda with Hearts of Darkness, but it's mostly a wasted effort--Hearts of Darkness is clearly the superior film and Coppola is no longer the same man. An even more crucial mistake, though, is the abscence of the extra footage that we know is out there, particularly that material dealing with the original Willard, Harvey Keitel. Despite all that, however, this is still definitely a DVD to add to the collection.

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Photo courtesy of American Zoetrope