Greetings again from the darkness. The throngs of us who are not artistic geniuses ae always fascinated with insight and analysis from those few who are. And when said genius is renowned for eschewing interviews and most any chance to discuss the work, we become all the more intrigued. Such is the case with Oscar-winning director Stanley Kubrick. Although he passed away in 1999, Kubrick’s filmography features many classics that are studied in film schools today: THE KILLING (1956), PATHS OF GLORY (1957), SPARTACUS (1960), LOLITA (1962), DOCTOR STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), BARRY LYNDON (1975), THE SHINING (1980), FULL METAL JACKET (1987), and EYES WIDE SHUT (1999).

Gregory Monro is a biographer and documentarian (JERRY LEWIS: THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN, 2016) and as the structure for this profile of Kubrick, he uses the recordings made by French film critic Michel Ciment during his conversations with Kubrick spanning nearly 20 years. Ciment used the recordings as the basis for his seminal 1982 biography on Kubrick, and Monro adds familiar clips from the well-known films, as well as recognizable set pieces and interviews from faces you’ll surely recognize. These include a young Malcolm McDowell, a thoughtful Jack Nicholson, an annoyed Sterling Hayden, renowned author Arthur C Clarke (2001 interview), a frustrated Marisa Berenson, a forthcoming R Lee Ermey, and megastar Tom Cruise. Most of these folks worked with Kubrick.

Since most of us have not previously heard the recordings, it’s the voice of Kubrick that draws us in and keeps us tuned in. The truth is, we’ve heard from many of his collaborators over the years, yet we’ve heard little from the man himself … until now. Still, although we hear him talking, a natural defensiveness seems to prevent him going too deep on his inspirations, motivations, or objectives. He does speak often of “conflict”, and we see two types in his film: war (PATHS OF GLORY, SPARTACUS, FULL METAL JACKET, DOCTOR STRANGELOVE), and personal (all of the others, including crossover with the war films).

With his reputation as a perfectionist, we are a bit surprised at how open Kubrick seemed to be with spontaneity. On one hand, we have Oscar-winning composer Leonard Rosenman (BARRY LYNDON) recalling tempers boiling over when Kubrick made the orchestra re-do the piece more than 100 times. On the other hand, he allowed actors like Peter Sellers and Jack Nicholson to bring their own spin to roles. Kubrick was a New Yorker who relocated to London, where we learn he ran his world, both professional and personal.

This is one for those cinephiles who never miss a chance to discover even a morsel of insight into the greats of cinema. We can’t help but recall the 2015 documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, although the master of suspense seemed much more willing to share thoughts on his craft than what we get here with Kubrick. None of this should be surprising from the guy who created and filmed the maze in THE SHINING.

Available VOD beginning March 21, 2023


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