Hearts of Darkness Fax Bahr with George Hickenlooper

Hearts of Darkness Fax Bahr with George Hickenlooper
Even in the mid-’70s, even in the days before 24-hour news and endless paparazzi, the Philippine-based production of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now attracted a mountain of press attention. But it was only in 1991, when Hearts of Darkness (based on documentary footage shot by Coppola’s wife Eleanor) was released, that the depths of the production’s madness was fully revealed. There was plenty of it to be sure: an uncooperative Marlon Brando, huge as a whale, crazy as a duck; the chain-smoker Martin Sheen, replacing original lead Harvey Keitel, who almost died of a heart attack during filming; and the shoot, scheduled to last 16 weeks, stretched over 200 days. But in the centre of that shit storm stands Coppola, and it’s the artist that Hearts of Darkness ultimately wants to honour in its original form, here for the first time on DVD. Given the histrionics captured on film 30 years ago, it’s a bit of a surprise to discover that Francis and Eleanor Coppola are still married, and that she’s making another doc about his latest movie, Youth Without Youth, opening this December. Because Francis wants to set some things straight, the couple offer separately recorded commentary on Hearts of Darkness — mostly Francis is embarrassed by his behaviour, while Eleanor remains stoically straightforward about events. But on Coda: Thirty Years Later, one has the odd experience of watching a "making of” for a film not yet released; it goes partway down the "Francis and his process” road again but not far enough to make it a proper doc sequel. And the huge opportunity missed is revealed in the hour-long Coda’s final minutes, when Eleanor casually mentions that son Roman is shooting second unit on dad’s new movie, and how similar yet fascinatingly different their directing styles are. Yet neither Roman nor Sophia, seen in Hearts of Darkness at ages ten and four, respectively, are anywhere to be found. Another missed opportunity for the Copolla family. (Paramount)