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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Filmmaking > Art > Law > Documentary > Hearts Of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse + Factory Girl + The Rainmaker (Paramount/Lionsgate DVDs)

Hearts Of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse + Factory Girl + The Rainmaker (Paramount/Lionsgate DVDs)

 

Picture: C/C+/B-     Sound: C+/B-/B-     Extras: B/B-/B-     Film: B+/B-/B-

 

 

Artists creating works about other artists can be a very tricky thing and has its set of pitfalls, but when done well, can yield unforgettable results.  Sometimes however, the work can become so complex or unusual that the public has problems seeing what the intent is.  This was not a problem when Coppola took Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart Of Darkness and turned it into Apocalypse Now (reviewed elsewhere on this site) to the point that a 1991 behind the scenes documentary Hearts Of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse has been well sought after.  Now, the Fax Bahr/George Hickenlooper/Eleanor Coppola film is on DVD.

 

Hickenlooper recently made a film about Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol’s tumultuous relationship called Factory Girl, but it received shockingly negative reviews and many seemed to miss the point of that film.  Then there is Coppola’s version of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, one of the few films of his books (along with The Client and The Gingerbread Man) that worked very well, even if it was not recognized as so successful at the time of release.

 

In the case of Hearts, about a film that was considered doomed to bomb until it became a huge hit, you see just how insane the production became at a time when Hollywood was at its best and most ambitious, though Coppola funded the film all himself.  Many are lucky they survived the shoot considering the weather, health issues and some issues of self-abuse with some.  It is a remarkable document about how great films can take great effort and also show that the idea that everyone needs to be nice, get along and be happy when they have a shoot for a film to work as one of the largest myths ever.  The Deer Hunter was not an easy shoot either and it is also a classic of its time equal to this epic.  This is a must-see.

 

Between the underrated performance by Sienna Miller, an almost unrecognizable Guy Pierce as Andy Warhol and Hayden Christensen’s surprisingly good Bob Dylan, many expected Factory Girl to be the ultimate Edie biography from Hickenlooper, but in its 99 minutes is more interested in showing the sad dynamic between Sedgwick and Warhol in one of the only films not to portray Warhol to date as some kind of artistic saint.  This is not to say he was a perpetual so and so, but shows him as more human and the connection between he and Sedgwick are not unlike Alfred Hitchcock and his blondes is a big point that most critics missed.  I liked this film, no mater its flaws and the effort to recreate the era in visual film terms is one of the most successful anyone has pulled off for the 1960s.  Maybe critics have seen too much Austin Powers for their own good.  Except for big a false note in the casting of Jimmy Fallon, the cast is solid and acting underrated.

 

That leaves The Rainmaker, one of Coppola’s most underrated films.  One again, he takes on the system and the parallels between his filmmaking career and main protagonist are unmistakable (Matt Damon in a solid early lead performance) but he dispenses with the extravagant gestures that sometimes backfired on Tucker – A Man & His Dream.  Though realistic, this also has a uniquely pointed sense of humor and Coppola manages to juggle his input with the Grisham aesthetic nicely, making for some very effective filmmaking.  Danny DeVito, Jon Voight, Mickey Rourke, Mary Kay Place and Claire Danes (in a career-saving move) really deliver.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image on Hearts looks like an old NTSC analog transfer was used, which should disappoint more than a few who had waited a long time for this to arrive.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Factory that looked so good in 35mm (using several formats very effectively, including Super 8mm and 16mm film) are soft and not as consistent here.  That’s a shame because this film is just not getting its due for what did work and it will take an HD format to bring out how good it looks thanks to Director of Photography Michael Grady.  That leaves Rainmaker looking the best, as shot in real anamorphic Panavision by John toll, A.S.C. and should have arrived on HD-DVD at the same time.

 

As for sound, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Hearts is supposed to have surrounds, but is flat and second-generation.  Factory has a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and it never offers enough sonically to work to best advantage.  That leaves the Dolby Digital 5.1 on Rainmaker sounding good, including a really good score by Elmer Bernstein.

 

Each disc also has good extras, with Hearts offering a new hour-long CODA: Thirty Years Later as Coppola makes and hopes for the best on his first all-HD feature Youth Without Youth.  It is more impressive than expected and makes us look forward to that film.  Factory adds deleted scenes with optional Hickenlooper commentary, a full-length audio commentary to the film by Hickenlooper, making of featurette, Guy Pierce video diary, trailer, Sienna Miller audition tape and The Real Edie about Sedgwick in real life with great archival footage.  Rainmaker adds screen tests, extended beginning, alternate ending, deleted scenes, making of featurette and an audio commentary tracks with Coppola.  There is an introduction option by Coppola, then he is joined by Danny DeVito in a really solid listen.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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