Monday, September 10, 2012

Apocalypse Now - Coppola (1979)
Do The Right Thing - Lee (1989)

Moving back from the present-ish day, these were originally slated as a Saturday double-feature of decade-defining conflicts. But the other weekend plans & films ended up splitting them between Saturday and Sunday. Doubling up on the post anyway due to theme and catching up with the pace.

Both appear on the latest Sight & Sound poll as well.

Do The Right Thing (1989)
Do The Right Thing
dir. Spike Lee. 1989, USA.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #127 / Directors' #132
Roger Ebert's Great Movies
DVD from the Criterion Collection
Watch via Amazon Instant / iTunes / YouTube

Do The Right Thing trailer (1989)

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" was a number one jam.
Damn if I say it, you can slap me right here. - Public Enemy

Each film begins with a taboo-breaking popular song of the contemporary youth culture, mixed with helicopter sound effects. Apocalypse Now with The Doors’ psychedelic Oedipal murder ballad "The End," Do The Right Thing with Public Enemy's cracker-baiting "Fight The Power." Spike Lee adds some jazzy horns (horny jazz?) and Rosie Perez gettin' down, while Coppola features napalm strikes and Martin Sheen doing the liquor-fueled martial arts of self-destruction.

One other random, surely meaningless parallel I noticed was that when Pino explains to Vito about the untrustworthiness of all the Blacks, he warns that as soon as he lets down his guard (Boom!), he'll get a spear in the back. Which certainly happens to a character in Apocalypse, although the cultural implications are quite different there.

Buggin' Out
While not the dream-like experience of Mulholland Dr., there are still some ambiguous questions of identity and interpretation. Is Buggin' Out just a "righteous Black man" standing up in the face of injustice, or is he more of a troublemaker who escalates minor situations beyond reason? To what extent can the community (and Mookie) trust Sal's intentions - racially, and with respect to Jade? Where does Radio Raheem ultimately side on the Love-Hate conflict? What does it mean for a White Brooklyn native to gentrify Bed-Stuy while wearing a Bird jersey and scuffing other people's sneakers?

I remember at the time a number of critics fretting about what the movie was likely to incite in audiences, and quite a few going overboard to counter those fears - basically calling the film harmless. But I do think it is an angry movie, and not exactly in the late-'80s hip-hop way of either Public Enemy or NWA. Just so many confrontations: interracial, intergenerational, between couples, siblings, in-laws, bosses & workers, residents & outsiders, and obviously between cops & civilians.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now
dir. Francis Ford Coppola. 1979, USA.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #14 / Directors' #6
Roger Ebert's Great Movies
DVD from the Amazon [Blu-Ray]
Watch via Amazon Instant / iTunes

Apocalypse Now trailer (1979)

Capt. Willard: If that's how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz.

The first time I saw Apocalypse Now was in high school, on a daytime double-feature with The Right Stuff (1983) at the River Oaks Theatre. That would have been 1986 or 1987. Pretty much blew me away, as I exited the darkened cinema into the blinding light of a world I would never again look upon the same. Then I remember hearing in college the theory that Lance (LBJ) was the Butthole Surfer - he drops acid, he's in "the asshole of the world," and he's a surfer.

As I understand military operations, you get your mission, you do your mission, you complete the mission (or fail). Maybe that's the way it's always worked for Capt. Willard before - but here, everything about the mission gradually frays at the edges, until the entire mission itself is just a huge confused mess. Much like Willard himself, and Vietnam itself, and with clear parallels to the making of the film as well.

So many great scenes and moments: "Terminate... with extreme prejudice." "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." "Charlie don't surf!" "You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill." Hopper quoting Brando quoting T.S. Eliot... "That’s dialectic physics." Actually, basically anything said by either Robert Duvall or Dennis Hopper is likely a keeper on some level.

The inside jokes, like Harrison Ford as "Lucas" - two years after Star Wars. Otherwise not really a funny scene at all, pretty intense actually. A lot of these are semi-obvious, I'm just not confident I can express my experience with this movie very well - so it gets scrambled. But even after so many viewings, there’s always something new to find. I had never before noticed that R. Lee Ermey played one of the huey pilots in the Flight of the Valkyries attack, and honestly just had it pointed out to me on this viewing.

"The horror."

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