Tag Archives: Kubrick

Writing about Kubrick Part I

5 May

OK, we haven’t posted in, like, forever.  Part of the reason is that we’ve wanted to write about one of our favorite directors for a while now, but we felt cowed by the task.  We wanted to be as methodical with this post as Kubrick was with his films.  Once you find yourself thinking that way, though, it’s a recipe for inaction.  Here goes.

We¹ remember where we were when we found out that Kubrick was dead.  We were driving back from Chicago with our spouse, Maryam, when the news came over the radio.  Back at the house, we called our friend, Diane (not her real name – she might not like us using her real name.) “Kubrick’s dead,” we said. We have no idea why we called Diane. She and her husband are mutual friends of ours, but she isn’t exactly a Kubrick fan. Diane handled the news with her usual candor. “Didn’t he make A Clockwork Orange?”,  she asked. “What a sick mind.”  We were not put off, and we went on to have a pleasant conversation about the deceased and his films.

We don’t think that Kubrick was a perfect director – he made relatively few films, and his very meticulousness often worked against him. (His penchant for repeated takes, 100+ at times, often put him behind schedule.) There are few strong women in Kubrick films,  and his worldview is often bleak (the world blows up at the end of Dr. Strangelove, for Pete’s sake, and it’s a comedy.) Not only that, he cut the last chapter of Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange, one that changes the tone of the novel’s ending. Kubrick couldn’t write for sour apples and always wrote with a collaborator.

Nonetheless, more than any other director we can think of, Kubrick is in every frame of his films, though he never once stepped in front of the camera the way Martin Scorsese has occasionally done.  Don’t get us started about the way he moves the camera. Remember the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where Gary Lockwood jogs in the centrifuge of the spacecraft?  How ’bout the scene in Paths of Glory where the camera tracks though the WWI trenches? Danny riding his tricycle though empty hallways in The Shining? You’ve probably thought of a few that we haven’t.

Kubrick had budgetary control over his films that many directors would have given their eye teeth of have.  Vincent D’onofrio recalled (it’s on You Tube, we forget the name of the documentary) showing up on the set of Full Metal Jacket and seeing men sitting in a van who never seemed to leave it. “They’re from accounting,” Kubrick explained. “They’re not allowed to leave the car.”

vincent

When ya go crazy in a Kubrick film, ya gotta glower

OK, we’re all over the map here, but we suggest that you check out Fear and Desire, Kubrick’s first feature. The film’s been unavailable for years ’cause Kubrick found it pretentious and amateurish.  The picture’s not great (it sometimes feels like a Twilight Zone episode), but we like it because it foreshadows the Kubrick that was to come – a war theme,  and a scene that in its way prefigures the end of 2001. (Killer’s Kiss, another early effort, has a quick scene that predates the 2001’s light show, as well as a chase though a manikin factory.)

The real purpose of this post was to review Emilio D’Alessandro’s Stanley Kubrick and Me, but we’ll get to that next time.

¹ If you’ve followed this space, you’ll know that we refer to ourselves in the third person, an trite affectation to be sure, but we can’t seem to break ourselves of this annoying habit.

Film Schools are B.S.!

2 Dec

“Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”
-Stanley Kubrick

It occurs to us that we haven’t posted anything in over a month.  If one is to have a blog, one must write things, otherwise it’s not a blog; it’s a defunct blog.  We’ve decided that this time that we’re going to rail against film schools, like those at NYU and USC and any other ones out there.  Our purpose in doing so is twofold; it’ll put us back on the map as a going concern, and it might even make some people mad.  We’ve always fancied ourselves as agents-provocateurs and this is our chance.

We think film schools should be viewed with suspicion, ’cause most of the great film directors never went to film school – they were their own film schools.  Kubrick got himself an Eyemo motion picture camera and made a short documentary called “Day of the Fight.”  He didn’t sit around in a classroom and discuss the close up versus the medium shot versus the long shot; he shot a buncha film (or at least as much as he could afford to shoot with almost no budget. ) This was back before the days of video and video assist, when you didn’t know if what you’d shot was any good until it came back from the lab.  The great Russian film theorists had difficulty getting film stock, so they edited existing footage and developed their theories based on these experiments. Again, they learned by doing it – they didn’t have some professor to tell them about film theory.

young stanley kubrick

You go, Stanley!

If you’ve ever taken a film class, there’s always that one person in the class who thinks of him/herself as the next wunderkind.  That person usually has very little upon which to base that opinion.  That person is really annoying, isn’t s/he? (We were that person and we even annoyed ourselves.)  Another reason to avoid film schools and film classes.

The one useful role that film schools might fulfill is to provide equipment for those folks bitten by the film bug.  Even if you’re determined to strike out on your own a la Kubrick, you’re going to have a tougher time of it if you don’t have access to decent equipment (though in this day and age,  some pretty good results can be had even with less than stellar stuff.)  Why go out and rent a bunch of stuff if it’s  included in the tuition?

Now’s  the time to admit that we really don’t know what we’re talking about – we never actually attended a film school, only a few film classes, and that was decades ago.  Nonetheless, most of our our opinions are based on rather less than that…