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Based on Kubrick's pictorial for Look Magazine (January 18, 1949) entitled "Prizefighter," "Day Of The Fight" tells of a day in the life of a middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier, particularly the day of his bout with black middleweight Bobby James. This 16-minute short opens with a short (about 4 minutes) study of boxing's history, narrated by veteran newscaster Douglas Edwards in a no-nonsense, noir tone of voice. After this, we follow Walter (and his twin brother Vincent) through his day as he prepares for his 10:00 P.M. bout. After eating breakfast, going to early mass and eating lunch, he starts arranging his things for the fight at 4:00 P.M. By 8:00, he is waiting in his dressing room, where he undergoes a mental transformation, turning into the fighting machine the crowd clamors for. At 10:00, he faces James, and soon, he comes out victorious in a short match which was filmed live on April 17th, 1950. Written by
Marc-David Jacobs <AgentMarcFBI@hotmail.com>
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This is a fight fan. Fan -- short for fanatic. There's a legion just like him in the United States. Each year he shoves his share of ninety million dollars under the wicket for the privilege of attending places where matched pairs of men will get up on a canvas-covered platform and commit legal assault and lawful battery.
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Kubrick's first (and very rarely seen) movie is a portent of his later films and success.
"This is a fight fan. Fan: short for fanatic" (first lines).
While Stanley Kubrick was working for Look Magazine back in the late '40s and early '50s, he came across a photo shoot of a boxing match involving a Walter Cartier. The article, entitled "Prizefighter," was published January 18th, 1949. A year later, Kubrick contacted Cartier, asking him if he would like to be in a short documentary for the declining RKO-Pathé. Cartier agreed, and Kubrick began, in 1950, with what would become his first film ever.
The story itself is told in three parts (much like the later Full Metal Jacket ), which take up about 5 minutes apiece. The dialogue, spoken by veteran newsman Douglas Edwards, is very noir (example: "It's a living. For some, not much of a living.") The first part regards boxing and the fan. It portrays the walks of life boxing comes from. It ends when Natt Fleischer, a boxing historian, is shown looking through a book of boxing statistics. Kubrick's photojournalistic upbringing is showcased here; the framing of the book is done in a nice, storytelling style. Kubrick obviously knows what he's doing here. We then spotlight one particular boxer in this book: Walter Cartier. The second and third parts are dedicated to a single day in his life: the day of a middleweight fight (April 17th, 1950). The second part is his life leading up to the fight (from 6:00 A.M. to the arrival at the arena at 8:00 P.M.) It's a nice sequencing of events, beginning with a shot of a program attached to a pole advertising the fight (a shot we will see again in Killer's Kiss ) and then showing Walter himself. It shows him waking up, going to communion ("in case something should go wrong tonight,") eating breakfast, undergoing his health examination, playing with his dog. As the fight draws near, we see the "long last look in the mirror" as Walter examines his face. The sequence will be perfectly transcribed to Killer's Kiss (1955) in a few years. The third part (from 8:00 P.M. to the fight at 10:00 P.M.), begins when Walter arrives at Laurel Gardens. The main focus is on the "big wait." We see the transformation Walter undergoes from normal man to fighting machine. We see his opponent, Bobby James, for a few seconds. When Walter finally goes to the ring, we reach the real action of the short. The fight (which is less than a round and was shot live) is brutal, and seems to be echoed repeatedly in Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980). If you look closely during the fight, you can see men standing at ringside with cameras. These are most likely Kubrick and assistant director Alexander Singer (who was later assistant producer for The Killing ). As the fight reaches the KO, the camera focuses on crowd reaction (one shot is of Singer's fiancée, for whom Kubrick did wedding photography). When the fight is over, and all is said and done, the 16-minute short concludes with "For him, it's the end of a working day." Music swells, the end.
Everything that could go well about this film did. The story is excellently planned out, the narration is full of emotion and energy, the music is terrific (Gerald Fried, who met Kubrick through Singer, would go on to do the music for Kubrick's first four feature films) and Cartier and entourage are people with whom one can connect (although none of them, excepting the ring announcer, has a single line of dialogue). I have seen this film multiple times, and I plan on seeing it many, many more. I recommend this film to any fan of boxing, documentaries and expecially hardcore Kubrick fans (that is, if you can get your hands on it). This films gets a 10 out of 10.
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