interest in Vietnam. but I have interests in hundreds ofthings. l was attracted to the book because it was brilliantly written and its insights were sizzling. lle omitted every mandatory scene in every war movie and book put in to help you ‘understand‘; he limited himself to events. and what you find out about the characters. you only find out in the course of the action. Michael Herr (Dispatches) was involved from the beginning. I think they will be reading Dispatches like Herodotus' Persian expedition long after nobody knows what the Vietnam war was about‘
The $7 million Hamburger Hill was filmed on hazardous true-to-life locations in the Philippines beset by typhoons. landslides and venomous snakes. The $17 million Full Metal Jacket used an abandoned gas works on the Thames as a stand-in for the real thing. The mere process of filmmaking inevitably adds a sheen ofglamour to whatever is being portrayed however ultra-realistic the
production. but both of these films have been made by directors of integrity. determined to portray Vietnam with honesty and compassion. Together with Platoon they form a resolute backlash against the kind of macho pornography perpetrated by the Rambo films and such Chuck Norris gems as the Missing in Action series whereby real-life horror and suffering were milked exclusively for commercial gain. (ilorifying violence and reducing Vietnam to just another excuse for death and destruction these Charles Atlas fantasies appeared when hard-line Reaganism was at its height. The tarnishing of his infallibility via lrangate and a move towards a more conciliatory view of East-West relations have perhaps contributed to a climate where films like Platoon and Hamburger Hill can find a receptive audience. One can never underestimate the American public's insatiable appetite for an unsophisticated true-blue patriot like Oliver North but it is heartening to hear of the many delays in the production of Rambo 3 as the producers and star attempt to fathom out the current mood of their public.
No one film can possibly hope to encompass the multiplicity of issues raised by Vietnam and the damage done to the national psyche by defeat and dishonour. The current productions are just growing evidence that the creative and financial communities in Hollywood now consider it a cause for further concern. There are literally a million stories in the naked jungle and the American cinema has still to tackle many of the political and personal issues at the heart of the conflict as well as somehow coming to terms with the challenge of depicting the Vietnamese side ofevents. As John Irvin says. ‘1 think that after Hamburger Hill it's going to be very difficult to make many tnore films that concentrate on the combat in Vietnam. There are so many other stories you can tell about Vietnam. The time has come now for a black comedy perhaps. I‘ve certainly finished with combat. I want to scrape the mud off my boots. I would like to do a love story set in Vietnam.‘
Perhaps the medium of a weekly dramatic television series like (‘ombat Squad will provide the broad canvas on which all aspects of Vietnam can be explored and dissected. (iiven the innately conservative nature of the American television networks and their limitless ability to homogenize even the most unpalatable subject matter this seems unlikely. However. as Platoon. Hamburger Hill and Full Meta/Jacket clearly show Vietnam is finally an issue at the forefront of the creative agenda and is likely to remain there.
Full Metal Jacket opens at the ( ‘annon. Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and the ( 'annon. Edinburgh on I I September; Hamburger Hill is scheduled to open in Scotland later in September.
The List 21 Aug— 3 Sept 5