Volume 92, Issue 86

Thursday, March 11, 1999


Bergmann's success on own terms

Canada's own sexpert takes pleasure chest on the road

Kubrick's quiet genius leaves legacy

Work isn't the only thing that sucks

New sound immigrates into Celtic indie band

Kubrick's quiet genius leaves legacy

Stanley Kubrick cannot be blamed for saturating the market with his specific brand of interrogative cinema – but for interrogating various brands of cinema.

Perennially out of the spotlight, the reclusive filmmaker only made eight films after he moved to England in 1961. They were films which stretched the breadth of the medium and exposed his dark view of humanity which viewers consumed with guilty pleasure.

Never one to splash in the warm current of cinematic fame, Kubrick diagnosed the human condition from the fringes and was rarely better than in his 1971 cult icon A Clockwork Orange. Built around the Oscar-calibre acting performance of Malcolm McDowell, the film is Kubrick's most complete and accessible portrait.

Clockwork exists in the ultra-violent world of the near-future where a group of "droogs" explore moral bankruptcy. Alex is betrayed by his friends for his manipulation and has his destructive side bleached by society. Social conditioning leaves him brainwashed and spineless.

The film is controlled by haunting, distorted classical music and metaphorical settings which question what is worse – the criminal or his police. Smothered by brutal reverberating violence and spatial artifice, the film corners Alex and tries to destroy him.

This theme of humanity being pushed against the wall for inspection is at the heart of his magnum opus – 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film explores the hidden truths of human consciousness, but achieves its aims more in form than in content.

Born in Bronx, New York in 1928, Kubrick started out as a photographer before starting a prolific film career in the 1950s. After his move to England he rarely granted interviews and preferred to stay in the cool depths of his own sedentary existence. He popped out in 1964 to make the hilariously dark Dr. Strangelove and in 1975 to make the war epic Barry Lyndon, among others.

In 1980 he interpreted Stephen King's The Shining into one of the most cinematically expressive thrillers since Psycho. Though criticized by some King fans, the film further developed the creative director's most pertinent ideas. Kubrick trapped the characters in the labyrinths of the hotel and the dark corners of the human psyche.

His specific brand of layered cinematic vision and complex thought did not appear again until seven years later with Full Metal Jacket. He continued his aesthetic and thematic look into life and cinema, but the film only offered glimpses of the genius which came to be expected from Kubrick. His latest, Eyes Wide Shut, is completed and due out this year.

Few know what the dark genius did during his long stretches of commercial inactivity, but Warner was satisfied to give him free reign on all budgetary and creative matters. These long periods off not only wet the palates of his many admirers but also elevated the perfectionist director into mythical status.

Some say Kubrick was a tyrannical director who took his actors to the brink of madness before opening a small door for their escape, while others see him as a giant of stylistic innovation and psychological exposition. His influence on modern filmmaking is thick; his respect – well deserving. With Kubrick's recent death the film community has lost one of its true masters and intellectuals.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999