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Stanley Kubrick (1928 - 1999)

Lifespan: 1928 - 1999

Related: American cinema - director

Titles: Lolita (1962) - A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Stanley Kubrick [Amazon.com]

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) - Stanley Kubrick [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Lolita (1962) - Stanley Kubrick [Amazon.com]


Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 - March 7, 1999) was a Jewish-American film director born in The Bronx, New York City who lived most of his life in England. His films are highly acclaimed for their technical perfection and deep symbolism. As a director he was legendary for relentless perfectionism and an attention to detail that could alienate those he worked with. Several of his films were extremely controversial upon release for their supposed thematic repugnance and stark portrayal of sexuality and violence. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Kubrick [Oct 2004]

Why I like Kubrick only moderately

Stanley Kubrick - A Life in Pictures (2001) - Jan Harlan
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Yesterday evening the Belgian TV station Canvas aired Stanley Kubrick - A Life in Pictures, a 2001 documentary film by Jan Harlan (Kubrick's executive producer and brother-in-law) on the life of Stanley Kubrick. The documentary made me realize why I like Kubrick only moderately.

Stanley Kubrick is a universally acclaimed director. His filmography includes Eyes Wide Shut (1999), The Shining (1980), Barry Lyndon (1975), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Lolita (1962). Of these my favourites are A Clockwork Orange (because of the subject matter), The Shining (because it's a horror film), Eyes Wide Shut (because its slowness teased me and because of its erotic subject matter) and Barry Lyndon (I don't know why, I saw it when I was in my teens and I have fond memories of it since). Kubrick liked classical music. A lot. He used works from composers such as Strauss, Ligeti, Khatchaturian, Beethoven, Shostakovich and many others.

Are Kubrick's films cold and unemotional?

"This is perhaps the most often-stated criticism of Kubrick's work. ... While, ironically, Kubrick's films abound with scenes of emotional extremity and "outrageous" performances, such as: Jack Nicholson in The Shining; George C. Scott in Dr Strangelove; Patrick Magee in A Clockwork Orange, etc. it's much more common for critics to cite Kubrick's "icy distance" from his "cold, unemotional characters" as the defining characteristic of his work." --http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/faq/index4.html [Oct 2006]

Are Kubrick's films playful or serious?

Serious, dead serious. And that and their coldness and unemotionalism are the two main reasons that I like Kubrick only a little. He is just as serious and unemotional as most high modernists. If I compare his work to two other directors born in 1928, the other two win: Nicolas Roeg and Marco Ferreri; although I must say that I grew increasingly curious about who Kubrick actually was, what made him choose the subjects he chose, why this interest in human sordidness and why did he abhor the feelgood feeling we all sometimes enjoy in film.

Stanley Kubrick eschews sentimentalism and the "feelgood". He favors image over discourse or narrative, and his images have the immediacy and crispness and autonomy one associates with an Imagist aesthetic. --http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0092.html [Oct 2006]

It was mentioned in the documentary that Kubrick made films about things (machines, bombs, space ships, etc...) not about humans.

It was also mentioned that Kubrick had the final cut or director's cut to the extent that he was able to his film A Clockwork Orange after a wave of copycat crimes. No other director had that control over his films.

2001 - A Space Odyssey (1968) - Stanley Kubrick

In search of design in films

2001 - A Space Odyssey (1968) - Stanley Kubrick
Djinn chairs designed by Olivier Mourgue in 1965
Image sourced here.

One of the most beautiful elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey was the use of contemporary furniture. Futuristic-looking chairs or tables from famous designs of the 20th Century were often used in science documentaries, science fiction movies and television before 2001 was made. From The Forbidden Planet to Lost In Space, George Nelson Herman Miller Coconut chair, were used in scenes with rotating computer tapes, flashing lights and weird sound effects to create an ethereal atmosphere.

The most famous furnishings used was a product of the sixties: Eero Aarnio's Globe chair also used in the science fiction drama, The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan. The Prisoner is inarguably the best science fiction television drama in the 20th Century and the Globe chair was a symbolic theme of world control, and was the center piece of Number Two's control room. The sphere symbol was prevalent throughout the show from the round ball guardian called Rover to the Pennyfarthing. Stanley Kubrick used much of the same furniture throughout 2001 as part of a business setting in the 21st Century which looked remarkably like designer George Nelson's Action Office furniture from 1964 by Herman Miller and designed by Robert Propst. The Space Station receptionists sits in a converted Action Office High Desk. Black and white were prevalent throughout 2001 to set a cold, controlled environment of space technology of the future. Space Station One is the most famous scene when Dr. Heywood Floyd meets the Russians. We see them seated comfortably in odd chairs of lava-red. These are the Djinn chairs designed by Olivier Mourgue in 1965. The Djinn chairs were showcased in the 2001: A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit at the San Mateo Library and were easily recognized by viewers as the chairs from 2001. --http://www.2001exhibit.org/arts/furnishings.html [Feb 2006]

Olivier Mourgue (born 1939 in Paris, France) is a French industrial designer. His futuristic Djinn chairs were used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivier_Mourgue [Feb 2006]

See also: furniture - Stanley Kubrick - SF films - Space Age - 1965 - 1968

Blue Movie (unrealized)

Blue Movie (late 1960s, early 1970s), about a director so highly regarded he is allowed to direct a pornographic movie starring major Hollywood stars. This project was proposed by Terry Southern, following their collaboration on Dr. Strangelove, and was the basis of his novel Blue Movie. Kubrick later dropped the project due to objections from his wife. In 1997, it was believed Kubrick was making his own 'blue movie' with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise (this later turned out to be Eyes Wide Shut).

Classical music and György Ligeti in Kubrick's films

György Sándor Ligeti (May 28, 1923 – June 12, 2006) was a Jewish Hungarian composer (and was, at the time of his death, a citizen of Austria), widely seen as one of the great composers of instrumental music of the 20th century. Many of his works are well known in classical music circles, but among the general public, he is probably best known for his opera "Le Grand Macabre" and the various pieces which feature prominently in the Stanley Kubrick films 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gy%C3%B6rgy_Ligeti [Jun 2006]

See also: Eyes Wide Shut - classical music

Stanley Kubrick and Modernism

FMD: Stanley Kubrick's work can be seen as a continuation, or perhaps perfection, of the original "High Modernist" project. I'm thinking at this initial stage in crudely generic terms. By "Modernism" I mean the cultural matrix created in the wake of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Frazer, and the Great War [WW 1]. More particularly, I'm thinking of Pound's early formulation of Imagism. Consider its tenets:

(1) opposition to the sentimental or emotionally manipulative and mannered, preference for singular images that are sharp, clear, arresting, and immediate;

(2) opposition to traditional narrative and verse form in favor of "free verse," fragmentation, disjunction, juxtaposition, and freedom of choice in subjects and means;

(3) minimalist aesthetic, preference for economy of means, terseness, precision;

(4) all of this seen as being in the service of freeing the creative energies of the artist from the restrictions of past forms, so as to create images that are fresh, satisfying and alive, and that stimulate fresh responses in the reader/viewer.

This seems to serve rather well at least to a good first approximation to Stanley Kubrick's aesthetic. He eschews sentimentalism and the "feelgood"; approach to film, and follows a broadly experimental, eclectic path with respect to means (nothing is automatically ruled out or in). He favors image over discourse or narrative, and his images have the immediacy and crispness and autonomy one associates with an Imagist aesthetic. He relies too on juxtaposition and fragmentation. Like the Modernist-Imagist classics, his films often seem to consist of several "non-submersible units" that are juxtaposed in series rather than linked in a conventional narrative form, and the elements have the minimalist sense one finds in Imagism. --http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0092.html [Oct 2006]

The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick

Shelley Duvall in
The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Shining (1980) is a film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film stars Jack Nicholson as frustrated writer Jack Torrance and Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy. Although it can be seen as a horror film, The Shining defies many of the conventions of the genre.

The film features the first extensive use of the Steadicam to create long and elaborate tracking shots.

The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Shining seems to comment on the absurdity of the ideal American-style nuclear family. The film underlines the isolation and total comfort of the Torrance family via the huge open spaces and endless food reserves of the Overlook. Jack Torrence's monologues and the "work" he produced ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.") caricature the Protestant Work Ethic. Critics have also noted the American Indian motifs as well as the Grady character representing as imperialist archetype, suggesting a skewed commentary upon American history. Broadly, then, the film seems to suggest that escape from a tainted and dangerously brutal past of violence (Jack Torrance) is left to a younger generation, embodied in Danny, who "shines" and can detect the evil within the superficially benign Overlook. Thematically this seems to tie The Shining to 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of Kubrick's more optimistic works, via its conclusion, reminiscent of the "new man" or starbaby.

The Grady twins
The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Grady twins footage is unmistakably reminiscent of a photo by Diane Arbus, and much of the abstracted horror appears influenced by Arbus's strange photos of masked revellers and desexualized nudes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shining_(film) [May 2005]

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