Stanley Kubrick — along with Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, and Ingmar Bergman — is generally recognized as one of the half dozen most important directors of the second half of the 20th century.
Over a two week period earlier this year, I sat down and watched all of his films. It was my own personal Kubrick marathon. It was wonderful experience which I heartily recommend!
Viewing all these stimulating films over a short interval felt a little like living inside Kubrick's head. Of course, it was fascinating to watch him evolve as a director. Kubrick's shot making abilities were superb throughout his career. I also noticed that he was an ongoing early adopter of new film technologies because they allowed him to bring his ideas to life. But for me, what ultimately makes Kubrick such an inspiration is his ability to tell his stories in a fresh and compelling manner.
Actually, there are just twelve films in all. They are (with links to IMDB):
Killer's Kiss (1955)
The Killing (1956)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Clockwork Orange (1971)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
The Shining (1980)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
With the exception "Killer's Kiss," "Barry Lyndon," and "Eyes Wide Shut," I had seen all the films before. It was good to see these "old friends" again — and make some "new friends" as well.
Kubrick didn't repeat himself— he was continually moving from one setting and genre to the next. He went from a pacifist World War I film "("Paths of Glory") to one about forbidden love ("Lolita") to a Cold War parody ("Dr. Strangelove") to a science fiction glimpse of the future ("2001") to a social experiment setting ("Clockwork Orange") to Thackeray's story of an 18th century dandy ("Barry Lyndon"). What range!
Here are a few quick thoughts:
- "Killer's Kiss" is a tight little film made by a 26 year old on a shoe-string. I loved the chase through the mannequin warehouse. I thought about the actors' predicaments for several days afterward.
- "The Killing" is the story is about a gang — not of hardened criminals but people from all walks of life — that knocks off a race track. This is Kubrick's first film in which he battles the Hollywood unions.
- The ending of "Paths of Glory" of the German woman singing to the French soldiers is haunting. The whole film is emotionally draining. This film was banned in France until 1974.
- "Spartacus" was my least favorite and didn't seem like a full-fledged Kubrick film. That's probably because actor/producer Kirk Douglas fired the film's first director part way through shooting and brought in Kubrick with whom he had worked on "Paths to Glory."
- "Lolita"— great cast: James Mason as Humbert Humbert, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, and of course Peters Sellers as Clare Quilty. The Clare Quilty role was a lot smaller in Nabokov's novel, but Kubrick was so taken by Sellers' improvising that he made the role much larger.
- "Dr. Strangelove." What's not to like about George C. Scott as a caricature of Curtis LeMay, and Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper? No fighting in the War Room?
- I saw "2001" on its opening weekend in 1968. Just about everyone who saw it was blown away — especially by the final 20 minutes. I had a college friend who said, "If you go in straight, you'll come out stoned; if you go in stoned, you'll come out on acid; and, if you go in on acid, you won't come out." A whole new generation discovers the music of Richard Strauss.
- I liked "Clockwork Orange" when I first saw it, and even more this time around. Alex and the droogs. The chase with the giant phallus is hysterical. Fresh uses of "Singin' in the Rain" and Beethoven's Nine Symphony.
- My biggest surprise was "Barry Lyndon" which opened to mixed reviews in 1975 (I didn't see it then). I was impressed by the scope, the setting, the scale, and even Ryan O'Neal's acting (and boxing). I would like to see it again.
- Red Rum! The cinematography in "The Shining" is wonderful as is the scary pace. The kid is a trip and, of course, so is Jack.
- R. Lee Ermey's Oscar nomination for the drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket": well-deserved. I liked the film's first half more than the second.
- "Eyes Wide Shut" is mesmerizing. It's based on Schnitzler's German novella "Rhapsody: A Dream Novel." The sexual odyssey choreography drew me in completely. I also liked Sydney Pollack as an actor (he's the director of "Tootsie," "Out of Africa," etc.).
What are your favorite Kubrick films?