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Full Metal Jacket Diary Hardcover – 25 Oct 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Well worth having, though, as it is a beautifully produced book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Narrating a book is an art in itself. It is a treat to hear an author reading his or her work, but it is not necessarily as compelling as a professional in the recorded books field. Even celebrity performers such as Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp have fallen a bit short reading authors they admire. But Matthew Modine is perfectly at ease narrating his own diary, and his plainspoken approach makes sense to the diaristic form.
“Production” on most recorded books means getting the voice right and editing out glitches and mistakes. But FULL METAL JACKET DIARY, which is also an award-winning iPad app, is very much a production in the style of old radio, with Modine and Adam Rackoff—who developed the app together—credited as producers and directors. Modine’s voice is altered for different forms of entry; sound effects are liberally employed; there is music by Juano Lippi; sound design by Dan Timmons; and Modine creates the suggestion of other voices throughout. The metal-jacketed DIARY is fully illustrated with Modine’s photography, and some of these images are reproduced in the fine booklet that also features a timeline and statements by Modine, Rackoff, Kubrick’s daughter Vivian (who composed the music for her father’s film), and Leon Vitali, who acted in two of Kubrick’s films, served as Kubrick’s assistant, and was casting director on FULL METAL JACKET. The downloadable version of FULL METAL JACKET DIARY includes a PDF that reproduces the booklet included with the CD.
The decision to turn the audiobook into an event, and the complex production values that entails, are admirable, and it can be seen as creating the audio equivalent of the photography and the varied layouts in the printed book. It’s not a criticism of this effort to say that it is not what makes this recording most significant. That Matthew Modine has the goods on working with Stanley Kubrick, and that he has taken the time, and has the skill, to render what it is to practice the art of acting in playing Private Joker, is what matters most, and so hearing Modine tell it is enough of a delight that he could have read the diary into the mic and gone home. It’s no fault of the audio production team that their admirable efforts are secondary. Quite simply, the book itself is terrific.
Early in the narrative, Modine attends a SAG meeting in which actors complain about leaving late for lunch. Modine’s attitude is, in effect, what does ten minutes matter if you’re working with Kubrick? Then he faults himself for not seeing it wasn’t about time, but about meal-penalty fees that were important to cast members who relied on them to live. This is not a Kubrick anecdote—there are plenty of those here, e.g. Kubrick noticing that his lens has been placed a few inches off, or Kubrick trying to talk his star out of being with his wife for childbirth—but it captures an essential even of shooting a masterpiece: filmmaking is complicated with scores of individual duties and concerns. It also emblemizes Modine’s willingness to get at what his days on the set were really like, even when his self-portraits are less than flattering.
At a time when it seems as if everyone in the public eye is writing at least one if not a stream of memoirs, we have few such day-to-day accounts of actual work with film directors by men and women who were there. Most celebrity bios feature a few paragraphs, perhaps a chapter, about working with a director. Modine’s extensive account of adventuring with Kubrick on FULL METAL JACKET is thus still a rarity in the literature of film. It is essential listening for any aspiring film actor, filmmaker, student or enthusiast of cinema, as well as for anyone intrigued by the creative process, and of course for Kubrick aficionados. More than that, FULL METAL JACKET DIARY is a very good story very well told, another reason why I strongly recommend this audio version of FULL METAL JACKET DIARY for private listening as well as for all library and university collections.
By the way, I highly recommend reading "The Shorttimers" by Gustave Hasford, as a prelude to FMJ Diary. This is the novel upon which FMJ was based, and Modine makes frequent reference to its influence on him and Kubrick. It's a classic novel in its own right, and provides important context to the film.
Not only does Modine prove himself to be quite a talented photographer, but his behind-the-scenes account of the making of the motion picture is a wonderfully revealing look inside the movie making process that few people see.
If you've ever been curious about how movies are made, or are curious about what it was like to work with Stanley Kubrick, Matthew's book lifts the curtains and let's you inside.