To me Kubrick is a humanist, the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the difficult areas of human existance like isolation and alienation is a perfectly valid exploration of that side of our experience. I think he unfairly cops the critcism he’s ‘cold’, which some use as an out clause to dismiss his work. I contend that’s confusing his visual style with the subtext, which when taken together adds up to a lot more than ‘cold’. His work can be seen as existenialist, where we imbue our journey with meaning from an internal not external perspective. I think Kubrick is in there with the beating heart/pulsing blood on one side and the life of the mind on the other balanced, not mutually exclusive.
Kubrick is NOT cold.
Just look at the final scene from Paths of Glory.
He’s just not.
Right, Musycks & NMM. Now, I think Antonioni could be conceived as ‘cold’ as discussed on threads about him, but not Kubrick. Kubruck does use a ‘detached’ style – he is analytical, controlled,.and as Musycks points out – exitentialist. His style is cerebral – like Godard’s and Antonioni’s – but each scene is so carefully layered and constructed, it would be difficult to equate this with ‘cold’.
@Musycks: Interesting. I agree with you completely.
Very, very interesting. Really well put.
It doesnt matter if he is cold or not, he is great in his style
Who said he was cold?
Shotzi: Check out Who’s Better Then Stanley Kubrick tread where several posters had that opinion – hence Musycks thread. But, right, who would think that?
I think after LOLITA and, to a lesser extent DR. STRANGELOVE, he became more interested in exploring new technical advancements and less interested in the humanity of his characters. Except for Malcolm McDowell, who gave a brilliant performance in CLOCKWORK ORANGE, it seems that most of the actors who have worked for him in his later films have been treated as puppets or pawns. Even when they have been pitched very high like Vincent D’Onofrio or R. Lee Ermey in FULL METAL JACKET and Shelley Duvall in THE SHINING, they are clearly following strict orders from the master. Every gesture is coaxed, not coming from the actor’s imagination.
Tarkovsky also said he was cold in reference to 2001, hence him making a more “emotional and humanistic” film set in space, Solaris.
I disagree completely (though I am glad a great film like Solaris came out of this opinion of Kubrick’s work).
Bob, I think Antonioni is seen as cold too? similarly I find his work fascinating because, although not overtly emotional, there’s a mass of stuff below the surface. If Fellini has warmth and outward expressions of the human condition, then Antonioni has the inner turmoil? why is that any less valid an exploration of the human condition? for many struggle with expressing emotion, societally conditioned to repress it. I would say he and Kubrick were multi dimensional because they understood the extremes of human character.
Shotzi… you’re not Agarn from F Troop are you?!
Howard… I think people equate technical mastery with machine like efficiency and therefore no ‘soul’? misplaced anthropomorphised
judgement I think.
Brandon…. I love Solaris. nice point.
Also I started this because someone posted the most ludicrous thing I’ve read on this site… that 2001 was the most RELIGIOUS film they’d ever seen!! I found that just plain insulting to the memory of one of the most eminent athiests to have ever lived.
Musycks – your points on Antonioni are well taken and I see what you mean. I agree with you that Antonioni is very good at getting at that very difficulty that people in the society he is representing (which we could say is ‘any’ society) have in expressing their emotions. That is why his characters have so much trouble in communicating with one another. You have shown me another way of looking at it.
Re 2001: I don’t know what exactly the person who called 2001 a ‘religious’ film said or was implying, but I would call it a very spiritual film – especially at the end. Would you agree with that? Certainly, there is no traditional religious meaning in any of his films, but I can certainly see the theme of transcendence, however you interpret it, in 2001. By the way, I am not a follower of any religion, either, so I hope I am not reading something into it that isn’t there.
Tarkovsky, on the other hand, does have a religious element in his films, which is a typically very deep Russian one. Good comparison between him and Kubrick. Both were ultimate zen masters in terms of making films that were like cinematic zen koans. I’m talking zen as a Eastern philosophy – not as a religion.
Thanks Bob… spot on. Trancendent experiences are not the sole preserve of the religious or spiritual methinks…. but that’s a whole other debate!
I can’t see film through a particular Judeo-Christian prism anymore as personally I’ve moved away from that. I’m cool with those that want to hold to their notions, but they need to support their arguments not just assert them, so I don’t know exactly what our poster meant either, but I have a fair idea.
Bob-I think the term transcendent fits much better than religious. I don’t know about Kubrick but Arthur C. Clarke was very much an atheist.
My problem with Stanley Kubrick – one of my all-time faves – was that he withdrew too much into himself in the latter half of his career and as a result, for me, his later films were nowhere near what his earlier works were. From 1958 to 1971 he made 6 films, among them his finest … Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Clockwork Orange … that’s a film in every 2+ years or so and what films ! From Barry Lyndon in 1975 to Eyes Wide Shut in 1999 he made 4 films in 24 years … 4 films ! It was 12 years from Full Metal Jacket to Eyes Wide Shut … that’s ridiculous. Why did you retreat so much Stanley ? You were great … R.I.P.
Achilles—in that later period there were some big projects that he worked on obsessively that fell apart—A.I., Aryan Papers, Napolean. Also, given his obsessive tendencies, things took longer as his perfectionism deepened.
Richard, I appreciate your point, certainly with regards to his Napoleon project … I think he went ahead and did Barry Lyndon as a fall back plan. Having said that … A.I. ? So what ? Read your words, you’re agreeing with me, lol. Obsession, perfectionism, etc. My friend, thanks for the feedback. P.S. Obviously, we both think the world of Stanley :)
Achilles, oh yeah, I do agree—for sure. I just wanted to fill in that missing time. He wasn’t eating nachos and watching tv! It breaks my heart that only 2 of his films were released in the time I was old enough to see them. I wish he’d not handed AI off to Spielberg. I remember reading that Kubrick himself was really disappointed that he didn’t have more films.
How is he cold
I agree, watch the end of Paths of Glory
no, but he’s mediocre…
and I agree with Tarkovsky…2001: A Space Odyssey may have been great science fiction film. But human topics are more interesting than outerspace, which is why Solaris is a better film.
Many of his best known pictures like A Clockwork Orange and Paths of Glory lack subtltey. Although I may be just biased, because Kubrick has never gone around as being one of my favorites…
Robert… love your work by the way… but I disagree. I find Kubrick to be mostly a vivid and electric filmmaker. Solaris is a great film, but works in other ways than 2001 does, the former internalises the human dilemma more, but they are both great existentialist question marks of films. If Clockwork lacks subltety it’s because sometimes you need a kick in the groin to get your attention and there’s no place for it, but it’s certainly a layered film. And Paths Of Glory has some lovely subtle touches, in the chateau and especially at the end, but again trench warfare in 1916 is not the first place you look for it.
Glad you don’t think he’s cold though!
i dont think he’s cold. some of the same criticisms people level at him they leveled at hitchcock. and i think hitchcock is anything but cold. he’s one of the most highly emotional filmmakers who’s ever lived.
but now that i think about it, how are we defining cold? i took it for granted as the opposite of emotional warmth. that emotional warmth being expressed in films that depict characters high on emotions and that produce strong emotional reactions in audiences.
Bobby… I think lacking in emotional warmth, or cool intellectual detachment are the things I had in mind that get laid at Kubricks door?
I think people often equate humanity with having their characters emote all over the place? but there are many ways to reveal the heart of man, from Fellini’s warm hearted whores to Antonionis lost and empty vessles, from Renoirs fatalistic femmes to Godards playful post modern babes…. all part of the human song.
Kubrick was cold, all right. Sure, Path of Glory is an exquisite humanist piece, but he sucks the humanity out of just about everything else he made. Look at A Clockwork Orange. Now, I’m not saying that movies have to stay totally faithful to their source novel, but that novel was about how the ultimate measure of being human is having choice over one’s actions. But Kubrick’s film is all about slick stylized violence. Any meditation on the human condition is completely absent.
Oops, double post. My apologies.
He was a very loving, gentle man, thank you.
Robert: 2001 is very much about human topics, not so much outer space at all.
- Humanity begins with the discovery of tools/weapons (i.e., violence/destruction is as much a part of humanity as is intelligence/technical advancement)
- HAL 9000 represents a continuation of this theme: his malfunction is, after all, the result of human programming.
- The film ends with the idea that humanity can evolve past these flaws and achieve something transcendent.
And calling Kubrick mediocre requires a little more explanation on your part if it’s going to be taken seriously. Not that I’ll ever agree with your opinion, but you could at least clarify it for us.
I think Kubrick is cold, in a way,and don’t mean it as a negative. To me, his view is cold, but not in a way that forces our view to be cold (if that makes any sense). This is why his films can still have humanist moments, if we are disposed to view them humanely, but Kubrick does not insist on this.
By the way his “coldness” isn’t always a detriment. It worked brilliantly to his advantage in Dr. Strangelove, which I believe to be his most fully realized film.
However, Lolita is another film in which his coldness and inability or unwillingness to portray genuine human emotions and relationships work to the film’s detriment. I mean, for Christ’s sake, where is the depiction of what brings Humbert and Lolita together? What brings two human beings 40 years apart together sexually? Yes, he had to deal with censors, but he still could have and should have explored the psychology and the emotions involved in such an unusual pairing. But what does he do? He turns the whole thing into a mystery/thriller. Ugh. Do you come away from that film with any real insight or knowledge into what drove Lolita into such a relationship? Sure, you can say that she was just a projection of what Humbert wanted her to be, but Kubrick doesn’t even make a case for that. Is there any insight into Humbert’s moral dilemma? Surely, he must be wrought with a certain sense of guilt, even if not from his own inner sense of morality but at the very least from pressures of society’s ethics. But nothing…no inner turmoil or wrangling.
@Josh: is HAL-9000’s malfunction really a result of his programming? I always assumed the beings who brought the monoliths made him malfunction so Dave would be at the right spot at the right time.
Kubrick said in an interview that HAL’s error was just an error, but there’s no way to rule out that it wasn’t an extraterrestrial tweak.