Kubrick’s Favourite Films? Part Two
We continue. Not wishing to sound dismissive, but let’s be brief to get this out-of-the-way for the weekend, where we have the Oscars and the third big cinephile release of the year to consider – more on that shortly. We also have the likes of Cloud Atlas, Stoker and Mama slowly materializing on the horizon, plus I still have a BFI visit to compose, alas there is no rest for the wicked. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I was I must repeat myself ad nauseam, if you are in any way a fan of Mr. S. Kubrick esquire then you need to be following this twitter account, essentially it’s an information stream with the express purpose of sourcing anything and everything Stanley related that happens to hit the web, I realise there are such things as ‘Google Alert’ functions but I’ve always found them clunky and miscommunicative in comparison to an ‘old-fashioned’ twitter feed. But now of course you will be aware that Visual Memory is the most comprehensive source for all things Stanley, although this and this have their own intriguing conclusions and propositions. One thing that struck me when finalising the entire list was the general theme of tone and subject matter which runs through the list, they are films of ideas which are submerged in the text which build tangible atmospheres, rather than professing any single viewpoint or position on the experiences and lives they are recreating, either fictional or fantastical. But as previously divined this is only a brief list of fifteen pictures which he was quoted as admiring over his long career, as a lover of the form throughout his life he regularly had new prints of all sorts of films shipped to St. Albans for private screenings, and was notorious for calling filmmakers around the world for long, 6 hour plus discussions of their movies he liked to register his appreciation, usually before interrogating them on how certain effects and techniques were achieved – a true, inquisitive connoisseur.
6. The Spirit of the Beehive (Víctor Erice | 1973) – Here’s a curious confession, I think I’ve seen this but I’m not entirely sure. Having watched that trailer I think I had this confused with this, in any case I shall add both to my viewing schedule for a quiet mid-week consideration.
5. La Ronde ties Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls | 1950, 1952) – It’s no surprise to see Max Ophüls on here, one of the most influential, if not the most influential filmmaker on Kubrick on a formal level, whose dizzying and delirious tracking camera can be seen replicated in those trenches of World War I. You’d think that I’d be something of an expert on Ophüls given the influence and inspiration he provided to Kubrick wouldn’t you? Well, to my eternal shame you’d be wrong, I have seen and throughly enjoyed the emotionally advanced Letter From An Unknown Woman and The Reckless Moment but that’s all I’ve seduced over the years, one really must try harder…..
4. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau | 1946) – This wonderful, magical film has inspired many creatives and storytellers across many artistic fields, I think the fairy tale qualities can be detected in the less overt, yet faintly apparent fable like constructions of both A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut.
3. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman | 1957) – I’ve seen this once and I do need to watch it again, if memory serves (no pun intended) the cinematic representation of aging and recollection was quite revolutionary for the time, and Stanley was so impressed that he wrote a fan letter. The snivelling little sycophant…..
2. I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini | 1953) – This crops up a lot in directors favourite lists, truth be told like much of Fellini’s work it quite simply doesn’t work for me. Like Wild Strawberries it is another one of those autobiographical tales that is expertly imagined , but it just doesn’t engage with me at any emotional level – as Stanley once said ‘Eisenstein seems to be all form and no content, Chaplin is all content and no form’. This for me languishes in the latter section, despite seeing 80% to 90% of Fellini’s work I remain immune to his alleged genius…..
1. Henry V (Laurence Olivier | 1944) – This may occupy the top spot but I think that’s more to do with that any specific hierarchy of quality. The only attraction I can see for this is the ambitious choice to meld the fiction of Shakespeare’s play which evolves from a staged performance of the play within the film, that was quite shocking for 1944 when modernist structures were still the status quo – see also Joe Wright’s recent take on Anna Karenina which employs an identical conceit. The film is also renown for its bold use of colour which probably caressed Kubrick’s photographers eye, after he displaced Anthony Mann as the director of Spartacus, his first colour feature, one speculates whether he consulted Oliver on exactly how he mastered the visual options available with a Technicolour palette…