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Thread: Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET

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    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada

    Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET

    "Goodbye my Darling Hello Vietnam" by Tom T. Hall
    blares over the oddly fascinating spectacle of new marine recruits getting their melons shorn.

    This is the opening of Full Metal Jacket, a Stanley Kubrick film, and one of my all-time favorite movies.

    Gus Hasford's novel The Short-Timers was the basis for this Vietnam film by the Master. Kubrick adapted the screenplay with Gus and Michael Herr- the author of DISPATCHES and consultant on Apocalypse Now.

    R. Lee Ermey (who was a chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now and a drill instructor in The Boys of Company C) was hired to be a technical advisor, teaching the actors how to shoot rifles. After a personal campaign by Ermey to get Tom Colceri's job as the Parris Island drill instructor, he got an audition, where he went on a verbal rant, never repeating the same insult twice- all the while being pummelled with oranges from Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali (Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon). Ermey was so good, he rarely did more than 3 takes for each scene. But other scenes required up to 30 takes, like the "jelly donut" sequence.

    "Lee, I want it real" Kubrick told him.
    "Stanley, I wouldn't have it any other way" was the reply.

    The result is a drill instructor performance that has yet to be matched. Ermey burns, sears and intimidates like no other military character. He is truly fearsome, and you believe he is indeed a senior drill instructor in the Marine Corps. How he was overlooked for an oscar nomination is beyond me.

    Three recruits feature prominantly: Pte's Pyle, Joker and Cowboy.

    One dies in the barracks, two go to 'Nam.

    Once in 'Nam, Joker is the man to watch, as he goes around with his partner Rafterman taking journalistic note of what carnage is ocurring.The gov't rag "Stars and Stripes" is his mission, but clearly Joker does not belong in the marines. He is the least "soldierly" of all of the characters in the film (Even Pyle could have been a good grunt I think). Joker lacks discipline- all throughout the movie. His first line (during an inspection, no less!) is "Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?"- a serious breach of military conduct. He pays for it with a shot to the gut from Ermey and a tirade that would make anyone nervous. It is obvious that Joker is a smart guy. Why is he in the army? It's a question that is never answered, and I like it that way.

    This film is extremely stark. It is also extremely mysterious. Kubrick has always had a fascination with war, and with FMJ he made a film polarly different from Platoon, yet equally great.
    I believe if Full Metal jacket was released sooner that it was, it would have won the oscar that Platoon claimed.

    Some of the amazing things about the production:

    -It was shot outside of London (at the Beckton gasworks) with thousands of palm trees imported and a wrecking ball to create the Hue City rubble.

    -Stanley's daughter Vivian created the eerie score. She was given the name Abigail Mead in order to help her chances at winning an oscar. She is also in the film as a photographer during the "dead are covered with lime" scene.

    -All of the military items (weapons, vehicles, uniforms, etc.) are 100% authentic. And Kubrick acquired them with NO assistance from the US military.

    Matthew Modine was as frustrated as Ryan O'Neal was from working with Kubrick. One day on set he almost had a nervous breakdown and shouted at Stanley: "What do you want from me?!?!?!"
    Kubrick calmly said "I don't want anything from you. I want you to be yourself".

    Lee Ermey was in a near fatal car accident early into the shoot. The production shut down until he healed, and after resuming shooting Kubrick said his performance seemed to get more intense. When Lee had his first take with Vincent D'Onofrio (a seriously underrated actor) Vincent could not stay concentrated on the scene. He kept losing his composure because Ermey was so overwheliming & was told to keep himself separated from the actors who played the recruits. The result was impressive if I say so myself.

    I could go on and on about this special work of cinematic genius. I haven't even touched on the dialogue, which gives a thinking man a lot to ponder.

    It's a fucking masterpiece, OK?
    Last edited by Johann; 08-11-2009 at 04:31 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd


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