Friday, January 11, 2013

Kubrick Kubrick Kubrick

What is it about Kubrick?

Is it his color schemes? Is it the extreme characters he brings us? His obsessive detail? The stories?

Little Alex: lad gone wrong or victim of society and
A Clockwork Orange
2001: A Space Odyssey
Full Metal Jacket

The moral dilemma of A Clockwork Orange was completely lost on me when I first saw the film. I was in love with the style of the clothes, the language, the outrageous characters and of course, the ultra-violence.

I admired Alex's courage and his defiance of all authority- even that of rival gangs. My peer group were pacifistic, nature-loving, leaning towards hippie, intellectuals with most of us not knowing how to defend ourselves against the assholes and bullies of the world. Alex and his droogies would mop them up. I envied his courage and power.

The central thesis:
"Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice."

To this day, the great moral/ethical dilemma that Kubrick (and Burgess) proposed is still lost on me, but I've changed my view on the violence of the film. Or rather, time has made me much more empathetic to those who suffer physical pain. I've seen my fair share of suffering and when I see Alex and company pound the crap out of the homeless man, I winced a few times. The violence is demented and hard to watch, but it's done with such style.

  But every frame, every scene is a keeper without a false note throughout the film. It's damn near cinematic perfection as you can get. Is there a more stylistically unique film?

2001: A Space Odyssey

Imagine a young lad being dropped off at a movie theater, barely 11 years old, to see his first sci-fi film. I didn't know what the hell was happening on the screen sometimes, but the sheer escapism of movies was magical.   When I asked my brother about the psychedelic (not even a word in my wheelhouse yet) ending, he told me that the astronaut had become a "star child." Heady stuff for a young lad, but my brother did his best to explain the story to me because he had read the book.   The scenes with HAL 9000 are brilliant.

Full Metal Jacket

Clearly divided into two sections, we see Marine boot camp at its most brutal with an outstanding (and mostly improvising-a Kubrick no-no) performance by R. Lee Ermey.  The combat scenes are some of the most intense ever. When the squad encounters the sniper, the shit gets real. If this movie comes on cable, I am mesmerized and all things stop. The death of Cowboy still fucks me up.

Lolita   James Mason and Peter Sellers are brilliant in this tale of taboo love. Dark, creepy, funny and tense. Who else but James Mason could shoot crazy Peter Sellers with such grace? Who else but Peter Sellers could play the devious, pushy stranger who follows, threatens and eventually kidnaps Lolita?

Post scriptus:
Played with such subtlety, bartender Lloyd brings a wintry
chill to the ballroom scenes. Bladerunner, anyone?
The Shining   I have to mention this film sort of as a post script because in it contains some of the most disturbing images of a paranormal nature that I've ever seen. Steven King did not like Nicholson's performance because it was way over-the-top and through the years, I've come to agree. Watching Uncle Jack go through his crazy faces used to be fun, but now I far prefer something dialed way, way back.

Still, Kubrick had a way of getting into the psyche and setting it ablaze with his twisted images.  Blood flooding from an elevator, the ghosts that inhabit the hotel, the hotel itself and the maze at the end: how can anyone get these images out of their mind?  

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