Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, 1991 (9.2*)
Documentary footage by Eleanor Coppola

Perhaps the most incredible film about the filmmaking process ever made, which was put together by Bahr and Hickenlooper using over 60 hours of Eleanor Coppola's footage that was shot to document husband Francis Ford's monumental effort to make his war classic Apocalypse Now!

We get to see behinds the scenes obstacles, such as how actor Martin Sheen almost died during filming, suffering a heart attack likely brought on by exhaustion. We see Francis wrestling with the ultimate statement of the film, the ending. In one revealing scene he says something to the effect of "I have this incredible journey on film without a destination, without a proper conclusion".

The production faced set-destroying typhoons, lack of financing, disease, and even at one point had their helicopters pulled by the Philippines military to use in fighting rebels. The fact that we have this film at all is really a minor miracle, as Coppola had to mortgage his own personal home to continue shooting.

This is a must-see documentary for all fans of the creative process in general, and filmmaking in particular. Along with Burden of Dreams, which followed Werner Herzog as he filmed Fitzcarraldo in the Brazilian jungle, one of the most moving testaments to a director's obsession with a personal project that simply must get filmed at all costs.

An excellent companion to this film is Eleanor's book "Notes", a non-fiction journal kept daily during the filming.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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