Today: February 28, 2024

Director Stanley Kubrick

A look at one of Cinema’s Masters; Stanley Kubrick

To celebrate the release of The Stanley Kubrick; Visionary Filmmaker Collection, released on Monday 23rd May, on Blu-Ray we look at the ways in which Kubrick meticulously, something he was infamous for, and strategically picked at the very definition of humanity. It is crucial to recall that in his own words there is ‘something inherently wrong with the human personality, it has a dark side’. No one in cinema explored this notion as deeply as Kubrick. To Buy The Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Boxset Click Here

When one talks
about cinematic masters the mind wonders to the likes of Orson Welles, Alfred
Hitchcock
, John Huston or perhaps a Billy Wilder. Rarely do such talents come
along and even rarer do they produce a body of work so compelling and intricate
as to form an adjective like Hitchcockian. Stanley Kubrick is just such a
filmmaker. An artist fascinated by the human condition. What makes us human,
why so much of what we do goes against our very nature and our constant
struggle with bettering ourselves. These are just some of the themes that
Kubrick spent a glittering career investigating.

Many of Kubrick’s
protagonists are outsiders. Not only from the law, in the case of Professor
Humbert, as played by James Mason in Lolita (1962), but also from society and
humanity in general. Look at the way in which Barry Lyndon (1975) fights and
stands against almost everything
those around him hold dear. Like Lyndon, Alex in A Clockwork Orange
(1971) rebels against society but both are later forced to adhere to it. As
with many of Kubrick’s films there is a bitter irony to be had in these
characters. Humbert in particular breaks one of society’s biggest taboos, sex
with a minor, and yet he is the only character within the film that finds true
happiness in love.

In Kubrick’s eyes
these characters stood for or rebelled against something, in some cases love or
simply ultra-violence. To Kubrick, notorious for being a complex man, most
people settle for a grey nothingness in life. We do as we are told, eat what is
good for us and obey a set of rules that rarely apply to us. Through his films
Kubrick became the ultimate Rebel With A Cause; to highlight the pitfalls and
ironies of humanity.

Over the course
of his career he grew increasingly fascinated with the notion of Artificial
Intelligence. Indeed Steven Spielberg’s film AI, perhaps ironically released in
2001, was a project Kubrick had worked on for more than 12 years before passing
it onto Spielberg. Whether it is the AI of HAL in 2001; A Space Odyssey, or the
dehumanizing robotic like soldiers of Full Metal Jacket (1987) who will follow
orders no matter what the consequences, Kubrick understood our capacity to be
programmed. It is by no accident that HAL is the most human character in 2001.
His dying words of “I’m afraid” are what resonate so profoundly from the film.

With this in mind
Kubrick understood the concept of emotion better than most filmmakers. Often
his films were criticized for being emotionally ‘cold’. In hindsight this is a
grossly misplaced perception. Danny, the young boy in The Shining (1980), is so
emotionally astute that it leads him to posses supernatural powers. Even Bill
Harford, played with brilliant wide-eyed innocence by Tom Cruise, in Eyes Wide
Shut
(1999) sets out on a sexual voyage of discovery because of the jealously
he felt at his wife’s fantasy, something that could only spur from a deep
seated love. Kubrick was not emotionally ‘cold’ he was simply in tune with the
darker side of human emotions, the side that, arguably, motivates us far more
than the warm and fuzzy ones epitomized by most of Hollywood’s output. More
than anything Kubrick believed
film’s should “be a progression of moods and feelings”. Throughout his
career he never stopped emoting and transferring his audiences into feeling a
particular way. Perhaps his ‘cold’ intentions were misunderstood but his work
lives on long after the credits have rolled because of, rather than in spite
of, the feelings you are left reeling with. Filmmakers are rarely as brave as
to address the darker emotions we experience but it was here that Kubrick was
in his element.

Kubrick had the
innate ability to cross from genre to genre without ever missing a beat. It
could be debated but he made some of genre’s most quintessential films. Full
Metal Jacket is up there with Apocalypse Now (1979) as a defining war movie
that perfectly captures the lose of innocence at the hands of war. 2001 is a
sci-fi that has inspired and influenced countless films since its release,
endlessly more than the box-office behemoth that is Star Wars(1977). Barry
Lyndon is a master-class in period sensibilities being presented as archaic and
outdated yet perfectly reflecting modern practices at the same time. Even A
Clockwork Orange, so unique in almost every way is a precursor to youth movies
from The Fight Club (1999) school of thought.

But the crowning
jewel of genres for Kubrick is The Shining. To this day, despite any gore porn
or exploitation flick you care to conjure, it is a film that never fails to
terrify. Kubrick, dismissing with much of the supernatural shenanigans of
Stephen King’s source novel, finds horror in the scariest of places. Not from a
serial killer of an alien but instead from someone within your own family. When
Paul Thomas Anderson released his seminal There Will Be Blood (2007) some
touted it as a reinvention of cinematic language. The reality is, as great as
Blood is, Anderson uses the same camera techniques, the same pacing and the
inherent slow-burn of terror that Kubrick injected into The Shining. The only
difference being that Anderson refused to label Blood with a specific genre.

Much of this
implies that Kubrick’s films are very serious, dour affairs which will leave
you feeling like all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. However, he, like
many of his leading characters, was infused with a wonderfully shrouded black
humour. Witness the irony of Alex’s voiceover in Orange, or the peace symbol
emblazoned on Private Joker’s hat in Jacket. And no one will ever forget Jack
Nicholson’s manically hilarious turn in The Shining. Scares often lead to
nervous laughter; Nicholson and Kubrick are able to give you both in spades.

Before his death
on March 7th 1999 Kubrick claimed there were very few directors
whose full body of work was essential viewing. He listed such luminaries as
Fellini, Bergman and David Lean. All those names listed are worthy of such an
accolade but modesty was never Kubrick’s strong point. Suffice to say that if
you can see a Kubrick film you should. Directors, artists, poets and writers
rarely spend a career exploring an overriding theme, Kubrick did it in such a
way that his body of work perfectly realises his own fears, dreams and
aspirations. He was truly a master of cinema.

To Buy The Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Boxset Click Here

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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