Cinerama: Paint it black

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Paint it black

By Mike Derderian

I see a concrete wall I want to paint it black; no colors anymore I want them to turn black. I want to grow old, die and to be reborn again. Grow old again, die and be reborn once more for only then I’ll know that I am living and haven’t lived in vain.

I no longer can withstand the lies broadcast on the television, deaths here and there, blood dripping from a rusting blade. Lamenting our loss, Gaia is adorned in black; however, the firmament no longer weeps for us and another heaven is lost. Still we kill, rape, pelage, eat genetically altered apples and I lose my temper every now and then. What next, crown ourselves lords of this false packed-with-flies world?

The grim reaper has been quite busy these days, as death tolls rise every now and then in occupied Babylon and Jerusalem, where people, who once had lives and families, are turning into statistics fed to a teleprompter and narrated to us by pale-faced newscasters.

In a few years time, younger generations will watch it all on film, and I won’t be around to write about it. What a pity! The following six films, some of cinema’s most classical interpretations of one of the many black clots in American history, known as Vietnam, were the inspiration for this week’s prelude to a column.

Apocalypse Now (1979), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Platoon (1986), Deer Hunter (1978), Born on the Fourth of July (1989) and Good Morning Vietnam (1987), are five tragedies and a comedy, and as much as it sounds Shakespearian they offer us a glimpse of life at its darkest, most brutal and ironic manner.

Directed by Frances Ford Coppola, war in Apocalypse Now, which won best cinematography and sound Oscar in 1980, is at its worse, allowing apathy, insanity and assuming the role of god to foment deep in the darkest of places in man’s soul.

Cast: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Fredric Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford.

Synopsis: In war, everybody is bound to go wild and lose something, Colonel Walter Kurtz (Brando) lost his mind and it was up to Capt. Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen) to retire him with “extreme prejudice”. However, heading deep into the heart of the Vietnamese and Cambodian rivers and jungles. accompanied by four men on board on a patrol boat to locate the rogue colonel, Willard’s assignment will prove to be more than a hellish quest.

Best scenes: Helicopter assault scene on the Vietnamese village when Kilgor (Duvall) orders his men to play Richard Wagner’s “the Ride of the Valkyries” during the raid; and Kurtz and Willard’s final encounter to the sounds of the film’s opening song The End by The Doors.

Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is a film about the preparatory phase of US marines, post deployment and once they are shipped to Vietnam. Unlike the films in the above list this one shows us how young Americans were turned into lean mean killing machines with one code in mind to follow. “Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen,” the marines chant as they are lying in their banks holding their rifle closely to their chests.

Cast: Mathew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kevin Major, Dorian Harewood and R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant T. Hartman, the motor mouth abusive drill instructor.

Synopsis: Starting out as the story of both Private Gomer Pyle (D’Onofrio) and Joker (Modine) at the rough training camp, the plot soon filters into another story narrated by Joker, who becomes a war correspondent in Vietnam.

Kubrick brilliantly demonstrates the dimension of Joker’s transformation from a pretentious pacifist to a killing machine towards the end, using a very simple symbol: a piece button fixed to Joker’s jacket. The film’s title is derived from the name of the 7.62 mm warfare ammunition that has a copper coating covering the lead core of its projectile, giving it a nickname such as ‘full jacket’.

Best scenes: Pyle’s nervous breakdown at the camp’s restrooms, the sniper scene and the Micky Mouse march sang by the marines before the Rolling Stone’s classic Paint It Black takes over.

After watching these films you’ll find that Platoon reveals, in a more or less humanistic approach, the atrocities committed in Vietnam by the hands of uncaring soldiers, like the one’s in Kubrick’s film, only those are based on Oliver Stone’s own experience in Vietnam.

Cast: Tom Berenger, William Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, Mark Moses, Keith David and Charlie Sheen, as Private Chris Taylor.

Synopsis: The film is about a divided platoon in which Taylor finds himself caught between Vietcong enemy fire and friendly fire.The former is the result of the hatered and leadership struggle beteween Seargents Barnes (Berneger) and Elias (Dafoe), who form the platoon’s backbone that soon deteriorates.

Best Scene: The marijuana-smoking scene, Elias’ last stand, which is touchingly accompanied by Adagio For Strings by Samuel Barber and finally the awakening of Chris’ sense of justice after an exhausting and devastating Vietcong night attack.

Hope I caught your attention with those three films, as for next week you’ll be reading “Paint it black II” in which I’ll wrap up things in order to catch up with Superman’s funeral, the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Cinerama as it was.s

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