Thursday, July 03, 2008

Balls Shot Off for a Cause

Animal Mother print (by d.d. tinzeroes)

It'd been a while since I watched any Kubrick, but recently I stayed up 2 late 1 night watching, of all things, A.I. on cable.

Frankly, I was shocked, SHOCKED! (I say) at the jarring transition from Kubrick's subtle, complicated meditations on robot ethics to Speelburgo's schmaltzly Pinocchio pastiche. The trauma was enough to (finally, I guess) make me realize, profoundly, the (totally obvious) detail + care of Kubrick's craftmanship.

I was quickly reminded of an article I had rushedly read regarding Full Metal Jacket at the library front desk during my college years. Said article detailed several scripted scenes which Kubrick never shot or chose to cut out of the final version of the film, mostly in direct reaction to critics' praise of Platoon.

Some rather painstaking internet research later, I was able to locate said article, key excerpts I quote hereafter, in the spirit of my previous bibliographic essay.1

1st up is a pair of cut scenes from the Parris Island sequence which, while not related to the "this-movie-is-not-Platoon" angle, do highlight what I'm talking about w/ Kubrick's killer instinct in dealing w/ ambiguities rather than holding the audience's hand in AI. In this case, in regards to Sgt. Hartman:
Two scenes were eliminated which would have made the drill instructor a monster: one where he nearly drowns Pyle in a bowl of urine, and one where he orders a recruit who has cut his wrists to clean up the mess he’s made before reporting to the doctor.2
One must confess, these 2 scenes would have been so over the top they would have made Hartman a bit of the cartoon, whereas instead his jocular language, while inducing giggles at 1st view, in fact are imbued w/ the meaty language of indoctrination to the ways of killing.

As interesting as this may be, the following selection is the 1 I have routinely semi-quoted whenever the conversation has turned to Full Metal Jacket in the last, oh, 8 years:

Kubrick during the year-long shoot stripped away the elements in his own script that made Joker someone with whom the audience could identify: his voiceovers reduced finally to four or five; the instinctive revulsion that impels him, in a scene that was either cut or never filmed, to kill an Arvin colonel who is murdering prisoners during the helicopter ride from Da Nang to Hue; and his death and burial, which would have concluded the film on an elegiac note – replaced here by the group-shot of soldiers singing the Mousketeer anthem that was originally planned for an earlier scene, after the assault on Hue.3

To sum:

1. Joker originally had more voiceovers;
2. Joker originally was to kill an officer murdering prisoners; +
3. Joker originally would have died at the end of the film.

For starters, the 1st point was clearly cut to demolish similarities or comparisons between Modine and Charlie Sheen's character in Platoon. I see a similar logic to the 3rd point in regards to William Defoe's character in Platoon, as well. The 2nd point simply makes Joker to sympathetic to the audience, and paints the film in good/bad right/wrong terms which make the audience feel good abt itself.

Not that it matters, anymore. Since Saving Private Damon any movie with any wartime setting is basically 100% war-porn.


1 See Red Hot Flower of Hysteria, Oct. 3, 2007.
"Full Metal Jacket," by Bill Krohn.

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3 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Heh, I love A.I.. You will rarely find a more sumptuous visual experience. Sure, Steve's spiel is, as usual, infuriatingly trite, but as a straight craftsman of the image, he's never been better than that film. What I said in 2002, when I originally saw it, was that 'twas a shame that the only guy capable of matching Kubrick's visual vision was so thoroughly incapable of matching his moral one.

One of the greatest movies imaginable to watch on mute, with a really deep groove on the stereo. (That's how I watched it the second time that night I first rented it.) I regret that I didn't take my pop's advice and catch it when it was in the theatres: Kubrick is untouchable on the big screen, and certainly Spielberg knows how to use that medium to its full (ad)vantage as well...

Flip the Kubrick script a bit, though: while I believe he did indeed cut FMJ to make it less Platoon, I dare you to try to imagine him making Joker MORE likeable. Or, for that matter, making pretty much any of his characters in any of his films likeable. Simply not his bag, that savage misanthrope. I mean, why else would he so constantly cast actors like Modine and Law, who are queerly plastic--total ciphers, incapable of providing the audience any purchase... (One of the main keys to his matchless way with ambiguity is how he resolutely prevents the audience from identifying with characters...)

Anyways, thanks for helping jog me out of my movieless rut: my new pad features no tv, so my DVD habit is in withered remission.

I keep trying to cobble-up a post about a gaming life sans home console, restricted to a diet of handheld pleasures only. (Quick comparison: it's almost exactly like being on a road trip that involves going vegetarian not entirely by choice--all the nutritions are there to be found, but it's a strangeish new landscape, and everything takes a lot longer to find.) But I guess...that's about all I've got to say about it.

Quick note--if you haven't lately, check out Ana Skyfish's last couple posts. In good form, I say!!

11:57 AM  
Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

My patience for Spielberg hit level naught-naught-naught a long long time ago, to the point where I consider his only truly good movies to be Jaws and Duel. Heh, it'd been cool if he'd made a habit of titling all his flicks with single 4-letter words only, like Jim Thirlwell. Well, only cool if he didn't end up making crap.

Anyways, while I agree with you that Joker's hardly likable, I'm not so sure having a lead character be "likable" was quite as mandatory "then" as it is "now," for what its worth.

Also, Spielberg totally poisoned the well for me on war-on-film. I can't even watch a documentary on war for 2 minutes without wants to spit "war porn" and change the channel. Prob a good thing, actually.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Dead topic, I get it, but it's unsurprising that Joe-Bob Briggs knocks it out of the park when he
talks about A.I..

I always felt that Last Reel Problem was Spielberg literally SCREAMING after being trapped in a Kubrick story for a couple hours, and ending up completely unable to help himself--"we gotta cobble together some hope for the kids!".

We're probably lucky he didn't just make A.I.I., in which the first movie is shown to be a scary movie made by humans to illustrate what could have happened, but didn't, because, of course, we all live in a Spielbergian universe in which no child can ever be in any danger of anything.

Feh. Enough.

2:20 PM  

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