Hearts of Darkness is an engrossing, unwavering look back at Francis Coppola's chaotic, catastrophe-plagued Vietnam production, Apocalypse Now. Filled with juicy gossip and a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the stressful world of moviemaking, the documentary mixes on-location home movies shot in the Philippines by Eleanor Coppola, the director's wife, with revealing interviews with the cast and crew, shot 10 years later. Similar to Burden of Dreams, Les Blank's absorbing portrait of Werner Herzog's struggle to make Fitzcarraldo, the film chronicles Coppola's eventual decent into obsessive psychosis as everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Storms destroy sets, money evaporates, the Philippine government continually harasses the director, Coppola has romantic affairs, and he can't write the story's ending. Everything is captured on film. In the most disturbing scene, we watch Martin Sheen have a drunken nervous breakdown while his director goads him on (he eventually suffered a heart attack, but finished the film). Other incredible footage is not visual, but aural as the film includes tapes Eleanor Coppola recorded without Francis's knowledge. In them, he truly sounds like a madman as he confesses his fears about making a bomb of a movie. But while Hearts of Darkness is an amazing, voyeuristic experience, its importance lies in the personal reflections offered by those involved. Sheen, Coppola, and Dennis Hopper speak frankly without embarrassment, offering us an essential piece of film history. --Dave McCoy
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