Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

Stanley Kubrick filming Barry Lyndon in 1975 (Source: Kubrick Estate)

Much has been written and said about the legendary American film director Stanley Kubrick but few records offer us a closer look into his life than Jan Harlan’s documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001).

The documentary covers Stanley Kubrick’s life from childhood to death, featuring rare footage, images and home videos from Kubrick’s infamous “archives”, and more importantly, all his pictures from Day of the Fight (1951) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). It talks about his personality as well as his work, his aspirations, his fears, his accomplishments, his passion, his disappointments, his style of management and direction, his family, his home and his life, which to many had remained a mystery until his wife Christiane Kubrick and her brother, and the director of the documentary, Jan Harlan, started speaking about him publicly after his death in 1999.

The documentary tells the story of how Kubrick started making pictures, his humble beginnings as a photojournalist, his struggle to make a mark on the global cinema and interesting facts about the making of his pictures, such as how Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) was turned into a comedy, and particularly Spartacus (1960) in which Kubrick had little control as the director due to the influence of the star and the executive producer of the picture, Kirk Douglas, who had also appeared in Kubrick’s widely acclaimed (anti) war drama Paths of Glory (1957).

It is on this documentary that Malcolm McDowell reveals about his friendship with Kubrick that later turned into almost indifference from Kubrick as the filming of A Clockwork Orange (1971) was completed and Shelley Duvall talks about her experience with Kubrick during the filming of The Shining (1980), which was something she “would not want to go through again”.

Apart from McDowell and Duvall, the documentary features interviews from Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Martin ScorseseSydney PollackPeter Ustinov, Jack Nicholson, Arthur C. Clarke, Keir DulleaMatthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Leon Vitali, Christiane Kubrick, Katharina Kubrick, Jan Harlan, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

To commemorate the 83rd birthday of Stanley Kubrick, and the tenth year of the release of A Life in Pictures, nothing is more fitting than revisiting the introduction of the documentary, which is probably the best tribute to Kubrick within a time span of 3 minutes. Fortunately, the documentary is available at youtube.

Poster for Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Source: Wikipedia)

The documentary starts with a montage of the adjectives printed by the press in the West about Stanley Kubrick and the kind of assumptions that were associated with him such as being a recluse, a megalomaniac, obsessive-compulsive and a perfectionist. Kubrick’s family perfectly explains how little the world know about the man and how incorrect were the labels associated with him by the press.

It is clear that the press made such assumptions about Kubrick because he refused to give any interviews and generally avoided talking to the press, except for the ones he trusted, and to some, they did it plainly out of bitterness. When he was asked to explain his pictures, and he was asked the question a lot for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1965) for its cryptic symbolism, he simply refused to do so by saying that you should let the pictures do the talking.

The documentary is loaded with images from Kubrick’s films, all of them assorted in one collection, which is one of the reasons why the documentary is such a delight to watch. What else has the life of a filmmaker to offer than images, and this is what motion pictures are all about. Maybe I have said this before, but if you want to know how great a film director is, see how easily you can recall the images from his or her films. Kubrick’s films have some of the most iconic, important, historic, unforgettable, memorable and haunting images that you could ever come across from any other director.

The documentary is an absolute treat to watch and a delight for a Kubrick fan, or for anyone who is interested in cinema and in Kubrick’s work. Whether you like his pictures or not, you simply would not be able to deny the fact that Stanley Kubrick’s films were some of the most important cinematic works in the 20th century and his milestone masterpieces set new artistic and technical standards in filmmaking.

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s