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The Seafarers (1953)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Short | 15 October 1953 (USA)
Stanley Kubrick's first film made in color, lost for over forty years. The documentary extols the benefits of membership to the Seafarers International Union.

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Cast

Cast overview:
Don Hollenbeck ...
Himself, host, narrator
Paul Hall ...
Himself - secretary treasurer, SIU Atlantic and Gulf District
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Storyline

Stanley Kubrick's first feature made in color. Lost for over 40 years! The documentary extols the benefits of membership to the Seafarers International Union. Written by Alexander Pietrzak <lejackal@aol.com>

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Documentary | Short

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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15 October 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Les marins  »

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1.37 : 1
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Trivia

The film was "discovered" in 1973 by film scholar and filmmaker Frank P. Tomasulo, who arranged for a 16mm print of the documentary to be deposited in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress' Motion Picture Division. See more »

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User Reviews

 
the peak of Kubrick as documentarian
21 March 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Even if the short documentary the Seafarers did not bare the name of the late-great Stanley Kubrick, the subject matter would not be totally lost on me. It's a union film, educating the viewer on what makes up the seafarers, the men who make up the jobs of the sea, shipping, manning the ships, etc, and all apart of a bond that is almost communal in a way. But that it is directed by Kubrick, and that it is his first film in color with him in practical total control, it's hard not to see his mark on the project. In fact, I would argue for those who have seen the film, or for those who might want to either as a fan of the filmmaker or if by some off-off handed chance with the subjects, that it contains the height of the twenty-something Kubrick's trademark styles. There is an assured hand in photographing these subjects, and this time around, unlike in Day of the Fight and Flying Padre, it is not really at all dramatized documentary film-making (i.e. there aren't the staged scenes), even if it is in its own way a king of long advertisement of sorts for them.

But if one is to look just on the technical side of things, it can put a smile on the face of a Kubrick fan to see some of the early techniques on display. Examples I would include would be his tracking of the camera, this kind of panning across a room that one might find in the Shining or Paths of Glory, which is used in effect in showing the seafarers eating in the cafeteria. This puts his mark on the material right away though there are other shots before this with certain Kubrick-type compositions; a standard photographer might just gets individual shots, dissolve in the cuts, and make it shorter. But there's an attention to these people that the director/photographer here wants to get across, and it's also in the compositions, like certain close-ups of machines (big and small), and just shots of the people in the rooms and the panning across the skylines and ships that seems different somehow from how another eye-for-hire would do it.

It's not to say that this is any kind of rewarding piece of art that should be screened alongside the director's other major works. It's made for a very specific purpose and audience, and is not made to reach into any specific character presented in it (the exception being the leader of the seafarers Don Holdenbeck). But through using the color film stock available, and having no one looking over his shoulder telling him how to do it, Kubrick's work here, much like a very good student film, calls out for what's possible ahead.


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