Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

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Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr direct Francis Ford Coppola, Eleanor Coppola and Marlon Brando in this candid documentary on the chaos  experienced filming Apocalypse Now.

If you don’t know just quite what a troubled production the classic Vietnam war movie had then you are in for a shocking treat. If you do, then strap yourself in for one of the funniest fly on the wall documentaries ever made. For the first hour it’s Copolla’s topless hubris as his vision and fortune is obliterated by typhoons, Cambodian army manoeuvres or critically ill actors where HoD never fails to find a shot or line that doesn’t raises a chuckle at his misfortune and arrogance. It opens with a statement from his wife saying she see secretly recorded many of his private conversations, full of disbelief in what he had gotten himself into and self doubt in his own talents. This feels like the Watergate Tapes of DVD extras. As bad as things get for the strutting, vain glorious New Hollywood titan we at least have the inbuilt relief of knowing the finished film will be a masterpiece. Yet then Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando turn up and the fun really begins. Hopper cast on a fourth strike in his final game of his then failing career is drugged out and belligerent. Brando is overweight, money grabbing and employing his famous on set stalling tactics – a monster. A triumph against adversity, topped by Brando bluntly exclaiming to camera mid monologue  “I swallowed a bug.” A making of doc better than most films, a documentary with more big laughs than most spoof documentaries. And a cast even better than Apocalypse Now.

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