Stanley Kubrick marathon

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by The Grinch Doctor, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    In response to both the current thread about Kubrick's use of one-point perspective and a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks back about Kubrick and films in general, I've decided I needed to rewatch his filmography. But not only that, I've managed to acquire his earliest movies including some short documentaries, all of which I've never seen before.

    Today, I watched all three of his known short documentaries (it's believed by some historians that he did more): Day of the Fight, The Flying Padre, and The Seafarers.

    Day of the Fight

    I would say that this is the best of three because it delves into the world of boxing and manages to humanize it in a short period of 16 minutes. Additionally, I was very impressed by the variety of compositional shots Kubrick used which he clearly learned during his early years as a photographer.

    One side note of trivia: Kubrick's assistant director and second cameraman for this production was high school friend, Alexander Singer, who I'm sure many people around here will recall is a noted director of many episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.


    The Seafarers

    This documentary focuses on the Seafarers International Union which is an organization of labor unions for mariners, fishermen and boatmen that was founded in 1938. This is Kubrick's first foray into color and shows the beginning of some of his classic touches such as shots from a dolly track. The documentary is mildly interesting but it's very much like the atypical documentaries during that time in regards to narration and music (I'm reminded of the old Merrie Melodies skits that often mocked such clich├ęd films).


    The Flying Padre

    This is the shortest of the three and focuses on a priest in New Mexico who regularly flew a private plane because his parish was so far spread apart. Kubrick later said he thought the film was silly and I'm inclined to agree.
     
  2. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    Wow, I figured there wasn't going to be much response for these little seen documentaries but I didn't expect no response at all.

    The next entry in my marathon is Kubrick's first feature-length film, Fear and Desire. The film has only five actors and tells a rather simple story of four soldiers who crash landed behind enemy lines during a war between two unnamed countries (but the parallels to U.S/Germany are present). The dialogue is poorly written and the acting doesn't help any. The screenplay is written by Kubrick high school friend and future The Great White Hope scribe, Howard Sackler, and while I've heard nothing but great things about both the play and film adaptation (also written by Sackler), I found nothing interesting in this script. Unlike much of Kubrick's later work, this film was a bit heavy handed in the characters expressing how they feel with motivations that feel purely plot driven. Perhaps this is why Kubrick tried so hard to obtain all copies of the film to prevent anyone from screening the film later in his career (which was mostly successful until his death). That being said, it was fun to see Kubrick's earliest venture into film and it's interesting to note that this was the first time Kubrick cast actors in multiple roles.

    Next up: Killer's Kiss which is co-written by Sackler and Kubrick and features Fear and Desire's Frank Silvera.
     
  3. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Lurking here. No comment because I've never seen those documentaries.
     
  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The earliest film of Kubrick's that I've seen is The Killing, which is quite good, but not great. The Blu-Ray also has Killer's Kiss on it, but I haven't watched it yet.

    I have also seen Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. I'd say all but one of those films is great, but I'll wait until you get that far.
     
  5. trekkiedane

    trekkiedane Admiral Admiral

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    I'll let you know when I get there.
    Looking forward to seeing if it's the same film you won't call great, as the one of the bunch I wouldn't ;)
     
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I've seen:

    • The Killing (1956)
    • Spartacus (1960)
    • Lolita (1962)
    • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
    • The Shining (1980)
    • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
     
  7. Davros

    Davros Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Doctor Strangelove may be the greatest film about the Cold War ever made.
     
  8. The Borgified Corpse

    The Borgified Corpse Admiral Admiral

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    Ouch! Forgotten already? You were just down ther
    I think those are also the only 5 of his that I've seen, although I don't remember The Shining very well. (I've seen the Simpsons parody far more often.)

    Dr. Strangelove is a great dark comedy.

    Full Metal Jacket has lots of great scenes and R. Lee fucking Ermey!:techman: However, the extreme disconnect between the 1st & 2nd halves of the film doesn't help it any.

    I'll be honest and say I hate 2001. The stuff with Dave & Hal is interesting but the rest of it is so damn slow and seems designed to only appeal to stoners.

    A Clockwork Orange may be one of the most unique films I've ever seen. It's a scathing social satire and yet it's not really trying to be funny. I also think, for such a beloved movie, it's totally misinterpreted by most people. Most reviewers & commentators focus on the violence of the movie. And while the movie is, by necessity, violent, they miss the point of why the violence is there. To me, the point of the movie distills down to two things: (1) Alex deLarge commits heinous acts of violence because he has a sociopathic lack of empathy for the world around him. (2) He lacks empathy because he lives in a world that is not worth empathizing with.
     
  9. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    Killer's Kiss kicks off from Kubrick's experience from filming Day of the Fight by introducing Davey Gordon as a fading boxer. The openning of this film (after the introducing prologue with narration) plays of the same idea presented in Day of the Fight of a boxer waiting impatiently for the call to come to the arena to prepare for his fight. The viewer watches Davey pacing around his tiny apartment for several minutes in a single shot, finding mindless tasks to pass the time such as looking at himself in the mirror, feeding his goldfish and whimsically looking out his window to an adjacent window where a beautiful woman is going about her evening routine.

    This introduction and the following straight-up boxing fight was a promising beginning for this film but it quickly delved into a typical "boy meets girl, girl is threatened by current cruel lover, boy vows to protect girl, both boy and girl magically fall in love in a day and decide to run off together to get married, cruel lover seeks revenge" storyline. Aside from some great filming to continues to show off Kubrick's expertise as a photographer, this film really didn't do much for me once I realized how predictable it was going to be. However, I did enjoy the clumsy yet realistic climatic fight between Davey and Vincent involving lots of mannequins and an axe, which is probably the highlight of the film.

    Next up: The Killing.
     
  10. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    The Killing is an atypical heist film set at a horse racetrack involving a group of men, almost akin to Ocean's 11, to pull it off. It stars Sterling Hayden who would later portray Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove and is really the only interesting person in the whole film. The overall plot is fairly predictable but what really drags this film down for me is the inane bickering between one of the heist men, George, and his wife Sherry. Additionally I found the narration (which sounded like a sports announcer) in the film to be annoying and unnecessary. I couldn't help but wonder if this film is was one of the earliest examples of non-linear plotting and the inclusion of the narration was intended to guide the viewers through because it would be something they weren't accustomed to.

    Ultimately, the highlight of this film occurs at the very end of the film when Hayden's character and his lover attempt to flee at the airport and the suitcase full of cash bursts open after the luggage cart driver swerves to avoid a dog frighten by an airplane's rotors. The cash, a total of $2 million in small bills, quickly and immediately disappears into the night.

    Next up: Paths of Glory. Hopefully, with this film I will get more responses from people. :lol:
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    I like The Killing. It isn't a great movie, to be sure, but it's a taught heist movie with terrific ending. According to IMDB the narration was a compromise between Kubrick and the studio; it's designed to guide the audience along, but it gets a few details wrong along the way. I don't really care for it, although it bothered me less upon second viewing.

    After an initial test screening, Kubrick edited a linear version of the movie, but this proved more confusing so the original nonlinear version was eventually the one released. This was, it should be pointed out, the invention of the novel, not the filmmakers.

    Jim Thompsen, a novelist who wrote (among other things) The Killer Inside Me essentially wrote the screenplay, but Kubrick only credited him with writing dialogue. This might have been over money, or over Kubrick establishing himself as an "auteur" (before Sarris used the term in the U.S., of course), but it was a dick move in either case.
     
  12. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I quite like The Killing. The editing is terrific, the sequences taut and frequently riveting. The tone starts to skirt the edge of being humorous, which will become a Kubrick hallmark. A lot more going on than a standard heist flick. The wrestler/chess master lays it out: Should the visionary (gangster, artist) break from the pack and go for it, or is the smart move to play it safe and within the system? Because really, most people want the visionary to fail. Seeing the life go out of Sterling Hayden at the end is really memorable.

    I'm not crazy about the narration either but figure it's a studio concession that's not far out of line with other movies of the same era. I actually like the scenes with Elisha Cook and Marie Windsor for the most part; it's like how much more rotten can they maker her, and then she's more rotten. It's definitely a sexual power/identity thing, which will also become a recurring theme in Kubrick's movies.

    The decidedly odd Timothy Carey makes a good appearance too, I always find him fun to watch even if he goes a little overboard.

    I never knew that, thanks. I've really liked Thompson's books.

    Justin
     
  13. stoneroses

    stoneroses Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    26 miles chasing A Clockwork Orange
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Kubrick also collaborated with Thompson on the screenplay to his next film, Paths of Glory, although I've neither seen that one nor know how much credit can be given to Thompson.

    The Killer Inside Me is a terrific book, and probably the chief inspiration for Dexter, but the most recent film adaptation was terrible. I haven't seen the version from the 70s.
     
  15. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    I wanted to enjoy this because I normally enjoy heist films, but I had a hard time getting into, mostly because of the narration and the bickering between George and Sherry.

    Yeah, I had a feeling the narration was forced onto Kubrick (hell, I couldn't help but think of Blade Runner while watching this).

    Interesting, I didn't know about that. I wish I could say I'm surprised by Kubrick had a long history of stuff like this. I guess this was the beginning.

    I agree with all of this and the look on Hayden's face is priceless. Great bit of acting there.

    Normally I like the whole "how rotten can she be?" take (Livia in I, Claudius being a fine example of this), but I found Windsor's performance to be very irritating.
     
  16. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    Sorry for the wait for the next review. I've been on a short vacation.

    With Paths of Glory, Kubrick creates his first of many great films. Trench warfare, no man's land, the need for advancement, all of World War I, France in all of its glory. Loyalty, honor, cowardice, justice, pride are just a few of the themes this film captures with stark honesty and with a grim outcome. Even though this is only my second viewing of this film, my heart was pumping with every passing second.

    What becomes a recurring motif for Kubrick, the film is divided in two parts: Life in the trenches culminated with an unnecessary suicide attack and the fallout of said attack with a mock trial intended to "boost morale."

    Both acts are driven by the divisional commander Brig. Gen. Paul Mireau's pride, pride to gain promotion, pride to avoid embarrassment for what he perceived to be cowardice. This is a man who steps his way through double talk with his corps commander, Maj. Gen. Georges Broulard, regarding an attack he knows is impossible and claims to care about his troops but gracefully changes his mind when promotion is waved over his head. This is a man who believes shell shock doesn't exist. This is a man who will not take no for an answer no matter how absurd his request is. This is man who demands greater loyalty to himself from Col. Dax than to Dax's own men. This is a man who will lie through his teeth to keep his pride even in the face of irrefutable facts of his disgrace and dishonor. Only Kirk Douglas' Col. Dax takes the effort to fight against Mireau's pride to defend the honor of his men.

    After the failed attack not only proves to be fruitless, but the men fail to even pass their own lines (some not even leaving the trenches), Miraeu forces Dax to pick three men to be trialed for cowardice (only after being "negotiated" down from hundreds of men and Dax offering himself up in place of his men). What follows is a miscarriage of justice despite Dax's efforts to defend his men with his coincidental experience as a lawyer prior to the war. To further emphasize the revulsion of this situation, one of the men suffers a skull fracture prior to execution but Mireau's pride is relentless: the man will still be shoot and insists the man will be conscious at the time of the execution.

    Kubrick masterfully directs this film that's greatly heightened by continued presence of Gerald Fried's music that is reminiscent of Stalag 17 and The Great Escape. Film is boosted even further with an excellent cast which includes Douglas, George Macready, Adolphe Menjou, and Rallph Meeker. Kubrick's third and final wife, Christiane Kubrick, appears in the final scene as a German singer. Joe Turkel, who played one of the accused soldiers, previously appeared in The Killing and later shows up as the ghostly bartender in The Shining (as well as Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner). Timothy Carey, who played another of the accused soldiers, also returns from The Killing.

    I end this review with the following quote from Miraeu: "Col. Dax, your men died very well."

    Next up: Spartacus.
     
  17. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    This is one of my favorite movies, but the post above is well said and I don't have much to add. What always strikes me about it is how well it zeroes in on the issue of the faceless institution vs. the individual. Mireau will do anything to secure his place in the institution (the army) and has no problem shutting out human decency. The palatial chateaux where the higher-ups spend the war not only show the gulf between them and the fighting man, but emphasize the weight of the massive, cold, unassailable institution. ETA: David Simon of The Wire has said Paths of Glory was a big inspiration for him, and you can see how. If you like this movie, BTW, another outstanding wartime courtroom movie that has some similar themes is the Australian Breaker Morant, 1980.

    Douglas is great, he really makes you believe his heart is in it. George Macready's specialty was cold heavies, and this is one of the coldest. Meeker, Carey and Turkel were good as mentioned above, I would also point out Wayne Morris, who plays the drunken and dishonest Lt. Roget, was actually a decorated navy fighter pilot in WW2.

    Some people say Kubrick is a cold, unfeeling technical filmmaker, but the last few minutes of Paths of Glory are quite remarkably moving, all the more so from how simply it is approached.

    Justin
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  18. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    For years, I deliberately avoided watching Spartacus because I knew of the behind-the-scenes strife between Kubrick and Douglas and Kubrick's lack of complete creative control over the production, which wasn't even his originally. However, for this marathon, I finally decided to look past these facts and watched the film.

    Spartacus is an epic film on the same scope as Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia and has a brilliant cast of Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Peter Usinov, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, and John Gavin. While not entirely historically accurate, it succeeds in being a highly dramatic film of a slow building story with an epic battle that's only matched years later by Peter Jackson and concludes with a bittersweet ending. It's an entertaining film, but it's not much of a Kubrick film.

    While there's plenty of Kubrick-esque attention to detail, very little felt like a Kubrick film and more like the atypical grand film of the 50's, complete of the overly dramatic music. Nowhere are the strange eccentric characters, nowhere is the deep psychological analysis, nowhere is anything that screams Kubrick.

    Coming back to the music, I understand this style of scoring was normal practice of that era and Alex North's score here is highly praised, I often found it distracting and taking away from the scene, especially when Spartacus is forced to fight to death against Antoninus, who he loved like a son. When I should have felt sad over the tragedy of the situation, I found myself merely shrugging the whole thing off. It should also be noted that this was the first Kubrick not to feature the work of Gerald Fried, who scored all of Kubrick's feature-length films up to this point and his first short film, Day of the Flight.

    At the end of the day, I might be judging the film too harshly against the Kubrick scale (which may or may not be fair), but I found nothing special about the film beyond the scope of the story for a film during that time.

    One side note: In regards to the infamous "I'm Spartacus!" scene, I never knew the context of the actual moment and had always assumed it was something that occurred during his enslavement and people were speaking up to gain favor (a la the end of Life of Brian). The actual scene is intended to be more poignant than that but I found it to be a bit heavy-handed (again, because of the music) and rushed without much of a thought on the moment (until reflected upon much later).

    Next up: Lolita.
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I completely disagree with this. A couple of examples:
    • The overlooking view of the approaching and shifting Roman formations screams Kubrick to me. Tension mounts as a staggering force meticulously approaches like a juggernaut slowly grinding forward.
    • In the scene where Spartacus and Draba await their turn for combat, Kubrick focuses on the two waiting gladiators while we hear, but cannot see, the other two fight outside. Many directors would have shown us at least some of the first fight. IIRC, Kubrick resists the temptation to do that, and instead focuses on the main character and his opponent only, who themselves do not care to know what's happening outside.
     
  20. The Grinch Doctor

    The Grinch Doctor Two Hearts Too Small Premium Member

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    I'll definitely agree with the scene with Spartacus and Draba waiting to fight. It's a unique because in a single shot that stays one place for the entirety of the sequence leading up to the Spartacus/Draba fight.

    As for the overlooking view of the Roman formations and mounting tension, I can't think of another example where Kubrick did something like this. Like I said in my review, I couldn't help but think of Peter Jackson and maybe that's clouding my judgement.