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« Unstoppable (2010) - Blu-ray + Digital Copy | Main | The Wiz (1978) [30th Anniversary Edition] - DVD »

August 28, 2012


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I'm pretty sure Kubrick always had important scenes in bathrooms because he was so obviously anal retentive. Think about it.


And not to belabour - but your comment about SK's choices for the soundtrack. Thanks for that. The (i admit its jarring) goofy track you pointed out - again, I think I see Kubrick winking, or rolling his eyes. Isnt it cool how war comes with these awesome fucking soundtracks, in surround sound! Every fucking movie - name one that doesnt have all the top hits (except may CoW). Now, myth making or 101 exploitation? These directors making a point that this is what was happening 1000s of miles away when you (likely) or the country was grooving on these tunes? But you cant have both. You cant make myths and try to commentate. So Im guessing the music is there basically because the audience will love it and it sounds so good so what the hell its that kind of movie. Seems close at least in concept to exploitation.


A good point re demystification vs myth-making. Both have their place and role I suppose. Why not explore broader themes with war as a backdrop. As long as it is clear it is about such broader themes and not confusing itself with the setting. Perhaps that point could be made. Likely not on say Ebert's site (nothing against RE), but here no doubt.

If so then an excellent film like Deer Hunter could be said to blur the line. Is it about the bond of friendship and the breaking of those bonds via differences in choices? About the Vietnam war? Could be about both but then it gets problematic. Traditionally, VN vets are portrayed by hollywood, and US culture in general, as broken, disillusioned, defeated men (ie the ending of Deer Hunter, Forest Gump (never thought youd see those two in the same sentence) and others). Or even worse as the outcasts and hated "baby killers" represented in Rambo. That too is a myth, but it is also political and when so, or when there is little to no attempt to tell anything other than "myths" then myths take on a more potent force, they become manufactured lies and held to be true by we, the democracy. Then how does one tell the myth-making from silencing.

And this is where perhaps the problem lies with AN and Platoon etc. Not that they are automatically without merit (jumped the gun on that one) but that, save for a very few like FMJ, and a documentary like Sir! No Sir! there is little to offset the bias that prefers the myth-making, the war as an exciting backdrop to a popular plot.

Then you take Casualties of War. De-mystification (ie "no not all soldiers were rapists and "baby killers"")? But then, soldiers were never thought of by the general american public as such, not immediately after the war. However, this myth spread through popular stories, such as the kind you see in the late 70s onward. Thus, CoW's reception and perception by the public deepens the myth/typecast that vets are broken, bitter outcasts by being received by the public as revealing, showing the "other side", the "unspoken" truth.

It would be interesting to build this thesis exploring demystification vs myth-making comparing Viet Nam war setting movies with wars since, or wars previous, or other "wars" (say war on drugs). Is there a balance of the two? If demystification is perceived as revisionist is it actually so?

Thanks for the review and the response.

Alex Jackson

Um, you do realize that I gave the movie four stars, right? Don't really disagree with any of your insights, except for the derision you show PLATOON and APOCALYPSE NOW. I'm ambivalent as to whether or not de-mystification is preferable to myth-making. An artform dominated by self-conscious critics is every bit as unbearable as one dominated by blind idealists.(I have my doubts that FULL METAL JACKET reflects the nature of warfare during the Vietnam era better than PLATOON and APOCALYPSE NOW; but I do think it better reflects the nature of warfare today. You can draw a direct line between this film and the HBO miniseries GENERATION KILL). But anyway, I do appreciate FULL METAL JACKET for it's nihilism and unique insights into the war phenomenon. And I do think that, as I get older, I'm actually beginning to prefer it to APOCALYPSE NOW or PLATOON. Tides and flow, you know. Wouldn't want to lose any three of them.

Thank you for your passionate response.


I think your chief complaint is that Kubrick portrayed war as a banal, day to day, existence. Humans are amazingly adaptable arent they? We can make even insane conditions banal and business as usual. You are disappointed there are no great object lessons, no great quotable quotes, images, or events. There is just this happened and this happened and this happened and no one draws any great moral lesson and no one really seems to know what is going on. It is not a dramatic or plot turning event when a leader dies. He is just replaced and the banal day to day goes on as usual. There is no great significance when an audience favourite gets sniped, or when heroism fails - worse, when heroism is made trivial, falling under a banner of protocol. The plot doesnt change, characters are not revealed, the audience does not catch a glimpse of an asshole directer (ie the tragically inflated hack and intellectual muffin Stone) pulling together all loose ends to make a point. What is there exactly to point out? It's business as usual. War isnt about character revealing or building, at least according to Kubrick. It's about the degradation of anything worth living for and the degradation is not revealed through the analysis of treachery or cowardice, it is revealed when the acts of degradation are shown to be banal and trivial. The death of someone in war is not, in fact, a profound and tragic thing. That is the tragedy. That is the degradation. That is the point Kubrick probably thought he was making. That war does not make for wonderful entertainment with cool characters. Go back to Wayne if that's your thing. College boy, you were entertained by the valkyries. That was cool wasnt it. Very cinematic. Thus, in the 2nd half, you were disappointed when the grunts were, hey, a lot like you.

The 2nd half is quite a let down isnt it? I admit it myself. It's as if the movie just turned its back on the audience. What with Gomer and Hartman in the first half ("1st half, 2nd half", hmm, what else american has 1st halfs and 2nd halfs... cant you see Kubrick flipping your/our expectations off?) it promised to warm up to a great 2nd half. And then...? Your'e right. Nada. Just this awkward, clumsy, banal shit. As if the movie no longer sought to entertain us using the backdrop of war and death and dismemberment and insanity. Though that bit about the corporal being sectioned eighted because he was jerking off 10 times a day (at least!) was a bit like the first half wasnt it. But, alas, by then the momentum had been lost. What a let down!

Kubrick nailed it. He wasnt trying entertain college boys, to make them feel cool for seeing FMJ and "getting it" and having their "favourite part" and actually coming away thinking they have been given insights (perhaps even gleaned for himself!) into war and life and shit. Hmm, imagine: what if there was a war where events DIDNT have deep profound meanings, where characters were NOT particularly colourful or memorable.... I guess war would be boring wouldnt it. Guess what? War IS boring.

A fantastic shot to underline Kubrick's point is the scene where they are walking along in formation behind the tanks, right before the corporal that was sectioned 8 got killed. Remember? It looked so awkward. Amateurish. Like it could be on a sound stage. There they were walking along through a scattering of trees. Hell, not even trees. A tree here, a tree there. That's it. Where was the lush, jungle green foliage that beautifully fills out the screens of Stone and The Guy that Directed Godfather I and II. Where is the the cliched Vietnam "road"? Wasnt Kubrick aware of these things? Didnt he even know that much? I mean, what a boring shot? No jungle, nothing _recognizable_ for the audience who know all about it.

ANyway, no college kid. Your suggestion that Kubrick was completely unaware of the contributions of Platoon and AN to the USVNW canon is ridiculous, unless you for some reason assume him to be a clown. Your eye and expectations, even after the years, apparently know what war should sound and look like: war is quotable! war reveals character! the events in war are Great Things worthy of oration! Kubrick's statement: no. War is above all these things, beyond these things. The collapse and ruin of the human soul is beyond such things. And that collapse is not poetic or cinematic. To make it so is perverted. It may be human to wish it to be so but it isnt.

So, yes - FMJ is NOT a "great war movie". That was the point. It was war movie, without the cliches that entertain us. Without the cliches it is just sort of boring and some people kill each other and nothing is revealed. No uplift. No vicariousness. Drag isnt it?

Pol Pot Plant

Just FYI, the helicopter gunner who says "you just don't lead them too much" was lifted whole cloth from a real encounter in Michael Herr's 'Dispatches'.

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