The Ultimate in Coffee Table Culture

Napoleon [Metropolitan Center]: Abel Gance's long lost cinematic leviathan may well be the War and Peace of the screen. With four-and-a-half hours of film, a new score written and conducted by Francis Ford Coppola's father and played by a 60-piece orchestra, and a three-screen panoramic ending, it may be the biggest thing since The Seventh Seal--or may be even Edison, for crissake.

But I couldn't tell you Missing it could be worse than missing the 60s, but I really don't know. If the critics who have written reams about Napoleon are right, then it must be the cultural event of the year. But how could it be if virtually no one will get to see it during one of the six prohibitively expensive (tickets from $12.50 to 22.50) showings at the Metropolitan Center? The only thing certain is that Napoleon is going to be the first movie ever to have more articles written about it thant there will be people who've seen the show.

What is this, the ultimate in coffee table culture?

Play it Again Sam [Harvard Square]: There are two distinct periods in Woody Allen's career. In the first, the bright red period, his vision was of the nebbish as a nebbish. In the second, the mauve and chartreuse period, it was the nebbish as an artist. Play it Again Sam is probably his best effort of the bright red period. In this latter day Casablanca scenario, Allen is a movie-going Prufrock who longs to be Bogie. Diane Keaton plays her patented delectable goof role, and cuts an unlikely Ingrid Bergman figure. You must love a movie with lines like:

"No, really I'm very self-sufficient, I made Beef Stroganoff in the pressure cooker the other night."

"Really? How was it?"

"I don't know, it's still on the wall."

At Coolidge Corner, Lina Wert-mueller's Swept Away makes you wonder if part of the avant-garde hasn't decided it is too cool for feminism. A northern Italian bitch-goddess (Mariangela Melato) teases and insults a poor, swarthy crew member (Giancarlo Giannini) on her husband's yacht, and when the two of them find themselves marooned on an uninhabited island everything turns upside down. Giannini turns his former oppressor into his concubine/serf and, as in Seven Beauties, shows he can do more with his eyes than anyone this side of Marty Feldman. There is a kind of love and a perverse kind of justice in Swept Away, but you walk away saying "Whuuuuut?"

Thursday is 'Nam Night at Harvard Square Theater with the unlikely pair Coming Home and Apocalypse Now showing.

Coming Home was the first non-documentary film to approach the war with any pretensions to seriousness and the results were pretty sad. With Bruce Dern as a fired-up army officer, Jane no-that's-not-me-in-the-love-scene-but-that-was-me-in-Barbarella Fonda as his wife and Jon Voight as a crippled vet, everyone is too damn earnest. The depth of the emotional struggles in the movie makes Ordinary People look like a model of complexity. And when Dern bares his buns for that catharsis/baptism, you want to vomit. Any ninth-grader could have written that.

Coming Home, however, does have a singularly redeeming feature in its sound track. Buffalo Springfield, The Doors and yes, if you go, Harvard Square Theater will almost certainly be the largest room in which you hear the Rolling Stones this year.

And of course, one can't miss a chance to say one more thing about Apocalypse Now. Who could pass up such an opportunity? First, and for the 100th time, Robert Duvall is magnificent as Kilgore, and when he heaves out that guttural "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," his power is unbelievable. So much of Apocalypse Now is unbelievable; the jungle, the eerie lights of the encampments, the unreal G.I. show, Wagner pouring out of choppers. Francis Ford Coppola comes so close to coaxing this monstrous myth into flight. Yet, at the end he fails because he abandons it. Making myth isn't enough for Coppola, he has to lay bare Evil. But a behemoth--like Marlon Brando, fingering his pate in semi-darkness and blubbering out The Hollow Men isn't Evil. Conrad knew that Evil isn't shown, but alluded to, when he wrote "The horror, the horror". Isn't that why we have myths and symbols after all?