I agree with Mr. Rosenbaum’s enlightening theory on the flaw of Apocalypse Now [August 17]. The fact that Coppola stopped asking questions and tried to answer them. This is the only intriguing idea in the two muddled Coppola-bashing reviews I’ve read in consecutive weeks by him.
However, film lovers like myself still consider it a masterpiece, despite its flaws. (A great film is one that creates discussion and thought and doesn’t force the audience to swallow an easy answer or ending.) They don’t make films this ambitious anymore. (At least not in Hollywood, despite what Mr. Rosenbaum says.) Though pundits are quick to blame Coppola or Cimino for destroying the old Hollywood system that created these films, I blame David Denby and Pauline Kael and the other New York know-it-alls who ridiculed these films, killed Heaven’s Gate (a film as brilliant but just as flawed as Apocalypse), and opened the floodgates to the American Pies and Mummys that now open in abundance every week.
A few years ago, Rosenbaum had a brilliant review that called the violence in Star Wars sanitized genocide. To suggest that the audience isn’t aware of the horror and brutality of war in the opening sequence is insulting. To Rosenbaum it’s simply far-out entertainment with spiffy stereo. Intelligent audiences understand that this is horrifying. We’re aware that Vietnamese are being killed, and to try to use the earlier Star Wars theory is as ridiculous as calling this an amusement-park ride. What’s even more ridiculous is to rip another great American film, Taxi Driver, and say that the violent ending is romanticized and something you can tap your foot to. Which film were you watching? The Taxi Driver I saw featured one of the most brutal, violent scenes, which turned my stomach. The color was manipulated to give it the ugly sheen of a porno film or tabloid magazine. I wasn’t exactly dancing to the rhythm of the bullets.
As for the Golden Bough shot which you consider pretentious, don’t European directors like Godard quote novels and other pieces of art throughout their films? Are they excused because they’re European and more intellectual than Americans?
Finally, the damn film is about AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN VIETNAM. This was the gaze that Coppola followed. If he had a Vietnamese POV the film would have been eight hours long. Amistad was wrong for having a white protagonist, as were Cry Freedom and countless other American films. This one shouldn’t be in the bunch. It’s about Americans in the jungle and their struggles with nature and its primordial violence. Now write a third review and give it another shot. You’ll come around.