Filmmaker Feature by Lorenzo Lombardi
The man, the myths, the filmmaking legend. Often hailed as “The Master of all Genres” Stanley Kubrick directed 5-star films in streaks, and left a level of impact most other filmmakers can only dream of. He has been sighted as an influence by many of the world’s greatest directors including Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers and Ridley Scott. Every film he did has cemented their reputation in the minds of the film-going public in one way or another. Whether it was the groundbreaking effects and brain-pounding wonder of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its ambiguity, A Clockwork Orange’s profound themes of free will and violence, or The Shining’s influence on popular culture with eternally traumatizing imagery, Kubrick is always relevant and present in the film world, and will be “forever…and ever…and ever”.
Indie Kubrick: Capturing the Big Apple & Debut
Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928.
Entering the early years of adulthood, Stanley Kubrick became a photographer for Look, a now-discontinued American magazine. The meticulous attention to detail that he would soon be infamous for is seen early in his photos, obtaining stunning framing, varied angles and thematic lighting delicately interwoven in most of his photos. These were mostly set in New York and Chicago, and would often tell a story, representing his cinematic possibilities.
In 1951, he directed his first film titled “Day of the Fight”, a short film which Kubrick financed independantly, going on to sell it to a company called RKO-Pathé for $4000. After his success, he decided to leave Look and become a filmmaker.
After a couple of more short films, Kubrick released his first feature film in 1955 titled “Fear & Desire”. It was critically acclaimed upon release, but failed financially. Just a year after, though, his unparalleled cinematic prowess would start coming to fruition. The Dawn of Kubrick
The date is May 20th, 1956, and Kubrick’s first great film is released. Titled “The Killing”. It follows a criminal who plans to rob a money-counting room of a horse racetrack; all while a big race is on. This film also financially bombed, but was and still is critically acclaimed. Highly influential on the crime genre, Quentin Tarantino stated that the film is a big influence on Reservoir Dogs; with him even saying Dogs was his own take on The Killing. The film started Kubrick’s focus on human elements; in this case, the lengths people will go to. The aftermath of this release had Kubrick following up his dark thematic approach with his next film.
One of the most beloved war films of all-time, Paths of Glory, is Kubrick’s next film and was released in 1957. The film’s unflinching and bleak tones of war, honour and sacrifice still resonate now as much as they did in ’57. One famous and stunning sequence epitomizes the loss of war, as it shows a platoon of soldiers forced to take a German position called “the Anthill”, with most of them dying instantly as they sprint through No Man’s Land.
Here is Spartacus (1960), an epic picture that cements itself as a watchable but conventional classic. Although Kubrick himself disowned the film, it launched both the Director and Kirk Douglas’ career.
In 1962, his first truly controversial film is released, titled “Lolita”. It follows a man’s infatuation for a teenage girl, stirring up fury with audiences. Of course, the film was initially misunderstood, but grew to acclaim. Dark comedy would be a double whammy as his next film Peter Sellers-starring film shows.
The Masterpiece Collection
Highly regarded as the greatest black comedy of all-time, Dr. Strangelove, another anti-war film, was released in 1964. It deals with war again, but this time in the form of nuclear annihilation, as a crazy general purposefully launches a code to bomb Russia. Dr. Strangelove is perhaps the best example of Kubrick’s focus on the dark side of human nature, with the characters of Dr. Strangelove being selfish, malevolent and disdaining (of the Russians, in this case). How I Stopped Worrying and Loved a Bomb showcased the real-world possibility of the world’s leaders creating mutually assured fallout, and because of a few proceeding incidents of this danger nearly happening, this one is ahead of its time, just like so many of Kubrick’s films.
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) is Kubrick’s psychedelic foray into science fiction. Perhaps his magnum opus, this film is more of an experience than a conventional film. This odyssey breeds wonder and awe, all with only half an hour of dialogue taking up a 2h41m running time. Its groundbreaking effects created the first modern Sci-Fi, and its ambiguity is so layered its transcendent. Pertaining to the effects, they were so convincing that a conspiracy theory followed which stated that Kubrick actually filmed the 1969 moon landing footage.
Hal-9000, a character from the film, is frequently mentioned in wide topics such as science and artificial intelligence, making the film relevant in a number of fields too. Other than obtaining one of the most memorable characters in cinema, 2001 has a seamless flow of beauty and complexity that makes it timeless even over 45 years on. Overall, no film has made people look more up at the stars.
Another film way ahead of its time is A Clockwork Orange (1972). Set in a dystopian future, the film follows Alex Delarge & his “droogs” as they go and partake in crimes they would like to refer to as “ultra-violence”. Typically labeled as one of the most controversial films ever released, Kubrick himself had to ban it from showing in British cinemas, and it stayed banned for 27 years. However, the controversy was unfounded, as the violence served as an analogy for morality and a plot device for themes of choice. In the novel version, the “Clockwork Orange” is a metafictional book, which is about a man who is turned into a robot against his will. This profound piece of cinema encapsulates this idea, focusing on a wrongdoer that society had to fashion alongside everything else --- making it a totalitarian “future”.
Underrated period epic Barry Lyndon was released in 1975. It is one of the finest tales of power and family ever put to film. Scorsese has cited this as his favourite Kubrick film, and a big influence on his power-themed plots. Using groundbreaking camera techniques, the film was shot in natural light to immerse the viewer in the setting. This was done with the same camera as the Hubble Space Telescope, so the natural lighting (with candle sticks to match) could look even more natural, making it state-of-the-art for the time and even nowadays.
Nightmare-inducing The Shining (1980) is up next, and needs no introduction other than a quote that shrieks “Heeeres Johnny!” What 2001 did with Sci-Fi is equivalent to what The Shining did with psychological horror, as it became a staple of the genre after it was released. Jack Nicholson’s performance is explosive, and the hotel the film is set in is terrifying in and of itself, as we do not know its history other than the Grady twin murders. A sense of dread is always present, but not much is shown until the relentlessly horrifying and twisted finale. As the saying goes: less is better, and this film makes you overthink about these scenes you can never unsee. No wonder it has been widely touted as the scariest and greatest horror film ever.
The Final Films
Similarly to Paths of Glory, Full Metal Jacket (1987) is a much beloved anti-war film. This Vietnam-set piece follows a platoon of soldiers as they are transformed physically and emotionally. The film is split into two distinctive acts: recruitment training and deployment in Vietnam. Ultimately, the training camp scenes are more renowned as they represent the psychological weight soldiers have to bear. As a whole, Full Metal Jacket deals with moral affect on people during war time. Paralleling A Clockwork Orange’s robotic man, the main characters are represented as tools for the government. The main character, Joker (Matthew Modine) is particularly interesting as Kubrick focuses on his morality in the form of a peace symbol button pinned along with his helmet, which reads “Born to Kill”. As the character puts it in the film, it is the “duality of man”, and at one point, his peace symbol is obscured when he does something unspeakable at the end.
Lastly, provocative feature Eyes Wide Shut was released in 1999. It stars Tom Cruise as he goes on a journey of sex and moral discovery, and inadvertently stumbling across a secret society. The film is much less renowned than his other films, but still incites a lot of wonder, albeit in an unexpected way, as the secret society aspect of the film has been perceived as the illuminati. Kubrick died on the 07th/03rd/1999. He reshot films in masses of takes. He directed the Drama, Comedy, Horror, War and Thriller genres. And he perfected all of them.
“If it can be thought, it can be filmed” – Stanley Kubrick.