Sunday, 29 June 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1979: Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now

Marlon Brando did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

Marlon Brando gets the Harry Lime role for this film a character we do not see much of, and we don't even meet until the third act yet there is such a tremendous build up for the character as we hear so much about him before we get our chance to meet him. Marlon Brando, being looked upon as basically a larger than life figure in terms of acting, was the perfect fit for the rouge army colonel figure who is apparently being worshiped like a god. Brando is an actor, much like Jack Nicholson, who I feel as his career progressed slowly became overly indulgent as an actor as if no one would question his greatness, and like Jack Nicholson it seems like it would require basically the director to really reign in their performances. Well Francis Ford Coppola seems like the perfect fit for one as he gave Brando his comeback role in The Godfather.

Now this could seem like an indulgent Brando performance, and Coppola notoriously had an incredibly difficult time with Brando while making this film. The thing is though, even if perhaps Brando was being very indulgent here, it works completely for the role of Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz after all is a man who could very easily be described as rather indulgent himself. When Willard (Martin Sheen) finally arrives to Kurtz's compound to assassinate him he has already seen many forms of madness, having some of that madness even in himself, but what Brando does is bring a whole different type of madness with his first scene. Enveloped in almost absolute darkness Brando brings us a man who is of his own world in more than one respected, it's his world that he is created that Willard is entering a world filled people who worship him, and his mind is also of another world.

Brando's unique manner of speaking creates this sense of Kurtz as an otherworldly figure. Brando does not simple speak as himself though as he speaks as though he is delivering a sermon in the specific conviction of his words yet there is an aloofness as if this sermon is only truly for himself. Brando's reactions equally portray Kurtz as viewing himself as something other than any normal man. He does not react naturally, rather as a man who knows all, and as if those who are near him are only there since he wished it. Brando carefully does not truly make Kurtz the god he portrays he makes the delusion, but along with that he brings the reality. Brando in a few moments, such as his angry outburst towards Hooper's photojournalist, that are short and to the point, but in these moments Brando effectively shows that are frustrations of a normal man. Brando treads carefully making the delusion something to be believed, but never shows it to be an absolute truth.

Brando makes the larger than life figure Kurtz should be, but above all his performance does meet the challenge of having this tremendous build up to his character. Brando's performance is most importantly compelling portrayal of Kurtz's unique brand of madness that in turn creates many others' madness. Brando delivers in making Kurtz an allusive, yet still fascinating mystery to behold. There is philosopher found in his constant ramblings, but there is the soldier as well as Brando is able to carry a palatable menace particularly in the scene where Kurtz offers Willard a most peculiar "gift" while Willard is his prisoner. The final fate of Colonel Kurtz may have seemed slightly absurd, but Brando makes it completely believable through his realization of Kurtz's complex insanity. Brando matches the challenge of the character and perhaps gives the last performance where he actually made use of his considerable talent.

31 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Anyone play the game Spec Ops: The Line? It's based on Heart of Darkness like Apocalypse Now and has its Kurtz facsimile played by Bruce Boxleitner in probably his career best.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Overall thoughts on the film.

Kevin said...

Spec Ops is a great game, and Nolan North was fantastic as well in the lead.

Mark said...

Did your opinion of Duvall's performance go up, down, or stay the same after your rewatch of Apocalypse Now?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Duvall's can't go up, he was already a 5.

Mark said...

I mean up in the ranking of performances that got 5s.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I think it is a masterpiece in its original cut. It's brilliantly directed by Coppola, with some some all time great scenes throughout particularly the Ride of the Valkyries. I love that it's not really Vietnam picture exactly instead it does seem to find the Heart of Darkness.

Mark: Up if anything since I already thought he was great. To be honest I really need to kinda re-do much of my nominated ranking list as such long rankings can be rather unwieldy.

Mark said...

I just have to give you props for being able to make a list ranking those performances. Also, I'm wondering if you'll make another one with all the not nominated performances after you finish all the alternate years.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

What has been the biggest rating rise in a performance for you? As in a performance that you didn't think much of until you either re-watched it or reflected on it.

luke higham said...

Louis: Are you looking forward to seeing the new film adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard.

John Smith said...

What did you Think of "The Horror" scene? I find it very mezmerising.

John Smith said...

kook: I Think his choice might be Jhon Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: I think William Hurt's Performance in Broadcast News probably had the biggest, since it was originally a 3.5, then raised by one. All other performances though generally have either been upgraded or downgraded by .5.

Louis Morgan said...

Mark: Attempting a ranking such as that may cause my head to explode.

Robert: Probably Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl as on my first viewing I perhaps let my hatred of the character's behavior in the first 30 minutes blind me to the entirety of his work which certainly does have merit.

Luke:

Well since the stills suggest it will at least be a visual feast, and since I like both Fassbender and Cotillard a great deal I would say I'm certainly interested in it.

John Smith:

It's a fantastic scene.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis, I know this is random but I was doing some research on the film King & Country, and it looked to me like by your rules it would be a 1965 release. Did I miss something?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I actually sort of love Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl, especially in his Richard III scenes.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael McCarthy: It's hard to find when it's UK release was exactly and it's easy to imagine it's first public release was there. It was nominated for BAFTAS in 1965 for 1964 though so I imagine it found a release in the UK that same year.

luke higham said...

Louis: Will you be seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), anytime soon.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I say he saves it for extra innings.

Michael McCarthy said...

I think David Oyelowo's performance in ROTPOTA will give Matt Milne a run for his money...

Matt Mustin said...

Michael: He's not THAT bad. Tom Felton's worse, actually.

Michael McCarthy said...

Tom Felton wasn't good, but it didn't bother me all that much just because I'm used to him playing that character. Oyelowo's performance to me just felt like shameless mugging.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm still trying to fathom how that dopey kid from The Descendants isn't last for 2011 Supporting.

mcofra7 said...

1. Palin
2. Holm
3. Brando
4. Hopper
5. Remar

luke higham said...

1. Holm
2. Palin
3. Brando
4. Hopper
5. Remar

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Eventually, I don't know when though.

Robert: To be fair he is the runner-up, but Milne gets the "win" thanks to that final line delivery just before his character gets gassed.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I barely remember Milne outside of that last scene. Krause I remember for being annoying and distracting.

luke higham said...

Louis: When will Hopper's review be up.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, have you read any of Cormac McCarthy's books, and if so, are you a fan, and which is your favourite?

Louis Morgan said...

No I haven't, unfortunately.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

You might not like him. I don't like him that much, to be honest.