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STANLEY KUBRICK
1928-1999
may his uncompromising stance be an inspiration to intelligent artists everywhere



The following are pieces I posted to websites asking for thoughts on the death of Stanley Kubrick.


Posted to the L.A. Times site on March 8:
One of the great artists of the twentieth century, period.
Kubrick reshaped the use of mise-en-scene to create total conceptual environments for each film - for me, the key factor of his artistry, and one rarely understood. Like Bertolt Brecht, he played against audience expectations of plot and character - hence the often-heard criticism that his films were "cold" or "clinical." I believe that in the future his refusal to pander to critics' expectations of sympathetic character identification will be viewed as an important strength - a manifestation of Kubrick's commitment to get to the "truth" of a situation. His thorough forethought of every aspect guaranteed that every frame would be true to and illuminating of a film's overriding concept. Also, the subtlety and complexity of each film demonstrated that he took the intelligence of the audience as a given.
Unfortunately this cinematic conceit does not seem likely to be carried on a similar way. We are left with the Stones and Spielbergs who imitate Kubrick's effects, without any understanding of why he arrived at them or what purpose they serve within the greater concept of the film.
My first encounter with a Kubrick film was the most important cinematic experience of my life. Unsurprisingly it was with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was nine years old (this was the film's first re-release, in 1973) and sat in the front row of the balcony of the almost empty Village Theatre in Westwood. I staggered out of the theater with the feeling that the experience had reached into every corner of my being. This film has continued to be a subject of my dreams - waking and sleeping - to this day. The same can be said of many other of his films, especially the one I personally hold as his neglected masterpiece, The Shining.
I will undoubtedly relish Eyes Wide Shut, but finally getting to see it will be an obviously bittersweet experience. Let Stanley Kubrick's uncompromising stance be an inspiration to intelligent artists everywhere!

and then to the FEED magazine site on March 10:
Kubrick, misunderstood as usual
Please allow me to excerpt a post I wrote on the L.A. Times bulletin board:
'Kubrick reshaped the use of mise-en-scene to create total conceptual environments for each film - for me, the key factor of his artistry, and one rarely understood. Like Bertolt Brecht, he played against audience expectations of plot and character - hence the often-heard criticism that his films were "cold" or "clinical." I believe that in the future his refusal to pander to critics' expectations of sympathetic character identification will be viewed as an important strength - a manifestation of Kubrick's commitment to get to the "truth" of a situation. His thorough forethought of every aspect guaranteed that every frame would be true to and illuminating of a film's overriding concept. Also, the subtlety and complexity of each film demonstrated that he took the intelligence of the audience as a given.'
This especially applies to the idea that he simply crafted images that supplemented literary works. What he did was take a novel and use it as a sort of skeleton around which to build his cinematic concepts. Consider almost any Kubrick film with this thought in mind, and one's whole perception of the film is likely to change. For instance, for me, Barry Lyndon is about the inescapable passage of time, and its human consequences. It is deeply existential and deeply humanistic. What could be more humanist than saying, in effect, "even if you're a scumbag and an idiot, it's still tragic when your life falls apart; it's tragic how the separation of passing time makes your humanity completely inaccessible to us; it's tragic that we are all born into temporally specific social constructs which shape our lives more than we even realize"?
In fact, I think that last tragedy is the underlying theme of all of Kubrick's films, bar none. And if that's cold and clinical, then the thought of any understanding between fellow human beings is truly a pipe dream.