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Friday, September 7, 2007

Kubrick’s Ignoble Alabama Blacksnake

posted by on September 7 at 16:59 PM

From the mouth of a dead man:

It is quite true that my film’s view of man is less flattering than the one Rousseau entertained in a similarly allegorical narrative [“Emile”] — but, in order to avoid fascism, does one have to view man as a noble savage, rather than an ignoble one? Being a pessimist is not yet enough to qualify one as a tyrant (I hope)….

dom.jpg The words above the image from 2001 are taken from a letter that Kubrick wrote in response to a critic, Fred M. Hechinger, who in 1972, in the New York Times, described his movie A Clockwork Orange as “everything from ‘fascistic’ to ‘anarchistic’ to ‘nihilistic.’”

Jim Emerson, a smart critic in the Ebert camp, recently discovered the dead letter and reanimated it because of my own criticism of Kubrick’s cinema.

That’s right. Either from beyond the grave (“Anything that says there’s anything after death is ultimately an optimistic story,” Kubrick said of “The Shining”), or from within it, Stanley Kubrick responds to a critic who accuses him and his films of nihilism.

But my reading of Kubrick’s work has no similarities with Hechinger’s reading. We are saying completely different things. Hechinger had a moral agenda; my designs and criticism do not. What I want to get at, and expose like an organ in a body, is the core of Kubrick’s work. What is its logic? What makes it tick? And that thing is human hate. You will not find love in that body, nor will you find peace. All is war, and all sex is rape.

There is a scene in Full Metal Jacket that needs closer inspection. It happens like this: A Vietnamese man on a motorcycle brings a prostitute to some bored American soldiers. He calls a price and promises she will suck and fuck. A black soldier, played by the great Dorian Harewood, accepts the fucking offer. But the Vietnamese prostitute rejects his bid because she fears he has a big dick. The black man then unzips his pants and shows her “pure Alabama blacksnake.” The prostitute’s eyes pop out at the sight of his animal, and she greedily accepts his bid: sold.

The problem with this scene is it makes no sense. First, she doesn’t want to fuck him because his dick is too big; second, he shows her that his dick is too big; third, she wants to fuck him because his dick is too big. There is no escape from this breakdown of meaning. There is no escape because there is no hope here. That dark contradiction is a symptom of a cinema that sees nothing but the worst in all motives and interactions.

RSS icon Comments

1 need to re-watch Full Metal Jacket.

The Vietnamese prostitute doesn't want to do it with 8-Ball because "soul brothers are too beaucoup."

So, 8-Ball whips it out...not to show that it's big...but to show that it isn't too big.

8-Ball: Excuse me, ma'am. Now what we have here Little Yellow Sister, is a magnificent specimen of pure Alabama Blacksnake, but ain't too goddamn beaucoup.

Posted by pgreyy | September 7, 2007 5:05 PM

i disagree. that is not made clear. it's big but not too big? where is the logic in that?

Posted by charles | September 7, 2007 5:08 PM

Yeah, he beat me to it. She says (through her pimp and translator) "No boom-boom with soul brother. Soul brother too beacoup(i.e. "too much.")

He shows her to demonstrate that he doesn't have an abnormally large penis, she looks it over and says (again through her translator) okay, let's go. It's perfectly logical.

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 7, 2007 5:19 PM

Not made clear???

The pimp and prostitute roll up to the soldiers. The pimp offers her up for fifteen dollars. The soldiers say that fifteen dollars is "too beaucoup." The pimp lowers his price to five dollars.

Eight Ball agrees to that, but then the prostitute complains. The pimp argues with her but the prostitute is adamant. The pimp explains that the prostitute has said "no boom-boom with soul brother. Soul brother too beaucoup."

Eight Ball is confused and Cowboy laughs and explains that "I think what he's trying to tell you is that you black boys pack too much meat."

Eight Ball laughs at this, laughs at the idea that this prostitute could be concerned about something like that and then the line given above...

The prostitute gets a good look at what Eight Ball has to offer and decides that it isn't too big after all and agrees to go off with Eight Ball.


Posted by pgreyy | September 7, 2007 5:24 PM

Sorry, flamingbanjo--I didn't mean to repeat what you said, only longer, there...

The script is online, Charles. Refresh your memory on this one.

Posted by pgreyy | September 7, 2007 5:33 PM

please watch the movie and not script. see how it was shot; read the visual message. a script and a film are not the same thing. people who make films are aware of that fact, that difference.

Posted by charles | September 7, 2007 5:39 PM

Horseshit, Charles - the scene itself is as plain as the nose on your face (and her eyes don't "pop out" - she's wearing huge sunglasses).

Wouldn't want to let the facts interfere with your tortured meme, I guess.

Posted by Animal Mother | September 7, 2007 5:45 PM

the prostitute is also nonchalant and apathetic in her final acceptance. her eyes don't pop out nor does she greedily accept. the scene is really straight forward charles. his dick isn't too big, that's all.

Posted by douglas | September 7, 2007 5:47 PM

Oh, and I'm pretty sure the "pimp" is her brother ("...sheeit - baby Xan here looks like she could suck the chrome off of a trailer hitch" - and the ARVN guy pimping her out/translating/making the deal has "Xan" as the nametag on his uniform). Make of that what you will.

Posted by Animal Mother | September 7, 2007 5:48 PM

I already told YOU to re-watch the film, Charles. I was only letting you know that the script is on-line so you could refresh your memory about this sequence in absence of a nearby copy of the movie...

You got this wrong, Charles. You misunderstood what was happening. It happens to the best of us. The more you try to rationalize your mistake, the sillier you sound.

Posted by pgreyy | September 7, 2007 5:48 PM

So, and I hate to be the first to point this out, but it doesn't matter whether or not Charles is right. What matters is that 183 words have addressed that Charles is having a problem with one fucking scene.

Continuity errors are just as nonsensical, and almost every movie on the face of the planet has at least 100 of those.

And it isn't even that much of an error. The scene, that is. So let's say her eyes did pop out. Okay. We can argue about the situation all we want, but simply noting possible characteristics of the character can easily produce multiple answers for the scene.

Maybe she thought it was too big, but alas, now that she has seen it with her own two eyes, it's a perfect fit. Maybe she thought it was too big, but alas, now that she has seen it with her own two eyes, she doesn't care, and has an all-of-the-sudden urge to pounce on it.

Who fucking cares, anyway? It's not even a memorable scene in the movie. At all.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 7, 2007 5:56 PM

look, you are wrong and i'm right. that scene makes no sense if you read it with the correct idealogical equipment. your bad ideology translates into your bad (wrong!) reading of the object.

Posted by charles mudede | September 7, 2007 6:02 PM

The correct idealogical equipment? What the fuck?

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 7, 2007 6:21 PM


I know that writing for the Stranger means never having to admit you're wrong, but you are.

Orders of magnitude wrong, in fact.

Posted by Animal Mother | September 7, 2007 6:33 PM

To elaborate, Charles isn't just wrong, he's self-important, pompous, pretentious, and wrong. And having his movies shown at Sundance doesn't change that one iota.

Posted by Animal Mother | September 7, 2007 6:36 PM

also he flatly just makes shit up like "kubrik hated humanity".

also he lies or is just absent minded with his criticism not having a moral agenda.

chaz is so full a shit we might as well call him honey bucket.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 7, 2007 6:48 PM

I still can't get over the 'correct idealogical equipment' comment. Wow.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 7, 2007 7:04 PM

Charles, I'm surprised you forgot the equally senseless and misanthropic scene at the end of 2001 where Bowman pulls out a shotgun and kills Pam Grier - just for snoring!

Posted by John Pontoon | September 7, 2007 7:22 PM

Charles, why are you attempting to defend this point of view? The people have spoken. We ain't buying what you are selling. Either re-sell it with NEW information or admit you made an error.

Posted by cw | September 7, 2007 9:02 PM

Everything Kubrick made after Paths was comedy anyway. The first half of FMJ is one of the funniest things he ever did (after The Shining)

Posted by bfelk | September 7, 2007 9:28 PM

It was good what we did yesterday
And I'd do it once again.
The fact that you are married
Only proves you're my best friend.
But it's truly, truly a sin.

Posted by Ziggity | September 7, 2007 10:19 PM

I'm with Poe: explain 'correct ideological equipment'

Posted by karst | September 7, 2007 10:48 PM


Seriously. I mean, WTF?!

Charles, we all know you're a smug pile of bile + shit. But some of us still love you (like me). Explain yourself, you fucking pile of bile + shit.

(Call me!)

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 7, 2007 11:34 PM

from out of nowhere we are discussing Kubrick. But not one of his films but a collage of them. Not all of his films were great. Not all of them equal. "The Shining" deviated so much from the original story just to satisfy the stars of the film (Jack Nickolson) It fell flat on it's face. It was not scary and did not deliver as far as a horror film went. Full metal jacket suffered from too much stage set shooting. It came across staged and fake. But 2001 was something on to itself. The book was independent from the film. Both worked. Clockwork Orange also worked because Both films came before film educated the average person and they could see stories being told that Kubrick was telling first. The 70's caught up to Kubrick. Then later Tom Cruise and Spielberg latched on to him and he was done. His films were good but to make some point based upon parts of his films does not work because all you are doing is suffering from the delusion that everything Kubrick is good and quotable. it isn't!

Posted by -B- | September 8, 2007 12:28 AM

Way wrong Charles. You need to rewatch this scene with an open mind.

Posted by Clint | September 8, 2007 12:54 AM

"You will not find love in that body, nor will you find peace. All is war, and all sex is rape."

Posted by charles Mudumb | September 8, 2007 6:22 AM

I've never seen Full Metal Jacket, but last night I dreamed that I did, and in that dream I watched the scene you guys are talking about, and the commenters were right (medium-size penis), not Charles (huge cock).

Posted by Not helpful | September 8, 2007 8:51 AM

I'd like to know how you can tell her eyes "popped out" behind those giant fucking sunglasses?

Dishonest bullshit.

Posted by AMB | September 8, 2007 9:10 AM

I've been pretty busy in Hell lately, what with having my genitals gnawed off by psychotic imp demons each morning before regrowing overnight, but I thought I would chime in.

With the correct ideological equipment, killing 35 million peasant farmers is a tough but necessary step in the natural evolution of communism.

Posted by Joe Stalin | September 8, 2007 9:21 AM

Oh man, you've got those imps too, Stalin? They're the worst.

With the correct ideological equipment, killing *50* million peasants is "Mission Accomplished".

Posted by Chairman Mao | September 8, 2007 9:24 AM

I find you can sometimes distract the imps by cutting open holes in your abdomen and letting them pull a train on your viscera. But, alas, eventually they get bored and go back to the gnawing.

With the correct ideological equipment, killing 1/4 of your population (glasses=bad) can be a proactive, exciting new phase in the inevitable global communist victory.

ps- "Full Metal Jacket" sucked. Less Matthew Modine, more giant piles of human skulls!

Posted by Pol Pot | September 8, 2007 9:29 AM

I have a sudden urge to pop in Oblivion and collect Imp Galls.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 8, 2007 9:47 AM

Charles got one thing right in this post- Dorian Harewood rocks. He was great as the Ghost of Christmas Future in "An American Christmas Carol" (where Fonzie played Scrooge- better than it sounds.)

Posted by Big Sven | September 8, 2007 2:03 PM

During one's time in Viet Nam, a man would have to eat a live toad at daylight, hoping he would not have to see or do anything worse by nightfall. Kubrick captures the hallmark madness of Viet Nam, and the sex event described is a mere bagatelle by comparison.

Posted by BEEN THERE/SAW THAT... | September 8, 2007 5:27 PM

Well Charles, you will be happy to know that you got a mention at the Emerson blog at Roger Ebert's Sun Times homepage. It's in an article that totally disagrees with you on Kubrick, but I thought you'd like to know about it in case you didn't.

Posted by Jay | September 9, 2007 1:36 PM

@18: omigod, you fucking WIN at life. Amazing.

Posted by mookie | September 9, 2007 9:30 PM

As has been stated here numerous times, you are dead wrong. I just watched this last week and noted this scene in particular during this viewing.

You have no business discussing cinema when you can't even understand a simple scene like this.

A person of your incompetence reviewing Kubrick is like George W. Bush running the most powerful country in the world.

Posted by dave | September 10, 2007 5:55 AM

And the best part is Charles refuses to admit he is wrong. HEY CHARLES! WHERE YOU AT?

Kubrick is all human hate? You are a total fucking clown. Pure and simple.

Posted by Rotten666 | September 10, 2007 12:39 PM

No boom-boom with Charles - his idealogical equipment too beaucoup.

Posted by Stanley | September 11, 2007 12:15 AM

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