The best film I’ve never seen and the worst film I’ve ever seen

Jess (looking festive)

In the latest of a series of blog posts leading up to our next concert, A Night at the Movies, alto Jess recalls a particularly moving film moment…

I don’t often watch films at home. We all have a far shorter attention span these days, apparently, and when I have other distractions anything longer than The Great Muppet Caper (95 mins) makes me feel I should be doing something useful such as re-arranging the magnetic fridge poetry.

As a result, there are many good films that I’ve simply failed to see. One of the best has surely got to be Apocalypse Now.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this 1979 classic is set during the Vietnam War. U.S. Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is given a top-secret assignment to find and eliminate rogue Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has contrived a cult-like following among his own private army inside neutral Cambodia. Willard rendezvous with reckless Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) who unleashes a cataclysmic napalm airstrike on the locals while playing Ride of the Valkyries over the helicopter loudspeakers. His line, ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’ is one of the most famous in film.

Variously described as a masterpiece, a hallucinatory epic, and the best film of the past 30 years, not to mention one plagued by production chaos including heart attacks, drug binges, typhoons and breakdowns, this seems like a film not to ignore.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Full Metal Jacket, Platoon or The Deerhunter (all Vietnam War films), either; and as I’m not averse to some well-placed violence maybe I should put the fridge poetry aside and book in my evening of ‘Nam films – set to a soundtrack of Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 number one N-n-n-nineteen to get me in the mood.

From the best film I’ve never seen, to the worst I’ve ever seen. I watched Robert Altman’s 1994 ‘comedy’ Prêt-à-Porter while at university and I can only think it was my impecunious student state that caused me to stay in the cinema rather than walking out (it was probably warm in there, with a ready supply of popcorn for dinner). There are so many characters, bit-parts and cameos, some of which are excruciatingly badly acted by people who only have to play themselves, that this sprawling movie has no sense of engagement.

Not even the final scene featuring two minutes of nude female models on the catwalk (ah, that’s why I stayed to the end!) can save it.

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