Tag Archives: kubrick

Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Pictures

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is not the benchmark documentary on Stanley Kubrick, but it does evoke his own personal wonder and the relationships in his life, from interviews with his wife, to actors he worked with and people he just simply touched. The man was a genius of the cinema, a man who gives off the sense that he’d be sucessful in any field: With such classics as 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and Dr. Strangelove, his name will be found beneath Top 100 titles for many years to come.

Kubrick first was recognized with one of his photograph’s being published in Look magazine. It was at a fairly young age and makes one think that it really sealed the future for Stanley, because when a kid is recognized as good he will work to become better; the touch of praise is very affecting. Stanley could win a game at chess any day, says Tom Cruise, actor in his film Eyes Wide Shut , but I could beat him at ping-pong every time.

Kubrick was a man of reason, indefinitely. His movies have a linear style to them, even in the more dramatic and character-driven films like Lolita. He was filled with curiosity, and Arthur C. Clarke claims he was even a latent mathematician. The artistry of his shots and compositions are noted by film-scholars worldwide.

The film brushes across his filmography, showing some footage of Kubrick around his family, and even some tape where Kubrick yells at his child who is playing around where he is about to shoot; a determined, sometimes cruel, but ingenious director, Stanley Kubrick once said: I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. And so do his viewers and fans.

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Paths of Glory (1957)

7/10

Kubrick directs his first big-budget feature, Paths of Glory, with grace and his signature phlegmatic style of shot-succession. It stars Kirk Douglass Col. Dax, a young leader whose occupation as a crime lawyer shines through his personality, before he even has to take the stand. Although Douglass is known by some as a vanity actor, I get the feeling that after he thought he could push young Kubrick around in ‘Spartacus’, as the producer, now as an actor he found his ‘rank’. He gives a strong, constrained performance, as the man who tries very hard to be the mirror of the General’s immorality, and of the idea of war entirely.

Col. Dax leads the units in the trenches many yards back from the ant hill, a rather funny name to be used in such seriousness by higher-ups. But when he is ordered by his higher-command, Gen. Mireau, to raid up towards Ant Hill, which even then they could barely hold from a distance, Col. Dax is forced into this act of wrong futility. He obeys orders, and the result is half the men charging and being blown to pieces, in a very effective tracking shot concerned only with the frame of the charging soldiers. The other half of the soldiers don’t charge at all; this cowardice, as Gen. Mireau calls it, who by now we can see is a soulless man whose been in Wars far too long, is put into military court. Gen. Mireau demands execution of his own French troops for their cowardice; beginning with a request of one-hundred, it ends with the selection of one from each regiment, a total of three. The rest of the film concerns itself with the morality of this, and the desperation of Col. Dax for a way to save the soldiers from a pointless execution.

We know once the court hearing is adjourned that the soldiers are going to die; it is a transparent slight in the film that the one-position opinion of Col. Dax is so absolute, as to mimicking the same absoluteness of the General. The military is too attached to cowardice, and sending a signal, more so to the public’s approval than the soldiers, about how things are run. At this end, the rest of the movie seems pointless, yet the ruminations of Col. Dax on the nature of war are enticing;  he stands up to higher-ups and even when they don’t always catch it, we do: he plays word-games on the bluntness of the Generals when it comes to death and rightness, constantly.

Paths of Glory is a unique war film, expected from the anti-war director Stanley Kubrick. He approaches the story with economical methods of  narrative, from the perspectives of all parties involved, including in the cellar with the soon to be executed soldiers. Stark, riveting, and unnerving, Paths of Glory strikes rebellion in the gut from the comfort of a chair.

Dr. Strangelove

10/10

Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is hands down the greatest cold war satire in cinematic history. Filmed in monochrome, it showcases the undebatable talent of director Kubrick, seaming together three different scenarios into a feature-film: Jack Ripper’s office, the war-room, and the cockpit of the deterring plane itself. It all roots from one man, Jack Ripper, and his sudden order for Plan F, to send one of the twenty-four hour a day planes off to the target, Russia, who he thinks are communists conspiring to take away the precious bodily fluids; Jack Ripper is clearly homosexual, as he juggles his thick cigar constantly in his mouth and tells of his refusal to give woman his precious bodily fluids.

Peter Seller’s stars in three different roles: The Nazi weapons expert, the president, and the hostage of Jack Ripper. The war-room rendezvous with the president converse hilariously with a trigger-happy General Buck Turgedsen, played by George C. Scott, who really attracts the spotlight with his uproarious character, descriptive of right-wing paranoia and compulsiveness. When the president says he has invited the Russian Ambassador, he instantly fears putting in full-view the plans and war-screen, and when he does come stumbling in, the general plants a camera on him, quite literally tackling him with his masculine physique; he calms down by chewing a stick of gum, wrappers scattered across his table-space. The ambassador lightly calls him a fool, seems to not be bothered much.

The nuclear-carrying plane, blocked from communication, was not enough for the film: Added in is the doomsday device, a computer controlled deturrent that automatically destroys all human and animal life; “Your not suppose to keep it a secret!” the nazi weapons specialist shouts. This bumps the consequence up higher, and it is no longer a matter of what the world thinks, but if they will survive.

In many of Kubricks films, like Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket, he mocks the petty “Uncle Sam” notions of war peace. As soldiers move in to infiltrate the base that Gen. Ripper has locked down, bullets fly across the frame, and in the distance is the sign, “Peace is our Profession”.

The film never lets you breathe with its comedy and even tension for the final minutes of the planes course. Their are many newcomer actors, like the Texas Cowboy pilot played by Slim Pickens, who I found to be tedious in his reciting at times. Regardless, the tree of characters and performances are legendary, a cinematic masterpiece in the actors art of gesture and timing, and will endure even past its date of historical satire.

Film Review: 2001- A Space Odyssey

2001 is a synthesis of Kubrick and Clarke’s storytelling capabilities, and is an unattainable standard for space-bound pics, at-least the ones with clear hard science-fiction motives. Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ is under Odyssey’s wing, among others, including its admittedly sub-par sequel. Like most repeatedly say, the movie is a picture book of poster-ready images, never once escaping its own brilliance.

The beginning of 2001 is at a dry, desolate landscape, filled with wandering apes. The sun and moon rise to form eclipses, a gnostic metaphor for inspired evolution, which soon comes in the form of a dark, rectangular monolith, one of the greatest images in cinematic history. The apes cower and groan at its sight; but this jump-starts their evolution, and the next part in the story flips millions of years later, to a space-shuttle heading for the moon. Dr. Heywood Floyd is preparing to brief a group of supervisors about the cover-story for whats been found on the moon: No one presently knows exactly what it is. The monolith?

The third act is the day-to-day lives of the 2001 Astronauts, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. The two converse casually, eat the normal vacuum-frozen meals, creating an eerie comfort to their surroundings. They sit at the same table, while looking at two different video-tablets on the same interview. One can see they do their own things, while also able to speak and be friends. The split between them is a robot, named HAL 3000. A rectangular output-device with a glowing red dot as a face, HAL turns the scheduled space-shuttle into horror and chaos; he alleges a part to need maitenance, as part of a scheme to take out the two astronauts and safely clear the way for the missions end-goal. Human-error is what HAL fears the most, but perhaps not as much as having his plug-ripped.

The phlegmatic manner in which the shots are placed, by Stanley Kubrick, is worth a generation of film-students study. Each scene has an importance, and they are all aesthetically innovating; the scene I found the most impacting, was the claustrophobic moment when Bowman and Poole are conniving on the strange actions of HAL, inside a sealed Pod. The camera turns into HAL’s POV, and we see him focusing on each of the astronauts lip-movement, through close-up panning; he’s studying their rebellion.

Anyone interested in this movie should read Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Lost Worlds of 2001’  with some real unique journal entries of him working diligently for months with Kubrick, who he regards very highly as a professional and a friend. The movie will never be forgotten: a dark, pessimistic view of artificial intelligence.

Film Review: Lolita

Lolita, directed by Stanley Kubrick, does not have the scope like most of his pictures: It’s a soft, dark comedy in the later tradition of a Coen film. Starring James Mason, Peter Sellers, and Sue Lyon as Lolita, it is about sexual temptation and restriction, chronicling the slow and evolving lust of Humbert, (Mason), towards Lolita, the young daughter of a woman whose husband’s death has left her emotionally-stunted and desperate. Hubert is a sullen and respectable scholarly-type, a proffesor of poetry; he keeps a diary about his stay with the Hazes, avoiding Charlotte and day-dreaming about Lolita.

My favorite scene in Lolita happens right at the beginning: an unknown character dressed in a raincoat walks into a bachelor’s pad, stepping on wine-glasses and party nick-knacks. He has a pistol in his hand and he finds Claire Quilty, the famous author, laying on a chair, hungover. The whole scene is a parody of film-scenes where a gun is being pointed at an armless man. Quilty plays a song for the gun-wielder, asks him if he wants a drink, and just makes a mockery of his position of power, when he’s supposed to be begging for his life.

The performances in Kubrick’s Lolita are all fantastic, especially the young Lolita, a rebellious teenager who her mother eventually impulsively sends to an all-girl boarding school. Humbert can’t hold out without Lolita around any longer: who knows how he will react to her leaving. Darkly funny, engaging, and still somehow true, “Lolita” is a sad story of a man desperate for a young woman’s affection, to the point of her being an object needing to be won.