Eleanor recently showed her documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” in Sonoma. More than 150 people gathered at the Sebastiani Theater last Thursday night to see it through her eyes.
The filmmaker behind the filmmaker had a great deal to say about the documentary and the countless obstacles it reveals about the filming of “Apocalypse Now” while on location in the Philippines in 1976 and 1977.
The showing was a fundraiser for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, where Eleanor has an exhibition that runs through Jan. 25.
“Apocalypse Now,” an American epic, is based on Joseph Conrad’s short story “The Heart of Darkness,” and its set during the Vietnam War.
When Francis would talk to Eleanor during the chaotic times, she would tell him to hold off until she could grab her camera. The reason Eleanor was determined to shoot Francis’ full range of emotions, including his occasional feelings of defeat, is that she found the creative process in the filmmaking to be the most compelling.
Eleanor was the consummate creative partner to Francis because she was, in a word, fearless. She never worried about a financial setback.
“What’s the worst thing they could do,” she asked. “Take your house away?”
Eleanor said Francis could always make another film and they’d be fine.
Francis, Eleanor mused, has an interesting take on failure and success. The Academy Award winning director said “the things you’re criticized for now are the things you win awards for later.”
He makes an open and shut case.
“Apocalypse Now,” beset by financial and casting challenges, was largely criticized during production. But the film, which premiered in 1979, was honored with the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It also was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. In addition, the film was deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2000. Finally, the film was ranked #14 in the Sight and Sound Greatest Films poll.
Independent thinkers like Francis can weather criticism and we should follow his lead. Who knows? An award may be in the offing.