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Stanley Kubrick: a life in pictures

Having now seen all of Kubrick's films after (but not including) Paths of Glory I felt ready to break out this documentary included in the Kubrick DVD collection - one of the few substantive extras in the entire set... a travesty really, considering Kubrick's influence.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is a chronological overview of his life and covers all his pictures as well as aborted projects like Napoleon (the film's backers pulled out after the flop of Waterloo) and Aryan Papers (Kubrick pulled the plug after Spielberg's Schindler's List got made).

Kubrick started his career as a photographer and his fascination with composition and light informed all his works. A short clip from one of his early movies (Killer's Kiss I think) shows a fascinating interplay between light, dark and cigarette smoke. Kubrick pushed the technological boundaries in Barry Lyndon to allow scenes to be filmed using only real candle light, ie unsupported by artificial lights, and used other techniques to give that picture its distinctive painted look.

As well as interviews with his sister, wife and daughters, the documentary features a pantheon of creative and executive talent, a testament to the rarified position Kubrick held in the industry. It was interesting to see that Leon Vitali (who played Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon) later became Kubrick's assistant.

The interviews are all respectful, though a few reveal the complexities of the man. Malcom McDowell hints at the sometimes turbulent relationship he and Kubrick shared (eg, the way Kubrick cut people off after a movie was done, severing the close emotional ties that are established during a shoot). Tom Cruise recounts a hysterical incident where director/actor Sydney Pollack came face to face with the glacial pace of Kubrick's perfectionist directing style in Eyes Wide Shut - made even funnier by intercutting Pollack's own recollections of the experience.

The documentary was made a couple of years after Kubrick's death which could account for its reverential tone. But I think it could have been a bit more critical - the controversial nature of his movies is mentioned, but rarely explored by offering interviews with holders of dissenting opinions. For instance, surely Kubrick's reputation is assured enough to mention the fact that both Stephen King and Anthony Burgess hated his adaptations of their works. I would have loved to have seen them present their reasons. (King later wrote the teleplay for the remake of The Shining and Burgess apparently wrote a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange which started off with a Kubrick look-alike being beaten to a pulp by the rest of the cast!)

But there's only so much you can delve into in a 140 minute documentary covering an entire career. Given that Kubrick made sixteen films, at least ten of them high quality, at least five of them classics, it's a shame that a 140 minute documentary wasn't made on each of his pictures.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 29, 2005 12:52 PM.

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