ScreennA Big Bang and Small ChangenApocalypse Now; Directed by FrancisnCoppola; Written by John Milius;nUnited Artists.nStarting Ofer; An Alan J. PakulanFilm; Paramount Pictures.n10; Written and Directed by BlakenEdwards; An OrionPictures Release.nYanks; A John Schlesinger Film;nUniversal.nLe Cage aux Folles; A Film by EdouardnMolinaro; United Artists.nby Eric ShapearonIn the end, Coppola’s ApocalypsenNow makes an impression of mythologynby computerization. All that we knownabout war, both emotionally and visually,neverything we know about cruelties,ninstincts, and situations whichnpreviously has been registered by literature,nart, journalism, has been fed into ancomputer—and a synthetic superwisdomnwith superartistic vision was supposednto emerge. Did it.’ It did not.nInstead, the product was labeled a homagento Joseph Conrad.nA New York critic, respected thoughna bit unctuous, wrote, perhaps, un mot lenplus juste: “For Coppola, as for a greatnmany other film makers in recent years,nanti-Americanism has become the lastnrefuge of banality …” This was inevitablenonce the creation of myths,nformerly the dominion of morally committednliterature, turned into mythmaking,nwhich gives to thriller writers ornjournalists an authority equal to that ofnartists. The literary phoniness of ApocalypsenNow cancels its right to seriousnanalysis or dissection. If The Deer Hunternwas art. Apocalypse sponges on artisticnimpulses, intuitions, and intentionsnwithout bringing them into a distinctnshape. The former tells something honorablenand important (regardless of itsnaccuracy) about man and history. Honorablenessnand importance are missingnfrom Coppola’s work; a detectable pursuitnof them turns into artificiality andncontr\a.nce. Apocalypse tells us that warnis blood, mess, and plenty of undeservednsuffering—certainly a correct observation.nBut war has another dimension; itnmust have, or it would have been eradicatednfrom the universal human experiencenmillennia ago.nThus, what we have here (again) isnwar as insanity and gore. And a suggestionnthat Vietnam, particularly, hadnunheard-of excesses of each. In the firstnhundred pages of The Charterhouse ofnParma, Stendhal describes the Battle ofnWaterloo with the same literary premise.nBut he tries to find some method innmadness. Coppola relies on drugged rocknspirituality. Cruelty in his movie doesnnot originate in despair, terror, fright,nbut in hysteria and frenzy. In such anrendition, lunacy and aberrations soonnbecome boring—all the color and fireworksnnotwithstanding. The movie isnempty, devoid of meaningful interhumannconnections and dependencies—nwhich are so poignantly throbbing innThe Deer Hunter; motivations areneither trite or befuddled, and there arenplenty of synthetic TV-type tragediesnaround. A black sergeant, in a momentnof utter grief, manifests his humannessnwith a dash of sensationalism which isnperfect for use in an editorial. Yet, amidncartoon characters covered with bloodnand mud (which is meant to attest tontheir humanness and inner depth), henstands out like a monument of authenticity.nBizarre, impressionistic sentencesnfloat around (“Napalm smells likenvictory . . .”), but none of them attemptnto rationalize politics, or, at least, mil­nnnitary concepts—the precondition of anynepic and descriptive literature or artnwhich deals with war or politics. Whynthe American high command shouldnwish to “terminate” a renegade who,nafter all, is busy killing the Vietcong, is anpuzzle (according to Coppola: to avengenthe death of a few South Vietnamesendouble agents—a motivation straightnfrom the spy thrillers). Even if the factsnmight verify such a case, it hardly lendsnitself to an impressive metaphor.nAnd then—there’s that Conrad stuff.nHeart of Darkness, to which Apocalypsenpretends to be a contemporary sequel, isnabout serious people and their seriousnmatters. Apocalypse is about people whonkill, wreak havoc, bring about sufferingnand annihilation—very serious mattersn—but who are not serious. Conrad wrotenabout the illusions of civilization, aboutnthe horrendousness of ultimate humannimpotencies. The Vietnam story, if it isnever told in literary and philosophicalnterms, must be about the abysmal convolutionnof a lie. Did we defend freedomnand the right to self-determination, orndid we just defend our own political stature—annallegedly abject reason for sonmuch sorrow.’ To my mind, the greatnVietnam movie or novel must comenfrom exploring the ambivalences of whatnwas happening on American streets andncampuses, of the struggle that took placenin the dank sewers of mass communication.nAmerica succumbed not to arms,nbut to the impenetrability, or perversion,nof truth; the communists and theirnAmerican helpers fought, not our soldiers,nbut our collective consciousness.nThis perspective does not exist m Apocalypse,nnor does it have anything to donwith Conrad. Heart of Darkness is anvoyage into the substances which makenhuman nature slip into metaphysical follies.nApocalypse is a voyage into war, anman’s folly—a much simpler venture.n^mmmmmm^m^M^^nJanuary/February 1980n