I saw 2001 a long time ago, something like 15 years ago so I remembered a long space story and a computer who gets into an impossible 1=2 quandary. But then I saw it recently again and it was not at all slow, not at all unemotional and even more beautiful then I remembered. There’s a lot in there and you have to pay attention to enjoy it, and that’s probably true for all of Kubrick’s films.
Some of my “certainties” at the beginning of the thread are less certain now, and that’s cool. Why not like or love Kubrick? I think I worried that adoration of Kubrick might become all consuming, or — and this is still a concern — he avoided fashion or current events too much. 1968 was a very tumultuous, exciting year on earth, and 1975 was the height of the sexual revolution, and in both years Kubrick made films that could have been conceived if not executed in virtually any decade. His films are strangely a-historical. Maybe that’s a virtue I can’t recognize because I like the French new wave so much. So, I’m still pondering. But I feel like going back and watching his films again (or some for the first time) because that’s the real test.
>>Some of my “certainties” at the beginning of the thread are less certain now, and that’s cool.<,
Yeah, I thought I noticed some opinions beginning to shift a few posts ago…
I only stumbled across the DVD of BARRY LONDON (at BigLots!) a few weeks ago & haven’t yet watched it, so I really can’t address that one, but having seen 2001 on its initial release & having just graduated at the time from high school & being active in the political movements of the time gives me some perspective on it. At the time it certainly didn’t seem irrelevant. Aside from the visuals providing many individuals the excuse to do drugs & groove on the trip, its message of humankind reborn into the next stage of evolution seemed entirely spot-on for the time. It was right at home with the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
But after that film I think Kubrick became increasingly cocooned. He was in a position, as composer Wendy Carlos noted, where there was no one to say no to him. And his films are mostly oblivious to what’s going on in the world, neither deling with it or reacting to it. But I’d probably use the word timeless rather than a-historical.
Yet in many ways I’d say that is their great strength …
The “failure” is presented indeterminately enough that I suppose you can read it that way. But according to Kubrick it’s intended to be an error on HAL’s part. Kubrick said in an interview:
that HAL “had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility. The idea of neurotic computers is not uncommon — most advanced computer theorists believe that once you have a computer which is more intelligent than man and capable of learning by experience, it’s inevitable that it will develop an equivalent range of emotional reactions — fear, love, hate, envy, etc. Such a machine could eventually become as incomprehensible as a human being, and could, of course, have a nervous breakdown — as HAL did in the film.”
. . . it’s possible that the HAL’s error is actually a nudge (like the monolith) that propels Bowman toward his eventual evolutionary leap, though.
Timeless and a-historical are not bad things. It’s the overtly political and timely that is small minded and trite. Could 2001 and Barry Lyndon be made more or less the same today? Yes, and that’s not bad. There are plenty of films of either period that are timely but don’t hold one’s interest because they are not thinking beyond the specific problems of their time. The problems of humanity don’t seem to change much, only the players and the medium do.
Aren’t you contradicting yourself? You said:
“Timeless and a-historical are not bad things. It’s the overtly political and timely that is small minded and trite.”
then you said:
“the problems of humanity don’t seem to change much, only the players and the medium do.”
If the “problems of humanity” are ahistorical—they don’t change—then what’s the problem with cinema that deals with the specific political/social issues of a particular time? By your formulation, they’d be dealing with the same issues that this type of film from other periods of time because these issues don’t change.
Well I said that in response to the idea that Kubrick’s films were not good because of a disconnect with the time they were made. I just don’t think that’s a problem. Let me be more clear: if a film is good it doesn’t matter what it’s about but some films are bad because they are about superficial problems that might seem important at a given time but actually weren’t.
I don’t see a problem with films heavily representative of their times but I don’t see a problem with films that are not either, films that seem to leave out the time of their making. I think the really interesting problems are a-historical, the uninteresting ones (to me, just to me) are rather small on a time scale and localized and some films are about these uninteresting problems OR they are about these problems that could be interesting but don’t make them so because of the way they are made. I hope that makes sense.
I do think (ok maybe because I am thinking more about art than film on this topic) that messages, overtly political ones, take away from the power of art. Maybe it’s not the case in cinema so much, I would have to think about it.
Seen “Medium Cool” recently?
I received the book Archives a couple of years ago, which contains essays and other pieces of each of his films, as well as a fantastic photo section (and an actual piece of 2001 film from Kubrick’s private collection). Realizing I’d never seen half his films (and somewhat mortified by this), I then rented each of them starting with The Killers. As I went through this process, I wrote my own thoughts on each of these films. What I discovered over the period of that week was a new found love for the artistry of a man that uses the camera “like a weapon”.
I’m not the biggest fan of Lolita, and I don’t like Spartacus at all (it’s the only one of his films that doesn’t feel like one of his films), but even in his lesser works you can see the genius festering. I think he hit his stride with Paths to Glory and only got better from there. I find it hard to respond to the initial post in this thread without sounding condescending, but if you don’t see the genius of 2001, it’s you, not the film. Spend some more time with it. Read the novel (this is especially helpful in understanding the ending). It’s an amazing tale of Mankind’s hubris, in that the antagonist isn’t HAL, but those who programmed HAL.
Eyes Wide Shut’s genius has taken longer to become accepted, but Kubrick really was working at a level of high art when he died. The string of films from A Clockwork Orange to the end is stunning.
If anyone cares, my essays on each of his films is here: http://www.drinkthink.net/flo/WidescreenMandate_Archival_Index.htm.
>I do think (ok maybe because I am thinking more about art than film on this topic) that messages, overtly political ones, take away from the power of art.
I dunno, Loki – that axiom sounds like the ones on comedy that Alan Alda’s character spouts in Crimes and Misdemeanors (“If it bends, then it’s funny…”) Look at Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers; Burn!); or Costa-Gavras’ Z, for a start…
Ah, I tried that link, Josh. It doesn’t work. I’d like to read those essays…
Hmm. I’ve been able to get to it from a couple of different pcs. Still not working for you?
In most of Kubrick’s post 2001 films he strikes me as a bit of a drama queen railing against the evils of authority. Interesting but not very well modulated.
For me the exception is Barry Lyndon - social climber makes waves among the snotty gentry until he finally forgets his place, thinks he’s back in the army and beats the snot out of the punk Bullingdon. Then that final title card pointing out that we may not be able to crack the idle gentry this side of the grave.
Just a brilliant film that’s free of the excesses of Clockwork or 2001.
And I said “The Killers” up above when I meant “Killer’s Kiss”. Seems I had accidentally stuck Kubrick into a John Woo flick. Oops.
Yep – working now; must have been the full stop at the end of the first one…
@Witkacy: Yes, they’re good, very good. I don’t think cinema and art have that same problem so I was wrong. I think in cinema it’s a matter of making a good film, it just doesn’t matter what it’s about, if it’s well done, that’s enough. There is something more there, the treatment specific places and times so that the stand for all places and times while at the same time retaining (like Battle of Algiers) very details of that specific place and time. I’ll have to get back to it. It’s an interesting difference between film and fine art for me, probably needs it’s own thread though.
Cool. Love to hear your comments. That site represents exactly one full year of movie blogging. It was fun, and the Kubrick series alone was worth it.
>>I don’t like Spartacus at all (it’s the only one of his films that doesn’t feel like one of his films)<<
He was pretty much a hired gun on this, as I recall – brought in after the script was finished, etc. In fact, didn’t he replace another director for some reason? I recall reading that he and star/producer Kirk Douglas didn’t get on very well. I don’t think he had a very free hand on it. I usually consider it unofficially NOT a Kubrick film. And you’re right, it doesn’t feel like a Kubrick film … it doesn’t really LOOK like a Kubrick film either, for the most part.
He replaced Anthony Mann, I think.
Thomas Mann, I think? When I watched Spartacus you can almost feel the pained auteur sulking in the corner and just trying to get the damn thing over with.
Yeah. Kirk Douglas fired Anthony Mann and hired Kubrick to replace him.
In the interest of possibly reigniting your interest in Barry Lyndon, here’s a piece Jim Emerson wrote about the film:
and then this by Jeffrey Bernstein:
which is an detailed analysis of Kubrick’s extensive use of zooms in the film.
Perhaps there’s more going on in the film than you’re giving it credit for?
>.He replaced Anthony Mann, I think.<<
Yes, that’s the name I was thinking of, too …
This made me laugh:
“as Pauline Kael has complained, “tells you what’s going to happen before you see it.” (To paraphrase Sam Peckinpah: “That’s the boody point, Pauline!”)"
Has any respected reviewer been so wrong about so many great movies as Kael?
The genesis of Spartacus was Douglas being peeved over getting passed over for Ben-Hur in favor of Heston. Most of the film up to the escape is supposedly footage directed by Mann. According to Mann he left the film because Douglas wanted to tell the story with excessive amounts of dialogue, while Mann felt the story should be told primarily through visuals. Olivier reportedly didn’t get along with Douglas either.
I just bounced over to IMDB & took a squint at Mann’s filmography. There’s some stuff in there that’s big, but bringing in a film like FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE probably owes more to stage managing than directing. I know Mann has some supporters, but I’m not seeing anything in the list that’s artistically impressive …
you’re not looking deeply enough into his body of work. mann was a master of the western. and he was a master of classic film noir.
and just to set the record straight, are you saying a “big” film equals an artistically-impresssive film?
Oh, Mann was phenomenal. Very crisp, inspired director. With John Alton at his side he could do no wrong. Some of the leanest, toughest, and yet most disturbingly beautiful films ever made in Hollywood. The Far Country, Man of the West, T-Men, Border Incident — all are great films.
This is what worries me about that all-consuming adoration of Kubrick — here he’s making people want to kick Anthony Mann in the shins. The early Kubrick of Killer’s Kiss and The Killing probably liked Mann a lot.
i wouldnt worry too much about that. adoration is usually more about praising someone than belittling another.
and at the end of the day, i dont have a problem with adoration. who am i to say who a person should or should not love?