18 APRIL 1987, Page 41

High life

Surprisingly soft Stone


liver Stone won the Academy Award in 1978 for his screenplay for Midnight Express, and this year's Oscar for having written and directed the picture, Platoon. Last week Chuck Pfeifer, a friend of Stone's, had the Oscar-winner to dinner, and I tagged along. All I can say is that the man is certainly different from his 'art'.

Stone is bulky and swarthy, and quite tough looking. He has a round face with a heavy beard, and if one likes the type, he could even be called handsome. What surprised me was his manner. He is a

gentle man, soft-spoken, and rather quiet. Throughout the dinner he sweated pro- fusely, but did not seem to notice it. He is obviously a man living on the edge, and I only hope he gets through his next film or hatchet job, I should say — on Wall Street, because my friend Pfeifer has a good part in it.

Like his films, Stone is detached from reality. He has admitted in print that he was once a heavy acid-user as well as pot-smoker, and it shows. There is an air of surrealism about him, as there is with most of those who took the acid way out during the Sixties.

I said that Stone is different from his art because his work is so violent and he is so gentle. Although I am not sure he would have remained as gentle if I had told him what I thought of his films in general, and Platoon in particular. (Stone also wrote Scarface, probably the worst film I have ever seen because of the glorification of cocaine and machine-gun diplomacy.) Platoon is a bad film because of its dishonesty. It is neither La Grande Illu- sion, nor All Quiet on the Western Front. It certainly ain't Paths of Glory. But rest assured that it will be compared to all three — and favourably compared at that — by knee-jerk anti-Americans the world over, because of its message, which is that the American fighting man is a baby-killer, a depraved and insane homicidal lunatic, that is either high on drugs, or high for having murdered innocent civilians.

Bob Tyrrell, the editor of the American Spectator, wrote the definitive critique of the film when he reminded us that, 'From the earliest days of the Vietnam con- troversy, those who fought and supported the war were hooted down and eliminated from the debate. Since then Vietnam has been the special province of those who opposed the war. Their most preposterous claims and erroneous predictions went unchallenged, while the protesters acclaimed the Communists as peace-loving liberators.'

Which means that now that the war's protesters have been given the motion- picture industry's highest award, all their ludicrous claims about the immorality of the Vietnamese war will be seen as a vindication. I thought the worst part was when Stone got up to accept his Oscar and said that, 'Through this award you are really acknowledging the Vietnam veter- an.' It was as if I said that by going to jail three years ago I was acknowledging the debt my children owe me.

What is ironic is the fact that had I not been to Vietnam, I may have fallen for some of Stone's bullshit. I was there twice, in 1971 in the Delta, and again in 1972, during the great North Vietnamese offen- sive at Quang Tri. I saw Americans fight- ing at firebase Birmingham, and they resembled those in Platoon as much as, say, Ivanhoe resembles Abu Nidal.

Having said all this, I ask myself why did I sit down and break bread with Stone? Well, he did fight in Vietnam, and he was decorated, which makes him a sight better than the creeps that glorified Hanoi from the safety of Hollywood back in the Sixties. He is, after all, entitled to his opinions, as I certainly am entitled to mine, but it's a sad day when someone as driven and talented as Oliver Stone is, allows his private demons to blacken the reputation of all those who served their country with hon- our and dignity. By his dishonest film he has joined the long list of Hollywood propagandists of the Left. The same Left that did not allow a dialogue during the war, and has refused to have one concern- ing North Vietnamese crimes since the takeover of the south. The same Left that gave us Hanoi Jane in 1967, has now given us Oliver Stone 25 years later. Plus fa change.