I Found It At the Movies: 1979—Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1979: Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)

Count me among the group that is in absolute awe of Coppola in the seventies. Four films, four masterpieces—a run that has maybe never been matched in American cinema. Best analogy I can make: Michael Jordan scoring over fifty points in four straight games.

Apocalypse Now is a film that makes as great an argument as any for the preservation of the theater experience. You watch it at home, and it feels like it’s about to overwhelm the television. It’s that grand.

Walter Murch did the sound design for this movie, which may very well have the most expressive, effective sound of any movie ever made. A bold statement, but Murch’s work here is that mind-blowing. And, like a cinematic game of chicken, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was at the same level as Murch. The visuals here are staggering: Hallucinatory, brain-poppingly colorful and heavy in grandeur and effect.

I won’t even mention the cast here. Let’s just say they’re perfect, too, the same as in the two Godfather films and The Conversation.

Making movies is a risky business, and whenever the risk gets me a little intimidated, I think about Coppola and all he went through to get this on screen. He’s a great moviemaker and a great dreamer, but most of all he had great courage (a quality that’s often undervalued in our business).

What moviemakers can learn: The history of great movies is, most often, also the history of great risk takers. I would put Apocalypse Now with Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo as two of the riskiest endeavors ever put on film.

Other contenders for 1979: I still have several titles to see from this year. These include: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Jean Eustache’s The Virgin of Pessac (La rosière de Pessac) and Maurice Pialat’s Graduate First (Passe ton bac d’abord). I need to revisit Steven Spielberg’s 1941 and George Miller’s Mad Max, as it’s been too long since I’ve seen either to know where they’d place on this list. From this year I really like Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion, and I love Jeff Margolis’ Richard Pryor: Live in Concert and Woody Allen’s Manhattan. My closest runner-up is Ridley Scott’s Alien.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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