Kubrick, a decade later

Posted by · 3:04 pm · March 9th, 2009

Stanley KubrickSomehow the 10-year anniversary of director Stanely Kubrick’s death completely flew under my radar over the weekend (the day was Saturday).  Between painting a bedroom, dealing with server issues and the usual day-to-day, I guess forgetfulness can get the best of us.  But Kubrick was (and remains), to my mind, the greatest filmmaker to ever try his hand at the cinematic form.  I’m a bit ashamed to be coming to the table two days later.

In any case, Jeffrey Wells saw the anniversary as a nice time to run a Kubrick trash piece that is itself nine years old.  Classy.  Noah Forrest over at Movie City News, meanwhile, has put together a more appropriate remembrance.  Here’s a taste:

By watching his films, I got to understand what an “auteur” is and how filmmakers can have themes that stretch over the course of their filmographies like Kubrick’s ongoing analysis of dehumanization. I got to see how music can be used to wonderful effect in everything from 2001’s spaceship ballet to Barry Lyndon’s final duel to Full Metal Jacket’s end credits to the haunting and heartbreaking finale of Paths of Glory and to, of course, his use of “Singin in the Rain” in A Clockwork Orange. I saw how lighting could effect mood and how important camera placement could be to how the audience feels about a scene, like when Jack Nicholson is locked in the pantry in The Shining and he’s shot from below. Basically, watching Kubrick films helped to give me a baseline for which I would judge not just all great films, but all great works of art in general.

Ray Pride also has a mess of links up for your Kubrick perusing pleasure, including lots of interesting stuff at Jamie Stuart’s Mutiny Company site.

Of course, a moment such as this should give everyone a chance to reassess their feelings of Kubrick’s swansong, “Eyes Wide Shut,” which hit theaters 10 years ago this July.  When I walked away from it (I was freshly graduated from high school and set to enter film school in the fall — this was the movie event of the year), I knew I needed more time to turn it over, but I also knew that somewhere, deep down, I truly loved it, even if it wasn’t what I expected or wanted.  It was something else, something deeper, something with more nuance than the beefiest of reviews could begin to address.  It was also one of the first films I found myself defending in the face of consistent disapproval (and there was plenty vitriol), but I never wavered.  I still love the film, love the man, love the legacy.

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28 responses so far

  • 1 3-09-2009 at 3:29 pm

    Chad said...

    Best filmmaker ever. No discussion.

  • 2 3-09-2009 at 3:36 pm

    CJ said...

    He was a great film maker but Eyes Wide Shut was a boring mess.

  • 3 3-09-2009 at 3:40 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Always glad to find fellow “Eyes Wide Shut” champions — I thought it was a masterpiece from the get-go, and love that it seems to be gaining in stature with time. Michel Chion’s BFI Modern Classic on the film is essential.

    It was also the film that convinced me of Nicole Kidman’s greatness — perhaps the film itself was always doomed, but how she got no awards attention out of it remains a mystery to me.

    Speaking of Kubrick, I saw “Barry Lyndon” at the BFI Southbank last month and was amazed anew — seeing it in a theatre transforms that film.

  • 4 3-09-2009 at 3:43 pm

    Troy said...

    Probably my favorite film of his, and probably my favorite director.

  • 5 3-09-2009 at 3:43 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Barry Lyndon needs to be on Blu-ray, asap.

    I only recently watched the Kubrick doc that came with the boxed DVD set. Solid two hours and all of it eyes-glued-to-the-set interesting.

  • 6 3-09-2009 at 3:44 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh, and if we’re talking favorites by the man, “Dr. Strangelove” is tops for me, followed closely by “2001.” Only Kubrick and Coppola have two films apiece on my top 10 of all time.

  • 7 3-09-2009 at 3:55 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Has to be “2001” for me.

    But seriously, picking a favourite is like comparing gold with diamonds.

  • 8 3-09-2009 at 4:47 pm

    drbenway said...

    I can see how someone might find Eyes Wide Shut boring, but I fail to understand how it can be considered a “mess”…

  • 9 3-09-2009 at 4:52 pm

    Noah said...

    Thanks for the link, Kris!

    Guy, I’d actually say it’s like comparing diamonds with shinier diamonds, you really can’t go wrong with any Kubrick film from The Killing onward. And the wonderful thing about him is that he excelled in every genre, never repeating himself. For me, Clockwork Orange is the sentimental choice because it was the film that made me love movies and I often cite it as my favorite film of all time, but I think if I had to choose one film to watch right now it would probably be Barry Lyndon. Although, ask me tomorrow and it’ll be something else.

    The thing about Eyes Wide Shut that I wish I had spoken about in the article is that it most likely wasn’t even finished. Kubrick famously worked on all his films right up until the premiere (and in the case of 2001, afterwards) so I gotta think that with four months before release, he surely would have tinkered a bit further. Although, having seen the film, I’m not quite sure what he would have done because to me, every little moment is necessary. What do you guys think?

  • 10 3-09-2009 at 5:35 pm

    drbenway said...

    I feel like EWS is essentially done, though of course we’ll never know. I’s a pretty tight, very organized and balanced, almost narratively symmetrical film. As expected.

  • 11 3-09-2009 at 5:45 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I remember the divisiveness that Eyes Wide Shut caused, and I didn’t realize until I got older that this happened with several Kubrick films. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to A Clockwork Orange to Full Metal Jacket, it seemed that everytime one of his films came out, the world just wasn’t ready for it yet. And then years later it would be hailed as a masterpiece.

    The man was truly ahead of his time. I still miss him.

  • 12 3-09-2009 at 5:52 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Looks like Noah Forrest agrees with me, and wrote it more eloquently.

  • 13 3-09-2009 at 7:06 pm

    Richard said...

    I watched EWS on Saturday on a whim. I had completely forgot it was the anniversary of his passing.

    To me, he is the greatest filmmaker of all time. Seeing The Shining for the first time at thirteen years old literally changed my life.

  • 14 3-09-2009 at 7:28 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    kris can we hear your all time top ten?

  • 15 3-09-2009 at 7:35 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    Stanley Kubrick will always be my favorite director and the combo of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ made me the film nerd that I am — I’ll never forget watching those two for the first time.

    I also think ‘Paths of Glory’ is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made.

  • 16 3-09-2009 at 7:41 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    For me, it’s:

    1) 2001: A Spacy Odyssey
    2) A Clockwork Orange
    3) Paths of Glory
    4) The Shining
    5) Barry Lyndon
    6) Dr. Strangelove

    It’s an embrassment of riches when you add ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Lolita’ to that list and one of those is a director’s 9th best film to somebody. No one ever did or ever will make films like he did — although P.T. Anderson tried with the brilliant ‘There Will Be Blood’.

  • 17 3-09-2009 at 7:54 pm

    Gareth said...

    I watched Eyes Wide Shut on DVD for the first time my freshman year of college. It ended. I got up, went to the bathroom, sat right back down then watched it again. Got online, talked to people who loved it and those who hated it. Bounced around theories about what exactly is going on, the significance of colors, shapes, the theme of identity, etc. Ate dinner. Sat down and watched it again.

    3 times. 1 day.

    I adore this film.

    Kubrick is far and away my favorite filmmaker of all time, so much so that he has three films on my all time Top 10. “Paths of Glory”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and “Dr. Strangelove”.

    “Eyes Wide Shut” and “A Clockwork Orange” are easily in my top 30.

    Greatest. Filmmaker. Ever.

    And to anyone who is a fan and doesn’t have it, The Stanley Kubrick Archives is an essential book.

  • 18 3-09-2009 at 8:37 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    What’s also essential is going over to youtube and watching the making of The Shining clips which I believe are directed by Vivian Kubrick. Fascinating stuff. I don’t think Kubrick liked Shelley Duvall.

    Part two features Kubrick deciding to shoot Jack from below in the pantry. It starts at 3.00 mark.

    A highlight from part 3: “The average celebrity meets in one year ten times the amount of people the average person meets his entire life.” – Jack Nicholson.

    I’m reading Kubrick’s Napoleon script…so far so interesting.

  • 19 3-09-2009 at 10:25 pm

    Billyboy said...

    I remember watching “Eyes wide shut” one night around 11pm. It was one of the most moving, disturbing, and exciting experiences ever.

    I really don’t understand some of the bad commentaries the film has…

    He surely is one the greats.

  • 20 3-10-2009 at 5:00 am

    John Foote said...

    “A Clocklwork Orange”, made in 1971 still looks futuristic and frightening today — how many films can you say that about? — I think it was his best work, perverse and terrifying with that jaunty, psychotic performance from MacDowell — “The Shining” was so misunderstood when released, but like all great films has come to be appreciated for the masterpiece of horror it is and was — like most of Kubrick’s work it was ahead of its time…I miss the possibility of the next Kubrick film…

  • 21 3-10-2009 at 7:34 am

    Chase Kahn said...

    agreed, John — the location shooting on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is remarkable, the film looks like its from another world — and then Wendy Carlos’ score…

  • 22 3-10-2009 at 9:56 am

    Diamond Jacks said...

    we are still missing it.

  • 23 3-10-2009 at 11:21 am

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    A good man. Interesting filmmaker.

    There is no such thing as the best filmmaker ever, however. No discussion.

  • 24 3-10-2009 at 11:29 am

    Jason said...

    kubrick is without a doubt one of the best artists ever! his movies blatantly refuse to morally instruct instead kubrick’s movies always let the viewer decipher the meaning; in this day and age that’s really revolutionary. some people read this as boring or cold. to me, ‘eyes wide shut’ should be re-watched about 25 years from now. i think viewers then will be pretty amazed by how dark and thoughtful the movie really is. i can only imagine what ‘wartime lies’ or ‘napoleon’ would’ve been like had he actually made them.

  • 25 3-10-2009 at 1:16 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Gittes: I remain of the mind that Kubrick’s tormenting of Duvall on that set was a calculated (if cruel) choice to amp up the character’s anxiety.

  • 26 3-10-2009 at 5:59 pm

    Joel said...

    2001 and Dr. Strangelove are remarkable films. Kubrick is one of the most original voices to have ever lived.

  • 27 3-11-2009 at 12:52 am

    Scott Ward said...

    To me, I find it damn near impoosible to argue that anyone is a better director than Kubrick. While that might seem too bold and an overly-presumptuous statement, I think that when you think about the various genres in which he has helmed masterpieces, it is nothing short of unbelievable. Let’s take a short look …..

    “2001” – Easily one of the top five, or if not THE best, which most consider it to be, sci-fi film of all time.

    “Dr. Strangelove”- Again, easily top ten, if not the greatest comedy ever (and like Kris I think it is my fave also).

    “The Shining”- In a complete contrast, a film the majority say is one of the top five, if not the best horror movie ever (which is certainlly what I think).

    “Spartacus” – A movie that nearly everyone would consider one of the ten best epic movies ever. (And again, to those who may differ, just realize that you are heavily in the minority, and while that certainly doesn’t make your opinion invalid in any way, it still does not change the fact that most people think Spartacus is exceptional).

    “Full Metal Jacket” and “Paths of Glory” – Needless to say, but both of these are two of the most lauded war films of all time. And the differences in how war is portrayed in both of these films is a whole discussion within itself.

    “Lolita” and “Eyes Wide Shut” (and basically every other Kubrick film) – In talking about human sexuality in film, these two are nothing short of essential (and I would also like to note that I think EWS is probably his most under-rated work and is certainly a masterful work). Again, the dichotomy of these two films in how they display sexuality is extraordinary considering they come from the same man.

    “A Clockwork Orange” – Seriously, what category can you put it in. Or even, what category can you not put it in – its got nearly at least a hint of elements of every genre. Just a fictional work of genius that makes us realize the truth. Enough great things can never be said about it.

    So while I certainly realize that nearly everyone recognizes that Kubrick is one of our best directors, if anything I would say that he is still under-rated because I don’t think enough people realize how well he mastered and revolutionized nearly every genre in cinema. And as I showed above, even the differences in like genres, while certainly necessitated because of the time period, still shows his genius in mirroring humanity through moving pictures.

    And I know that there are some that hold off a little on praise for Kubrick because all
    (I think this is right, or maybe it is just all except one or two) of his movies are adaptations. Well remember, we are talking about director here. A director, in few words, is just responsible for bringing a story to the screen as best he/she can. He wasn’t screenwriter.

  • 28 3-11-2009 at 4:26 am

    Glenn said...

    LOVE “Eyes Wide Shut”. Really do. And in a strange coincidence I happened to write about it today, too.