Another Kubrick Compendium….
Having just got back from a swiftly successful stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel I was all fired up to share my stories, it’s a fun picture and I enjoyed it with minor reservations (if you’ll excuse the pun) until I was solemnly informed that today is the 15th anniversary of Stan’s passing, and obviously we can’t let such an auspicious occasion slip away without some small, modest tribute. After a gruelling work week I’m not mentally in the mood or mind-space for anything approaching some deeply insightful examination of his life, his achievements or his legendary craft, but I reckon I can at least spear some interesting material to share with you as I haven’t been on an electronic safari for quite a while – it’s been at least a month hasn’t it? Quite fittingly one of the trailers prior to Budapest was the European promo for Under The Skin, including a US derived critic tagline proclaiming that ‘we’ve finally found the next Kubrick’, I’ll leave you to consider that statement at your leisure when the film opens next weekend. This indulgent collection is framed around recollections and interviews rather than specific lensed material for a change, so let’s begin with a surface level, overview documentary;
I could be wrong but I don’t think I’ve ever posted this UK Channel 4 commissioned piece from 1996, it’s a fine surface level introduction to the director, and I always find it intriguing to see opinion and conclusions buried in the past, in this case three years before he died and we got to see the much maligned Eyes Wide Shut swan song.
A little time capsule for your delectation, I’ll bite my tongue on my opinion of Mr. Marriott and his assertions that taking two years (gasp) to make a film is far too long, so let’s just agree to disagree, yeah?
From the extras on the EWS disk, I do enjoy Spielberg’s enthusiastic recollections. Whatever you may think of Tom or Nicole their memoirs are also quite instructive, particularly the emotional reactions, and in true obsessive form those links are the full versions of the interviews which only aired on UK TV once and don’t appear on the home entertainment disks. The fact that Steven shot the Raiders ‘Well of Souls‘ sequence on the same besmirched ground as the Overlook’s main lobby is something isn’t it? Well, from a pure movie lore perspective anyway, but that’s not a matter that should concern you, at least not at this point. Drink up….
It used to be a rarity to actually hear the alleged J.D Salinger of the movie realm speak other than that 1966 extended interview and the footage from the Making Of The Shining documentary but gawd bless the internets for bringing this to our ears. Michel Ciment and Alexander Walker are probably the best ‘serious’ critical archivists of Stan, as they were both in his relative trust and actually gained set access, as opposed to much of the tabloid framed material which has emerged since his passing….
Upon reflection music was arguably just as important to Stanley’s work as the phenomenal cinematography and other elements in the process of seducing an audience in the artificial world of the movie theatre – an appropriate pitch of performance, sublime pacing or the fracturing of traditional story structures in service of the tale, intrinsic and envelope pushing SFX, embedded and organic sourced production design. As far as I’m concerned only the really great filmmakers, contemporary and past understand and appreciate this, apart from the silent period of course. Now that’s a whole other blog-post…..
OK, here’s something for the real aficionado as I vaguely pad out this post, Stan’s second documentary from 1951 during the genesis of his career which isn’t particularly revelatory, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? To take some corporate gigs to learn the basics of your craft from a technical standpoint before you can wield your imagination and ideology into that instrument of communication?
Time is pressing on and whilst I’d have liked to get into some more of the more venerable moving pictures material and have delved further into the still photography I think I’m exhausted. So above is a quick look at the current unicorn tear of the Kubrick canon, that all so elusive original The Shining ending which was filmed and which allegedly appeared in some original screen-test prints of the US release, but was recalled and excised before the film went wide in the US and the further trimmed (and in my opinion) superior European print was ignited. Who knows, maybe there is some holy grail out there, that original version of the film which survives with the original ending intact, but I seriously doubt it. Then again I’m told that if you are sufficiently blessed with the right connections you can access the BFI archives and see the similarly legendary custard pie-fight footage at the end of Strangelove which lingers in the vaults, that is however genuine but only accessible to serious, cinema accredited scholars. I’d best start work on that book then eh?….
Some further ephemera as we come to a close, given the self referential impulse of cinema here I think is the only fictional representation of Stanley on-screen from 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers which of course I went to see in Richmond when it opened purely because of the Kubrick angle. It’s not a great film but I thought I’d throw this in for something a little different, more context here which is great. I doubt we will ever get, or more importantly will ever need a fictional Kubrick bio-pic, so let’s close with the obvious, a cosmic ‘fucking’ montage as a final nod of appreciation;