erik lundegaard

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Saturday October 10, 2015

You Are the Star Tonight

I watched “Hearts of Darkness” the other night for the first time since its release in theaters in 1991. Still a fascinating portrait of a man (director Francis Ford Coppola) and a period (the aftermath of the '60s), and how art imitates life (making a movie about the Vietnam War ended up being like the Vietnam War). “There were too many of us,” Coppola says at Cannes in '79, “we had access to too much equipment, too much money; and little by little we went insane.” Another unmentioned but obvious comparison: neither the U.S. nor Coppola knew how to end it. Maybe that should've been Coppola's ending: not being in control of the ending. 

What really struck me this time, though, was a scene in which Coppola directs his star, Martin Sheen, in the Saigon hotel scene where Willard has a nervous breakdown, and which led to Sheen's own heart attack at the age of 36. 

Coppola has heard that officers like Willard are often vain men; they admire their looks, their bodies. And he uses this tidbit as he directs his star:

Marty, go look at yourself in the mirror. I want you to look at how beautiful you are. I want you to look at your mouth—your mouth and your hair. 

(Sheen runs hands through his hair.)

You look like a movie star.

I thought: He is a movie star. He's a movie star playing a guy who wants to look like a movie star.

And I thought: That's it right there.

We so want to be them (for the glamour, the girls, the fame), but in the movies they so want to be us (for the reality; to make it meaningful.) And they so want to be us, they'll pretend to be us pretending to be them. Because that's part of what defines us: wanting to be them.

Martin Sheen

Cf., R.E.M.:

Hollywood is under me
I'm Martin Sheen
I'm Steve McQueen
I'm Jimmy Dean

Posted at 07:04 AM on Saturday October 10, 2015 in category Movies