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Narrated by Tom Cruise, "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" goes through each one of his movies and talks to various participants about their memories of working with Kubrick. For those who know very little about Kubrick, the documentary is an excellent career overview. Kubrick film clips include "Fear and Desire," "Killer's Kiss," "The Killing," "Paths of Glory," "Spartacus," "Lolita," "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "Barry Lyndon," "The Shining," "Full Metal Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut." Those appearing include: Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Shelley Duvall, James B. Harris, Richard Schickel, Michael Herr, Nicole Kidman, Anya Kubrick, Christiane Kubrick, Gert Kubrick, Katharina Kubrick, Paul Mazursky, Jack Nicholson, Malcolm McDowell, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Douglas Trumbull, Marie Windsor, Matthew Modine, Sydney Pollack and Peter Ustinov. Written by
Hollywood has often had a difficult time dealing with ambiguity and enigmas. And there have been very few directors who define those terms much better than the late Stanley Kubrick. That aspect, and many others, are the focus of the incredible intriguing 2001 documentary STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES, directed by Kubrick's brother-in-law (and frequent co-producer) Jan Harlan.
In its 142-minute running time, the film, narrated by Tom Cruise, charts Kubrick's progress from his early days as a photographer in the Bronx to his earliest efforts at film-making (1953's FEAR AND DESIRE; 1955's KILLER'S KISS), and how each new film helped to revolutionize Hollywood at a time when the old studio system was now starting to crumble. But as even a successful big-budget effort like SPARTACUS shows, Kubrick was never one who could simply kowtow to the whims of studio executives. He needed complete creative control over every film he made from that point on, and he didn't feel that he could do that in Hollywood. In a radical move, he moved himself, his family, his life, and his work to England in 1960 and never set foot on American soil again, apart from a few scattered occasions. But he always considered himself an American filmmaker first and foremost.
Beginning with LOLITA in 1962, and continuing right up to the last film, EYES WIDE SHUT, in 1999, Kubrick chose material and subject matter that most other directors would never have thought of touching with a barge pole. His way of doing films, a process that often took years on end (hence the relatively small number of films to his credit), was often seen as cold, clinical, and detached, which tended to rub critics the wrong way. On other occasions, however, his films were often controversial. LOLITA was considered quite scandalous because of its depiction of forbidden love. The reviews for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY were initially extremely bad because of that film's revolutionary approach to science fiction. DOCTOR STRANGELOVE was frequently slammed for its savagely satirical approach to nuclear war and Cold War-era politics. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE spawned a firestorm because of its explicit and whimsical approach to sex, violence, and governmental brainwashing. And even THE SHINING, regarded as one of the great horror films of all times in most quarters now, still remains a bone of contention for others because of its ambiguities and the fact that it strayed so far from its Stephen King source material.
But Kubrick remained largely above it all by being deeply committed to his family and friends, as this documentary also shows, utilizing film footage that the outside world had never seen up to that point. Kubrick rarely gave interviews; he was an intensely private man (though not at the Howard Hughes level like so many pundits might claim); and he could be extremely exacting with the actors he worked with (witness Shelley Duvall's own trauma on THE SHINING). Directors like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Alex Cox, and Woody Allen all share their impressions of Kubrick's cinematic mastery; while actors like Malcolm McDowell, Sir Peter Ustinov, Jack Nicholson, and Matthew Modine share their impressions of working so closely with the man.
All of this adds up to a great film, one that can never answer all the questions about its subject simply because those questions may not have answers that will satisfy everyone, if anyone at all. But no matter how he was regarded by critics or audiences while he was alive, Stanley Kubrick remains one of the most important directors in cinematic history; and this documentary sets the case for that claim in solid stone.
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