I just watched the opening segment of Apocalypse Now, in which Martin Sheen comes undone in a scene in which, from all accounts, he was as fullyout of it as his character.
But what struck me, coming completely out of the blue, was how much the scene revealed of Coppola’s almost innate understanding of the music of The Doors and the social and historical context for which it served as the soundtrack — the nihilism, the self-destruction, the tenuous hold on sanity, the sheer bloodiness, the fear that the most dependable social bonds were coming apart.
And this reminded me of how deeply disappointing I found Oliver Stone’s take on The Doors. It’s went far beyond the fact that I am generally not an admirer of Oliver Stone. More likely it was a function of the inherent problems of biopics and Stone’s lack of cinematic and narrative discipline and restraint.
I will always lean toward the idea that, while a film can profitably make an artistic choice to go over the top, it is much less likely to work when –as is occasionally Stone’s inclination — the filmmaker chooses to go over the top with everyone else.
Stone’ s Natural Born Killers was an exception. It went over the top more times than could be counted, but — since that seemed to be the precise narrative and stylistic intent — it somehow worked. Even the brief role played by a brilliant yet not widely known actor like Everett Quinton ( a favorite of mine) took it even farther into the weirdosphere.
Stone’s The Doors didn’t seem to make any statement or draw on any coherent artistic sensibility at all, other than “I liked The Doors.”
Watching the opening of Apocalypse Now, I can’t help but imagine how Coppola might have handled The Doors.