The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle. ~S.Kubrick
In LOVE with Stanley Kubrick
As confessed in my previous article on Room 237: Documentary, my love for Stanley Kubrick is undeniably a never ending saga of honesty and respect for his works. Starting from Fear & Desire (1953) and ending at Eyes Wide Shut (1999), every motion picture made by him managed to grasp my senses and left me bewildered for days. There are many things in his movies which I fear watching for the second time, some are very hilarious which I can never get enough of and few are a totally placid in almost every sense.
Watching the final sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey; when Dr. Bowman travels through the atmosphere of Jupiter (Planet) and the transition of him, a man, into a Starchild, left me delirious for hours. I fear watching the sequence for the second time.
When Peter Sellers donned the character of the Dr. Strangelove (A cynic, war mongering ex-Nazi ), I felt a sense of hilarity in the overall absurdity of colonial tensions between nations and at the very cause of war. Seller calling “Mein fuhrer” to the US President and adding a Nazi salute adds charm to the overall content of the movie. This is one scene, I can never get enough of.
The reason why critics and the then general audiences mauled Kubrick and his movies makes me smirk, because, they are the priceless pieces of a greater art. Despite, being ratified as worthless crafts by audiences back then, his movies, over the time, gained the massive cult status and his characters remain alive still today; Alex DeLarge, Hal 9000, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, you name’em.
His curious observation of the unseen and un-experimented subjects left us in awe; be it the subject of pedophilia in Lolita, ultra-futuristic theme of 2001: ASO or the taboo-ish jamboree of Illuminati groups, paganism and mass-orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. A perfectionist and constant improviser, Kubrick’s test with various genres, subject and time never failed him nor the audiences. A pioneer in many of cinematic achievements, he made his movies to quench his own discreet and sublime ideas and premises.
What made him Great?
Stanley Kubrick in his early days
A film-maker who never managed to win a single Oscar (Best Director), for which he can be considered the Leonardo DiCaprio of the Directors, but I must admit, he was out of the league entirely. He managed to make movies equal in realism to Italian Neo-realist cinema and in glamour to big-budget Bad ASS Superhero flicks of Hollywood; his is a versatile craft very few film-makers can ever master (Other being Steven Speilberg and Coen Brothers).
An adamant director and a thrifty producer, he never made a bad movie. Every one of his movies, over his filmy lifespan of 48 years in which he managed to make only 13 motion pictures and 3 short movies with an average of 4 years in between his next release, are considered the masterpiece of modern cinema. Rarity of commercial themes and budgets were common traits of his modus oeprandi, yet he never failed to deliver a finest product on the table.
2001: ASO, Spartacus and Barry Lyndon are ranked among the epics of Hollywood’s ever produced. Dr. Strangelove, Lolita and A Clockwork orange are among the highly lauded and critically acclaimed movies ever.
Most Clichéd about Kubrick
1. Slow and protracted scenes
Scenes from his movie 2001: ASO lasted for more than 15 minutes; when Dr. Bowman is pulled into a tunnel of colored light and other cosmological Shits of Jupiter, and also when he deactivates HAL (Hal 9000) for its mischief, which were weirdly long and slow. The sedated scenes often became the major trademarks of Kubrick’s craft which were later followed in Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
Capturing the time and space of entirety of a particular sequence [2001: ASO] were followed religiously by Kubrick, for whom there were no cutting shorts. When a scene required to be long, he made them generously long.
2. Reverse tracking shots
After Hitchcock, Kubrick would be the one who popularized the dolly zoom method of tracking shots in the movies. The popular scenes from Paths of Glory tracking Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) walking in the trenches, A Clockwork Orange tracking Alex Delarge (Malcom McDowell) walking around the London mall and Gny. Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) and his recruits marching in Full Metal Jacket were all done using reverse tracking shots.
3. Subliminal messages
The Shining is probably most famous among audiences for the subliminal messages it purportedly tried delivering. The length of controversy of discreet messages went furor, even Rodney Ascher (Room 237) made a documentary film on it.
…as it happened!
#1 Lolita (1962)
Lolita happened in the spring of 1962. An independent venture of Kubrick and James B. Harris, Lolita became the most controversial movie of the time. Their experiment with the sensitive subject of pedophilia and lust landed the movie in troubles with the censors. The British Board of Film Censors rated the movie ‘X’ therefore, barring the audience under the age of 16.
Despite, the comments it may have received from the then audience and the critics later, Lolita opened up a space for film-makers to make and promote movies as they pleased.
A scene from Lolita (1962): Humpert and Lolita discussing in a room.
Sue Lyon sunbathing in a scene from Lolita
#2 Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
The year 1964 began with the release of Dr. Strangelove or…, a comic take on Cold War and the brewing hatred between two giants of the World; USA and Russia. Assimilating the great cast, creating life like sets and adapting a dark story of war and nuclear weapon into major motion picture was quite a tough task for Kubrick.
Peter Sellers as the Dr. Strangelove himself and his alien hand syndrome, along with addressing the US president with “Mein Führer,” stole the show entirely. The implications of the movie is to portray the dire consequences of brewing hatred among two nuclear powers of the world, along with a comic gesture on what could happen to the world if a nuclear war is to take place!
Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove, a warmongering Pro-Nazi
Kubrick directing a scene of Dr Strangelove
#3 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The most challenging and expensive venture of Kubrick has to be none other than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Made in 60s’, it explored a Science-fiction tale of how the world, mankind and Space would land up in the 21st Century. Kubrick employed the specialists from the fields of science and technology, Arts, Special Effects and Sounds to give his movie a real-life like experience.
From building a rocket capsule to creating a cosmological phenomena of an unseen Jupiter’s atmosphere, he mastered the craft of making stories that are far-sighted and thoughtful.
Most critics and audiences panned the movie when it was first released. Today, it’s a cult and is used in reference to every possible space exploration movies made post-2001: ASO.
Kubrick and Keir Dullea during the filming of 2001: ASO
Dullea as Dr. Bowman in 2001 ASO
#4 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The year 1971 ended with the horrors of Alex DeLarge‘s criminal past. As it happened, a controversial story of A Clockwork Orange established Kubrick as the film-maker who could make movies on any subject given, despite the level of visual intolerance it could render On-screen. Alex’s character portrays a sociopath; he glorifies rape, assault and loot. He’s an imagery of evil, yet the movie established him as a profound character of behavioral psychology and morality.
It’ was banned in UK for 27 years, following the controversy surrounding the violence occurred in the English society which were believed to be inspired by the movie.
Kubrick directing a scene from A Clockwork Orange
Malcom McDowell played Alex DeLarge, the anti-hero, in A Clockwork Orange
#5 Barry Lyndon (1975)
Alex’s story was followed by the exploits of the 18th century Irish Adventurer in 1975, when the year ended with the Luck of Barry Lyndon. A movie of epic proportion, after Spartacus, Barry Lyndon explored the rise and fall of a hearty character -Barry Redmond, an Irishman who managed to experience the harshest treatments and sweetest pleasures the world has ever to offer.
3 hours long, the movie is considered one of the finest movies of Kubrick. Despite its rather slower and darker tone, the movie doesn’t fail to capture your attention and constant critical consensus. It’s a masterpiece!
Ryan O’Neal, donning a Victorian-aged suit with a curly blonde locks and quirky smile, shines throughout his adventures in the movie.
Kubrick shooting a scene of Barry Lyndon
One of the most recognized attribute of Barry Lyndon is the use of wide-angle lens throughout the movie.
#6 Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Professed as an Erotic-Thriller by the critics, Eyes Wide Shut took on the complex premise of Illuminati gathering and quasi-religious sexual rituals. Exploring the taboo subjects, Kubrick’s approach went towards showing how a regular family suddenly erodes because of the effects of unforced measures of relationships. Sexual fantasy, envy, dishonesty and boredom are its common themes.
Released few months after the death of its Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut remained his final ever project which marked his 13th motion picture and end of his career.
Eyes Wide Shut also explored the modus operandi of a secret society, possibly Illuminati.
Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) experiences a mass-orgy of a secret society first hand
For complete Stanley Kubrick Filmography, The Kubrick Site and Kubrick Collection @WarnerBros