Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

Jan Harlan, 2001 (9.1*)
This documentary on master director Stanley Kubrick was appropriately released in 2001, by his brother-in-law Jan Harlan. Using home movies, interviews with his exwife, other relatives, film stars, other directors, collaborators, writers, composers, and clips from his movies, we get a look at one of the few directors that could equally be labeled genius and artist. For me, this was a real treat, as I’ve always thought Kubrick was among the absolute best of directors, at least his best five films anyway, all legitimate all-time top 100 contenders:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), ranked #2 on the all-time top ranked 1000 list; about the next step in evolution from a material to a spiritual being, illustrated by one astronaut but in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, it happens to an entire generation at once

  • Dr. Strangelove (1964) bw (#17), perhaps the best comedy ever; brilliant satire, perfect acting from Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens

  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) (#63), a spellbinding trip into a violent future; Malcolm McDowell was never again to approach such greatness; from Anthony Burgess' brilliant autobiographical novel (he was the author, victim of the home invasion)

  • Paths of Glory (#83), a powerful anti-war film shot in black and white, Kirk Douglas’ best role, as a heroic officer fighting for the underdogs

  • Spartacus (#177), an underrated epic and homage to freedom, Kirk Douglas again

Other Kubrick films also make the all-time polls:

  • Barry Lyndon (#101), shot in natural candlelight on old cameras fitted with Leica lenses made for the low light of space by NASA; perhaps a better choice than American Ryan O'Neal would have made this British novel more authentic

  • The Shining (#109), a lengthy excursion into the madness of the Stephen King horror novel and the over-acting of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall

  • The Killing (#324), his first serious feature, his only film noir/pulp fiction film

  • Lolita (#652), an early bw filming of the controversial Nabakov novel, with James Mason

  • Full Metal Jacket (#206), a war film in two parts, one half covers boot camp, the other the same infantry squad now fighting in Vietnam, with some great war action in a city

  • Eyes Wide Shut (#806 on the critics poll only, 1058th on ours), his final film which took years to film. This last film was a slow and disappointing excursion into infidelity to most, but Kubrick thought it his finest film. Its star Tom Cruise narrates this documentary, and Nicole Kidman is also interviewed. Some say the lengthy filming broke apart their marriage.
My favorite interviews, besides my favorite author Arthur C. Clarke, (2001 novel and screenplay, about 50 other books), are the other directors, who include Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen. This is a very rewarding look at a director who made far too few films, but had such standards of perfection that he often made totally original classics. The look of science fiction films were changed forever thanks to 2001, they now have to look realistic at a minimum, and all fans of this genre owe Kubrick a big thank you. Has anyone else since Stanley made us laugh at nuclear annihilation?

Stanley Kubrick at IMDB


webay July 8, 2009 at 8:05 PM  

They are must be interesting!

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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