Monday, November 30, 2009

Full Metal Jacket

I just watched Full Metal Jacket a little while ago; I'm not sure what to make of it, though I'm pretty sure that in itself isn't a bad thing. Nearly a year since I saw A Clockwork Orange for the second time, and several more since the first, I still am not sure what to make of that film either. Stanley Kubrick's movies have been decried as cold, clinical, and detached, and while that's not entirely false, I think it does him a disservice. I would say his perfectionist approach could be better described as, at least in these two films, as non-judgmental. The violence in Clockwork is all seen at an almost frustrating distance, which makes it that more unsettling, and in Full Metal Jacket, a politically charged film that must have something to say, Kubrick seems to be content to let his characters speak for themselves and let us make up our own minds. I think the key to what Kubrick himself might be getting at is to be found in the endings to the boot camp sequence and the movie itself. I don't know. I'd like to think there's significance to be mined in the deaths of the two other principal grunts, one at his own hand, the other by a sniper's, and both by way of a sniper rifle. One presaged the other? Pyle knew what was coming? I don't know. I'm sure Kubrick wasn't the first to make the observation that "War is hell," (though perhaps the first to have it sardonically brayed by a remorseless killer soldier) but the near-end of the film, in which Joker and the other soldiers take on a sniper, is frighteningly effective, with its flaming building interiors, atonal score, and a mercy killing that serves as mirthless wish fulfillment.

I don't know. I'm rambling all over the place. It's immaculately put together, of course, and not in an obnoxious way, as I find Wes Anderson's films to be, but it's as yet a mystery to me. And that's alright.

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