Jig Is Up, Vittorio!

Apocalypse Now cinematographer Vittorio Storaro is (in)famous for having long insisted upon cropping Apocalypse Now, originally filmed in 35mm widescreen Panavision at an aspect ratio of 2.35 to 1, to a somewhat less wide shape — either a 2.00 to 1 aspect ratio (which are the dimensions of Storaro’s Univisium system, which he would like to see adopted as a universal standard) or a 70mm aspect ratio of 2.21 to 1.

But now the gates have been stormed and Vittorio’s rule has been overturned. Lionsgate announced today that the forthcoming Apocalypse Now Bluray, set for release on 10.19, will be presented in 2.35 to 1. Yes!

Francis Coppola‘s legendary 1979 film was shown in the 70mm widescreen aspect ratio (2.21 to 1) during its initial engagements in big-city theatres, and then in the wider 35mm aspect ratio when it went into general release. But on Apocalypse Now DVDs (including the Redux version), Storaro standards have prevailed with the image cropped to either 2.21 to 1 or 2.00 to 1. I was never entirely sure which one it was, but I know two things: (a) it was boxier (i.e., a certain percentage of the sides sliced off), and (b) a lot of people in the elite home video community have been pissed at Storaro for years about this. So Lionsgate’s decision has almost made Storaro into a kind of metaphor for Nicolae Ceaucescu escaping Budapest in a helicopter in late December 1989.

As HE’s Moises Chiullan put it earlier today, “Our long 2.20:1 nightmare, begun by the otherwise-brilliant Vittorio Storaro, is at last over — on this picture, at least.”

There will be two Bluray versions of Apocalypse Now available from Lionsgate: (1) a 2-disc two-film set, which contains the 1979 and Redux versions, old extras and some new ones, and (2) a 3-disc full disclosure edition, which duplicates everything in the two-film set and adds George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr‘s Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, more extras, a 48-page booklet, and yaddah-yaddah.

41 thoughts on “Jig Is Up, Vittorio!

  1. Saw it on original release in the hinterlands, so I guess I saw the 2.35. Brilliant piece of filmmaking that just couldn’t stick the landing.

  2. This news is music to my ears. And even though Coppola is not restoring the original end credits it does apper a bonus feature about them will be incuded..next best thing I guess. I hope they knock the transfer and sound out of the park.

  3. The anticipation of this & Alien on Bluray is killing me. I’m actually not a fan of the Redux version. That whole bit with the Playmates is just too weird & creepy for me. Although, the French plantation is such greatness.

  4. Couldn’t stick the landing? The last act of this film is utter genius. But nothing beats the scene where Willard is given his orders over that gauche dinner. Brilliant stuff.

  5. Lionsgate has released a lot of Paramount’s Republic Pictures material, so it is not entirely coming from left field, especially since Paramount has also been offloading to labels as diverse as Criterion and Legend Films

  6. Until now, the only way I’ve been able to watch this movie at home in the correct aspect ratio is the bootleg 6-hour cut (which looks like hell). Seeing Redux in theaters in 2001 was a revelation, primarily because the film’s widescreen origins were respected. I wonder if Hearts of Darkness will be in HD…

  7. Mystified how this happened, because wouldn’t it have to be with Coppola’s approval? Doesn’t make sense why he would go with the 2:1 and then change his mind again so quickly.

  8. From Digital Bits: And here’s something that hasn’t been revealed anywhere yet but we’ve officially confirmed it here at The Bits: Hearts of Darkness, which was originally filmed in 16mm, has been scanned in HD and will be presented in full 1080p on Blu-ray!

  9. I’ve never really understood why the Redux version is so well-accepted, when so many director’s and extended cuts of other movies are greeted with derision, or at least skepticism. The easiest conclusion is that a lot of people simply *like* Redux…

    I am not in that group. While it does not ruin the movie by any means, it weakens the rhythm and tone. The shorter cut is a nearly perfect downward spiral into madness. Redux breaks up that spiral with too much relative normalcy and clarity.

    The dramatically extended length does not help: it ceases to be a riveting experience start to finish, and becomes an endurance test. I can’t imagine watching the aforementioned 6-hour cut as anything more than a film-school curiosity.

    Not that any of this is really an issue, as each version of the film remains readily available, and appears will continue to do so.

  10. I initially just skimmed Hickenlooper’s post and thought to myself, “Why does he want them to fax him?”

  11. Why wait for Paramount/Lionsgate to ask you to record a commentary track? You guys should sit down with a moderator (if necessary) and make your own to post on iTunes. Don’t know how much Paramount pays you for doing a commentary track, but you’re cutting out the middleman – long as you don’t have any audio from the film onto your commentary. It’s not like you need to pay a fortune to make it happen.

  12. MeekayD, there are a lot of detractors of the Redux, so you’re not alone. But since Apocalypse Now is my #1 favorite film, I personally just see it as more of what I already love. I can’t call it “better” than the other cut. They’re just different.

    I will say that the inclusion of the French Plantation scene is worth whatever else is in there. It made sense to have cut it for an unprepared audience when it was originally released, as it totally shifts gears in the middle of the film, but I’m sure glad I can now watch it in the alternate cut.

  13. Many directors cuts really are cash grabs with just a couple of extra moments in them, but every now and again there are cuts that extend the enjoyment of the original, like Aliens , Robocop or (my personal fave) Almost Famous. The key is that they are not replacements for the original. They are, They are rarely better than the studio cut (except for Brazil), but they are as Cameron Crowe said, like concert bootlegs, meant to build new experience on the old.

  14. I wish I had a fax machine. It’s been sitting in a closet since 1998. And by the way we never get paid to do commentary tracks. In fact, we just about never get paid. It’s why I drive a Ford. Oh that and I’m pro American.

  15. It is BUKAREST he escaped from, not BUDAPEST.

    One is in Romania, the other in Hungary.

    Actually I was in Budapest in 1989 at the time of the Romanian revolution.

  16. Bob: Wish I could say the new cut of Metropolis added anything important, but I’m actually fine with the one which preceded it.

  17. To Hickenlooper –

    My suspicion is that there is very little chance that you and Fax will be called; remember when the DVD was released three years ago it was complete news to you, and FF Coppolla didn’t seem to do anything to dispel the myth that his wife directed the movie.

    This doesn’t surprise me that they’re finally including your film in a 2 disc set; if you’ve ever seen any of the excellent extras on the Apocalypse Now Redux set, you realize that it almost totally deals with pre, and then post-production stuff. But it’s got this giant hole in the middle (the actual production of the film), that I assume at the time they planned to fill with your movie, but didn’t get around to getting it into the box set at the time. I guess now is that time.

    I’ve always felt that you and Fax belong in an exclusive little club with Davis Guggenheim; you’ve directed fantastic, award-wining documentaries (in his case An Inconvenient Truth), where your narrator was such a strong presence that everyone assumed it was THEIR movie. If II read one more god damned time that Al Gore “won the Oscar” I think my head is gonna explode. Just like with Coppola in your case, Gore doesn’t seem to be jumping out of his seat to dispel the myth either…

  18. Anyone have the specs on the “extras” to HoD – AFA on this release, if any? Is there going to be any difference between the new Blu-Ray and the old DVD other than the obvious technical ones (sound/picture/etc.)?

    Thanks.

  19. “So Lionsgate’s decision”

    not Lionsgate’s decision. Zoetrope (don’t know if they still use the same co. that they did in the past, what was it, Fantomas?) produces the titles, extras, remastering, etc. and Lionsgate distributes.

  20. so will you spend an afternoon and make your own commentary since it’s not a money situation? if you don’t have the equipment, you can probably set it up as a workshop project at a film school around LA. not like you need a studio that Fleetwood Mac would rent. talk with the guys at rifftrax if necessary,

  21. I saw the Redux before I ever saw the original version. Watching the leaner cut improved my enjoyment of it greatly. After seeing the Redux version I “respected” the film; after seeing the original, I really enjoyed it.

  22. Thanks for your comments. The reality is Eleanor has never gone out of her way to give Fax and me the credit we deserve. She doesn’t even bother to mention us by name in her republished version of ‘Notes.’ And then when the film came out and she did Leno, Letterman etc. we were never mentioned. I have an embarrassing moment a number of years ago when I was shooting ‘Mayor of the Sunset Strip’ and Keanu Reeves got in an argument with me about my work on ‘Hearts of Darkness.’ He kept insisting that Eleanor had directed it and I didn’t, nor Fax. The whole thing has been a bit of a thorn in my foot for years now. I’ve more or less let it go. The reality is I created my own nightmare and I am glad I did so. When I started working on the picture, Showtime was going to call it “Apocalypse Now” revisited and it was simply going to be a one hour TV special more or less about how they blew up Do Long Bridge. Eleanor’s voice wasn’t in it at all. But I had remembered her book Notes which by father had bought for me on my 14th birthday (I was a huge ‘Apocalypse Now’ nut — having seen it on opening day in St. Louis three times in a row — y biggest accomplishment then was my ability to get into Rated R movies because of my height). Anyway, once I became involved with what became ‘Hearts of Darkness’ I began lobbying Steve Hewitt and Showtime to allow me to use passages from her book ‘Notes’ to give the film more emotional tone, and to add tension. At first I got resistance. I think there was a fear that that approach would take much of the testosterone out of the movie. Anyway, one day my assistant editor found these cassette audio tapes in a box. They were dusty and buried underneath old contracts she had been searching for (we were trying to find Harvey Ketiel’s release so we could use the amazing footage of the different version of ‘Apocalypse’ Frances had started shooting – I mean this footage was amazing. The tone of the picture completely different. It definitely felt more like a Milius movie with a lot of Dr. Strangelove thrown in to give it a very witty and ironic tone – that’s a whole other story and my dealing with Harvey which I would love to talk about on the commentary track). Anyway, to wrap this up, I got these cassette tapes and I decided to wait until my drive home to Pasadena that night to listen to them. Well, when I did I had to pull off onto the shoulder of the 134. Immediately, I heard Francis talking to Eleanor and lamenting how his film was out of control and how he was contemplating suicide. It was startling. Did Eleanor know we had such personal material, and if so how was I going to approach her…. Jesus, this story is going on and my fingers are tired… Hopefully they’ll ask me to do the commentary and you can hear the rest of it.

  23. Hick: You can keep typing for a week–I eat this stuff up with a spoon! I would love to hear your commentary–your involvement and stories really flush out alot of color to the background of the making of this great film.

  24. HOD is one of THE best things on film ever shot. Yes, it wouldn’t have been as good without EC’s footage but Hick &Fax knocked it out of the park. At least they were nice and didn’t mention FCC’s fucking anything that moved on the set.

    The Keitel footage would be a HUGE bonus for us fans.

    As for the BD set coming out, the AN REDUX disc will stay in the box forever, much like the GODFATHER II disc has also in that set.

  25. I just heard from Lionsgate. They seem to be passing the buck to Paramount. My biggest concern is not my commentary but that in “licensing” it from Paramount, they are remastering the documentary on HD. I hope they are not using the substandard magnetic 1 inch master that was struck in 1991. If you watch the Paramount release from 2007, you will notice how fuzzy the image is. It really needs to be done properly, especially for Blue Ray. I hope that my documentary won’t be treated as the bastard stepchild in this new ‘Apocalypse Now’ set. GH

  26. I would give anything if Mr. Hickenlooper would make a feature length documentary about the chaotic making of Coppola’s film after “Apocalypse Now” – “One from the Heart” and Coppola’s loss of both his studio and his fortune, reducing him to directing “Jack” like movies for the next 10 years (with the exception of “rumbleish” which I admire a lot). That would make a great “sequel” to the fine “Hearts of Darkness.”

  27. I wish this thread and Mr. Hickenlooper’s comments about the making of HOD would go on forever. From the time I saw an SRO showing on opening night on 86th and 3rd in NYC to today, I’ve just been totally captivated by this film and anything that relates to it.

  28. I’ve heard that they’re doing a brand new HD transfer of all the 16mm elements on HoD for this Blu-ray release.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>