Stanley Kubrick the Madness of Term Paper

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Strangelove, put him over the top" (p. 61). The learning curve was clearly sharp for Kubrick, and he took what he had learned in these earlier efforts and put this to good use during a period in American history when everyone was already ready to "duck and cover": "The film's icy, documentary-style aspect served not only to give the movie its realistic edge that juxtaposed nicely with its broad satire, the style introduced the essential Kubrick setting" (Sharrett, 1999, p. 61).

According to Mcdouglas (2003), Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a Clockwork Orange were all later listed by the American Film Institute as being among the top one hundred American films of cinema's first century. In addition, "Each of these films provoked heated debate and each was a box-office success" (Mcdouglas, 2003, p. 2). The popular response to Kubrick's movie, 2001, in particular, was the result of an enormous amount of preparatory work, but he was in a position to take his time: "Stanley Kubrick enjoyed perhaps the most autonomous and commodious arrangement with the studios of any major filmmaker. He freely chose whatever project interested him, and apparently took as much time and money to complete his films as he needed" (Falsetto, 2001, p. xiv). In this regard, Nowell-Smith (2003) points out, "Increasingly reclusive in his habits and secretive about his plans, Kubrick then spent four years preparing 2001: A Space Odyssey, a science fiction of great technical accomplishment and a visionary quality without precedent in the history of cinema. With its mixture of grand spectacle and reflections of space, time, possible worlds, and the nightmare of intelligence, 2001 became a cult classic" (emphasis added) (p. 458).

The four years spent working on the preliminaries for 2001: A Space Odyssey were to serve as a valuable foundation for Kubrick's subsequent motion pictures. In this regard, Nowell-Smith (2003) notes that 2001.".. also brought to the fore what was to become the hallmark of Kubrick's method - the precise deployment of information expressed through control, strategy, and project, as in a game of chess" (p. 458).

When Kubrick died in 1999, the most controversial of his movies, a Clockwork Orange, remained unavailable in England because it had been withdrawn from distribution by Kubrick in 1974 (Mcdouglas, 2003). The novel, by Anthony Burgess, on which the movie was based, remained in print and in wide circulation though (Mcdouglas, 2003). During the latter part of his career, Kubrick's films included Barry Lyndon (1975); the chilling and absolutely scary the Shining (1987) (Kubrick's own version of Stephen King's novel); the poignant Vietnam-era Full Metal Jacket (1987); and the psychosexual-based Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (this last film was acclaimed as being a "masterpiece" by some and a "pretentious disappointment" by others) (Stanley Kubrick, 2004, p. 26,732). Indeed, the term "pretentious disappointment" certainly comes to mind when one reads commentary such as Whitinger and Ingram's (2003), "Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut gives a constructive, pro-feminist thrust to Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, heightening its critical dialogue with the myths and conventions of male mastery as well as capturing and enhancing, with its audio and visual capacities, the original's self-conscious critical dialogue with its own artistic tradition" (p. 55). Rather, as Jacobs (2002) points out, there was certain "let's-wrap-this-up-and-get-paid" quality to Kubrick's last effort in Eyes Wide Shut: "The filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, who made a career of cool doomed odysseys, antic and antisocial destructions, what did he end with? Eyes Wide Shut, a last film in which he saw and said nothing, despite the fact that it was based on a story by the Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler, seer into souls. In a film about the subtleties of desire inside and outside of marriage, Kubrick came up empty." (p. 55).

Indeed, it is difficult to not have some forceful opinions about Kubrick one way or another because his works are so powerful. These accolades (and criticisms), though, did not just happen but were rather the result of Kubrick having a definite mental concept of what he wanted to communicate and how he wanted to communicate it as well as the ability to execute them cinemagraphically. For example, in his book, Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis, Falsetto (2001) reports that, "Stanley Kubrick conceives of the narrative progression of each film in very precise and structurally coherent ways. The films operate differently, of course, but they share similarities in their organizing principles" (p. 21). This author also suggests that perhaps as well as any other director, and certainly better than most, Kubrick was acutely aware of when to create emotional climaxes and how to structure events that relate to incidents at various points in the narrative: "The films are often structured around complex temporal ordering, narrative gaps and repetition of narrative incident. This intricate narrative structuring, like so many other aspects of the films' stylistic operation, is absolutely bound to the films' thematics" (Falsetto, 2001, p. 21).

While it may not be too far-fetched to suggest that Kubrick was a visionary, it is reasonable to assert that he possessed a distinct vision of what he wanted his motion pictures to communicate. According to Komniou (2003), the motion picture, Artificial Intelligence is "Steven Spielberg's epic tribute to Stanley Kubrick. Although written and directed by Spielberg, the idea behind the film was conceived by Kubrick. It is thus a Spielberg realization of a Kubrick vision. And what an austere vision it is. We begin in a not-so-distant future where 'the polar icecaps have melted', half the world has drowned, and where, to use the words of Guy Debord, 'images flow and merge, like reflections on the water'" (p. 793).

Having a vision is one thing, of course, but executing it to the level of Kubrick's pictures remains elusive for the vast majority of aspiring film directors today. Certainly, not everyone can be a Hitchcock, Spielberg or Kubrick, but these directors all share some common features that make them stand out above the rest of the pack. In this regard, Man (1994) reports that, "The films of... Stanley Kubrick scrutinized the moral and mythic landscape of the American scene in original, bold presentations that operated as uncompromisingly as possible within the heavy commercial demands of the industry. The results were films that reassessed the American cinema's achievement, deconstructed and restructured its traditional forms, and exploded or questioned its dominant myths. As a body, they define a distinct period in American cinematic history" (p. 1).

The outstanding (and frequently topical) soundtracks of Kubrick's films, of course, manage to add to the overall feeling of the movies, but there is more to it than that. The results in many cases transcended what people were used to seeing on the big screen and shocked, scared and outraged many people. Who can forget Slim Pickins' war-whooping, cowboy-hat waving ride on the nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove or Jack Nicholson's demented, grinning countenance poking through the smashed bathroom door in the Shining (see Figure 1 below), for example, or the iconographic images that remain firmly embedded in the national consciousness from 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Figure 1. "H-e-e-e-re's Johnny" - Jack Nicholson from Stanley Kubrick's the Shining (1987).

Source: Filmbug, 2007, http://imagecache2.allposters.com/IMAGES/GLO/FLM00436.jpg.

While many Americans may not be able to find Iraq on a world map today, it is reasonable to suggest that virtually everyone that has seen a motion picture in the past 20 years would be able to identify the picture in Figure 1 above. Like the motion picture version of Frank Baum's the Wizard of Oz, these were shared national events that became part of American culture and were cussed and discussed at length by many people long after their release. This type of attention has elevated Kubrick's work to epic levels and that certainly cannot be happenstance, blind luck or chance. Indeed, Kubrick clearly did his homework when it came to his motion picture productions, and the proof is in the attention to detail. For instance, Freeland (2000) reports that Kubrick's work "inspired fanatic devotion and a plethora of critical studies" (p. 215).

Although there was no luck involved in the artistic genius that Kubrick brought to bear on his motion pictures, there were some fortuitous events that were taking place in American society that helped him realize his ambitions. Prior to 1967, films such as Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1963) possessed "renaissance characteristics of auteurist style, reflexivity, and genre transformation to galvanize critics and public alike and to influence directly the course of American filmmaking into the mid-1970s" however, "they were isolated instances of auteurist transformations of traditional styles and genres in a Hollywood environment which didn't allow them to generate a new school or period" (Man, 1994, p. 7). By 1967, though, Man (1994) reports that "the industrial, cultural, and artistic climate had changed through the cumulative effects of the breakup of the studio system, the rise of independent productions, the new rating code, the influence of postwar European films, the establishment of the art houses, and…[continue]

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