In 1976, Francis Ford Coppola arrived in the Philippines for a six-week movie shoot. Sixteen months later, he left the country with the makings of a masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, and very little of his equilibrium. How both of those things came about is brilliantly examined in the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — one of the best movies ever made about moviemaking (available for the first time on DVD 11/20).
Narrated by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor (who also shot the on-set footage), and directed by Fax Behr and George Hickenlooper, Hearts plays like a paint-by-numbers demonstration of how not to make a big film: The Apocalypse Now production is underfunded, the crew is overworked, and the script is unresolved. The actors are either too high (Dennis Hopper), too sick (Martin Sheen, who suffered a heart attack on the set), or too weird (Marlon Brando) to perform; meanwhile, monsoons destroy the sets.
All the while, Coppola teeters between grandiose dreams and private self-loathing, petrified that the shoot has become his personal quagmire. “My movie is not about Vietnam,” he says at one point. “It is Vietnam.”
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