Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stanley Kubrick - A Pessimistic Obsessive Genius of Modern Art

I remember watching Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) (2001). The whole plot is dark, surreal and very fun to watch. Jude Law, who portrayed Gigolo Joe, was brilliant. After watching it, the film’s mood stays with you for a long time. This movie, although it was directed by Steven Spielberg, was borne from the mind of Stanley Kubrick. Unfortunately, after the release of his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick passed away, leaving A.I. to Spielberg.

Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 in New York to Jewish parents, who weren't actually religious. He was interested in chess, photography, jazz and books. He was considered intelligent despite having poor grades at school.

For his thirteenth birthday, his dad gave him a camera. This decision was very wise; Kubrick became an avid photographer, and would often make trips around New York taking photographs which he would develop in a friend's darkroom. After selling a photograph to Look Magazine, Kubrick began to associate with their staff photographers, and at the age of seventeen was offered a job as an apprentice photographer. Soon he was chosen as an official school photographer.

Between 1951 and 1953, he made a few documentaries (Day of the Fight, Flying Padre and The Seafarers).
His first movie, Fear and Desire (1953) was the story of a team of soldiers caught behind enemy lines in a fictional war. It didn't gain much respect from the critics.  
Killer's Kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956) gained him notice. Both movies had great plots and good actors, garnering good reviews. Kubrick experimented with urban loneliness, shadows, lights, abstract, narration and film noir itself.  
Paths of Glory (1957), Kubrick's breakthrough film, was based on a novel by Humphrey Cobb and set during World War I. Kirk Douglas played Colonel Dax, who is ordered by his superiors to attack 'The Anthill' even though it is presumed to be suicide mission. This is the first Kubrick's film that deals with negative aspects of war.  
Spartacus (1960), again starring Kirk Douglas, was a critical and commercial success, and established Kubrick as a major director. For this film, Kubrick was nominated for six Academy Awards and won four.
Lolita (1962) was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov. It was a provocative story that Kubrick turned into a comedy.
Peter Sellers, who appeared in Lolita, was cast for three different roles in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), a satirical black comedy about nuclear war. It stirred up much controversy and many mixed opinions.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was adapted from the Arthur C. Clarke's short story. Clarke and Kubrick collaboratively wrote the screenplay. The film was a great success, especially because it was different from any movie before, for quite a few obvious reasons.
A Clockwork Orange (1971), one of the most shocking movies ever, was accused of inciting anarchy, crime, and terrorism. Anthony Burgess, the author of the novel, perhaps tried to explain violence, and asked us, whether it is better to be what you are, even if you're evil? Should you have a choice?
Barry Lyndon (1975) was an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon. It was directed carefully, with great technical skill and using special lenses, gaining the respect of other directors. But the film’s three hour length was a bit much.
The Shining (1980) was another adaption, and was based on the work of the bestselling horror writer Stephen King. Jack Nicholson portrays a writer who descends into madness, while his son shows paranormal abilities. The Shining is considered to be a classic by horror movie fans.
Full Metal Jacket (1987) is about how the Vietnam War dehumanized soldiers. It is widely considered to be one of the best war movies ever made.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is a story of jealousy and sexual obsession. It asks many questions about relationships and marriages. Many of us could get hurt watching it. From time to time, the film becomes a bit scary, describing secret societies. It is, in my opinion, Kubrick's darkest movie.

As it seems, Stanley Kubrick found the dark side of human nature more interesting than the bright one. His films ARE his views of human nature. He has a very pessimistic view of the humans as psychopaths. Psychopaths are all over his films. A young man, Alex, loves rape and violence. Kubrick is fascinated with Alex, “I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure . . . The idea that social restraints are all bad is based on a utopian and unrealistic vision of man." Other characters in A Clockwork Orange that might also be psychopathic include Mr. Deltoid, the police interrogator, and the minister as well. Other psychopathic characters in Kubrick’s films include, in The Killing, Val, and the other criminals as well; in Killer's Kiss, the manager; in Spartacus, the Roman senators; in 2001: A Space Odyssey, human incapability to solve their problems while trusting an artificial intelligence. In Paths of Glory, psychopathic characters include Broulard, who doesn't care who will get hurt; and Mireau, who orders murders of his own men. The characters share a peculiar sense of justice. In Dr. Strangelove, there are Turgidson and Strangelove, though Kubrick targeted war and society. All of the soldiers in Full Metal Jacket become psychopathic, animalistic killers, except for, perhaps, the Joker. This long list of psychopathic characters is clear evidence of Kubrick's pessimistic sympathy for war psychopaths and their victims. Both in A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket society expects law and order, but, if it has to, will use any system of values, or through throw away all values, to achieve its ends. Government, technology, and other social institutions are seen as only worsening the problem of man's barbaric nature rather than helping. Barry Lyndon becomes an increasingly manipulative liar, obsessed with becoming an aristocrat. In Lolita, there are some speculations about Clare Quilty. In The Shining, Jack is an alcoholic, child abuser, and a manipulative bully who eventually meets his own downfall. In Eyes Wide Shut, the whole system of values and relations between people is absurdly skewed.

Kubrick wanted to confront different people and situations, and to share the experience through multiply movie genres. He did the screenplay, soundtrack, editing. Many people claim he visited theaters to confirm that his films were shown with the proper lighting. But he wasn't just interested in those kinds of details. He was also interested in the process of film-making in a way no one else was; he was such a perfectionist at the craft of movie-making that he was one of the most difficult directors to work with. Kubrick demanded countless takes of every single shot. During the making of The Shining, he made Shelley Duvall 127 takes of one scene, making her hair fall out. Kubrick even controlled translations of his films’ scripts. Kubrick was a genius who lived through his work, which is why his films are so brilliant.