Stanley Kubrick, starkly original filmmaker, director of some of the all-time great, most loved and dissected and in a way polarizing cinema, would have been 85 today. Kubrick passed away back on March 7th, 1999.
The essence of Kubrick runs rampant through almost every film maker and film buff who followed his works. American born, but lived overseas in England for most of his life, Kubrick gave a classy sensibility to most of his films, films that were rich in texture, nature, narrative, cinematography, and acting, with a flair and keen sensibility for music placement, or set pieces that were dense and slim in look, almost with a frostbitten clinical approach, which became his calling card and instantly synonymous with the Kubrick name and the Kubrickian legend.
Kubrick’s body of work is stunning, a filmography that runs wide with all the technicality and imagination one can glean from the art of filmmaking. Most all of them are stand alone pieces which not only challenge the viewer at visual face value, there are also dozens of hidden metaphors and stabs at many sacred cows buried beneath the surface of the celluloid. Kubrick was a master at telling stories in controlled, mannered tempos, while just underneath all that were pressure cookers of tension and emotion reaching its boilingpoint. Kubrick had a natural knack to seem to be able to pull this off with monumental ease, and there’s a certain style that really became all his own as a director, and even as a screenwriter, as he had his hand in most of the productions he directorially helmed.
And a list of those productions are like naming some of moviedom’s all-time great films, films like Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket — each of them have a tightrope between humor and tragedy, violence and calmness, intensity derivative on quiet moments in which lush narrative gets blown apart like a restless and reckless tiger bursting through it. Again, the use of editing, sound, color, black and white, visuals, set pieces, and the like, creates films that change moods often, within the story lines and in the viewers themselves; watching a Stanley Kubrick film requires that one gets one’s self totally immersed in it or there’s no reason to bother with it in the first place.
His films are never the kind to be watched at a party or with a lot of people, or by people with short attention spans, the Kubrick resume requires extra special attention, almost a blink or you will miss it kind of approach. Key plot points (none of which will be spoiled here) in many of his pictures sometimes have the realizations for the characters and the audience, done in the most minute, subtle ways. That is where the true genius of Kubrick lied, in his ability to make the dainty and slow simmer of an overly detailed directorial style actually have a ferocious streak within it; usually we see the reverse for the most part, directors like Scorsese, Spielberg, William Friedkin, Sidney Lumet, Tarantino and others of that cinematic ilk utilize their intensity for the in your face style of filmmaking first and then it’s the subtlety that becomes the joker in the deck for the viewer.
With Kubrick, he’s like the gardener who takes his time curing and pruning a lawn sculpture to ensure its ultimate success as an entity, it’s there to begin with, the rest is secondary, with many other directors, they chop and slice their way through the film, wearing it on their respective directorial sleeves, until we are shown the option that they have the soft yet hard centers many films ultimately require. Neither technique is necessarily better than the others, but Kubrick seemingly to solely have it is what sets him apart and brings him in the class of his own. His films remain fresh, vital, insightful, intense, influential, and still grand works of art. The cult for the man has grown much, much beyond the fringe level, and he’s a director that original and new generations still hold high on the mantelpiece of all-time great filmmakers.
Spin some favorite Kubrick films today, whether it’s the satirical black comedy Dr. Strangelove, the ironically claustrophobic space epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, the nihilistically violent universe of A Clockwork Orange, the cabin fever film raised to the highest art in The Shining, the Vietnam as Space Odyssey of Full Metal Jacket, or many others, like Lolita, Paths of Glory, or Barry Lyndon. Either way, it’s going to be a dazzling enhancement of the sights and senses and sounds of the viewer who is viewing it. But more than that, it’s akin to viewing a living, breathing, pulsating work of art from a canvas, a canvas that only a genius like Stanley Kubrick could so freely and so wondrously express himself on.