Monday, September 1, 2008

THE BOYS IN COMPANY C (Sidney J. Furie, 1978, USA) Like Kubrick’s masterpiece FULL METAL JACKET, Director Sidney J. Furie is not concerned with reporting historical fact but instead depicts the nihilistic schism between soldier and civilian; the absolute destructive madness purchased wholesale at the cost of our moral identity. Exploiting the classic film noir voice-over, the story is told in retrospect through diary entries of the naïve and uncorrupted Private Alvin Foster whose fate, like Joe Gillis in SUNSET BOULEVARD, has already been decided. We follow a handful of civilians who, in only six weeks of basic training, are morally deconstructed and reborn as murderous objects, weapons of flesh, blood, and bone. Their Drill Instructor is SSGT. Loyce (R. Lee Ermey) who browbeats them into submission, who must prepare them for the brutality and unimaginable shocks of combat and erase their individuality: he must make them Marines. The characters begin as stereotypes: the athlete, the drug dealing black man, the journalist, the tough talking street kid from Brooklyn, the hippie, and the incompetent Commander. When we first meet our protagonists, they regurgitate inane and clichéd dialogue as they bid farewell to loved ones and spout patriotic jargon: these spoken beliefs will soon become ethical contradictions, which will exemplify their fiery baptism and the realization (and abandonment) of their naïve righteousness. But Furie doesn’t rely on our universal understanding of these characters, he subverts the paradigm and creates complex individuals who don’t react as we expect: this is antithetical to the Kubrickian convention of dehumanization. The scenes In Country are explosively detailed supporting the visual reality of Vietnam. The plot itself is a metaphor defining the absurdity of the Vietnam War: if the soldiers beat the Dragons (a South Vietnamese elite team) in a soccer match, they can spend the remainder of their tour in relative comfort, playing exhibition games all over southeast Asia. There is a caveat: they must lose every game for propaganda purposes, to instill a sense of national pride in the native population. The soldiers must sacrifice pride and honor, not only their own but every American soldier who is fighting and dying in this awful conflict, or face assignment to the meat grinder at Khe Sanh. The choice is really no choice at all: they tame the Dragons. The final battle’s machineguns chatter accusations and mortars punctuate their sentence, and one ingenuous soldier makes the final sacrifice for his friends. (A)

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