Archive for April, 2010

The Shining, a review.

Posted in Kubrick info on April 26, 2010 by kubrickblog

Stanley Kubrick Jailbreak blog recommends review at this link.

The Exploding Kinetoscope: “Dad, Do You Feel Bad?”: The Secret History Lesson of THE SHINING (1980)


Trumbull and Malick new Movie

Posted in Kubrick info on April 25, 2010 by kubrickblog

Kubrick wanted 2001 to be a first-person experience about being in space, Trumbull said, and the director designed the film for a 90-foot screen. As a result of his experience on the movie, Trumbull became enthralled by the possibilities of giant screens just as grand movie palaces were giving way to multiplexes. “The palettes for immersive experiences went away right after I got entranced by the whole thing,” he said. Nevertheless Trumbull was a hot young commodity in Hollywood after 2001, and he directed the eco-sci fi film Silent Running, starring a young Bruce Dern and a robot that was a clear inspiration for R2-D2. George Lucas tried to hire Trumbull to helm the effects on Star Wars, but Trumbull turned him down. “That would have changed the direction of my life,” he said. But I had my own career path. Trumbull went on to create various prescient moviemaking technologies with names like Magicam and Showscan. He worked constantly on immersive, dynamic entertainment experiencesa predecessor to IMAX, 3-D video games, Universal Studios’ Back to the Future ride.

It was after directing Brainstorm, a film that was meant to be a debut for the Showscan technique, that Trumbull abruptly left Hollywood. In 1981, with photography nearly finished, star Natalie Wood died before shooting a crucial scene. The picture hung in limbo for two years until Trumbull completed it using body doubles, and without Showscan, which the studio wasnt ready to take a chance on after all. That experience drove me out of this industry, he said. The lawyers, the insurance companies, the creeps. Trumbull moved to Massachusetts, where he has lived for the last 27 years.

The Malick project will be Trumbull’s first feature credit sinceBrainstorm. Malick is working on two films, a long-awaited cosmic family drama starring Brad Pitt called Tree of Life, and an accompanying IMAX movie. Like most who work with the notoriously secretive director, Trumbull was reluctant to discuss the project. But he hinted at a retro style of visual effects: “Terry is a friend,” Trumbull said. “He said to me, ‘I don’t like CG.’ I said, ‘Why not do it the old way? The way we did it in 2001?'” Trumbull said he also has two modestly priced sci-fi fantasy movies of his own in stages of development. And there is the 2001 documentary, made in partnership with author David Larson, who has spent years digging through the Kubrick Archive in London, unearthing artwork, photographs, and memos. The clips of the documentary Trumbull showed bring back the computer HAL as a character that takes viewers through the artifacts. But Trumbull, for reasons he declined to discuss, is pessimistic about the documentary ever making it to audiences.

Trumbull’s tone in the talk varied from awe over the potential of movies as a technological art form to dismay over the reality of Hollywood as a smotherer of innovation and creativity. “I spent my life on the fringes trying to be a normal director,” he said. “You do that at your peril. Studios don’t want to know that you’re a geek.” But Trumbull was moved by the recent work of another geek auteur—he called Avatar “a technology-enabled out-of-body experience.” Trumbull’s work in 2001 heavily influenced James Cameron: the tunnel of light humans pass through to inhabit their avatar bodies owes an obvious debt to the Star Gate sequence. And what Cameron has done with Avatar—create an immersive cinematic experience—is what Douglas Trumbull has been doing his entire career. He was just a few decades early.

TCM Festival: Hollywood Visionary Douglas Trumbull to Work on Terrence Malick Movie | Little Gold Men | Vanity Fair

New Kubrick Movie

Posted in Kubrick info on April 25, 2010 by kubrickblog

Among the discarded projects of the famously fastidious Stanley Kubrickare “lost” movies about Napoleon Bonaparte, the Holocaust and the American civil war. Now, 11 years after his death, a treatment by the legendary film-maker titled Lunatic at Large looks set to make it to the big screen, with Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell attached to star.

Production Weekly broke the news on Twitter last night, reporting that the project is based on an original story by Kubrick and pulp writer Jim Thompson. The film-maker was set to shoot the movie in the early 1960s, but withdrew after being offered the chance to direct Roman epic Spartacus by its star, Kirk Douglas.

Thompson and Kubrick’s work was completed in the late 50s, and the film is set in 1956 New York. It centres on an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues and a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up.

The movie’s central conceit is that the audience must try to work out which of the characters is an axe murderer escaped from an asylum. Kubrick’s son-in-law, Philip Hobbs, unearthed the misplaced treatment in 1999 when rummaging through items from the late film-maker’s estate. “I knew what it was right away,” he told the New York Times. “Because I remember Stanley talking about Lunatic. He was always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea.”

Kubrick directed 13 films during his 46-year career, and often worked on projects that never made it to the final stage of production. Lunatic at Large is not be the first to be completed after his death – in 2001 Steven Spielberg directed AI, Artificial Intelligence, a science-fiction tale based on Kubrick’s collaboration with writer Brian Aldiss.

According to the New York Times, Kubrick and Thompson’s treatment features scenes in which a newsboy flashes a portentous headline, and a car chases over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down. There is also a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge, and the great set piece is a night-time carnival sequence in which we encounter a number of sideshow “freaks”, including the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl and the Human Blockhead, a man with a head full of nails.

Scarlett Johansson cast in ‘lost’ Stanley Kubrick film | Film |

Dr Strangelove lost pie fight end

Posted in Kubrick info on April 12, 2010 by kubrickblog

As pretty much every film buff knows by now, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 nuke satire Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb ends on a note both decidedly bizarre and oddly apt. Increasingly excited by his plan to secrete the best and the brightest of American hegemony in a mine shaft to sit out the nuclear shroud of the Doomsday Machine, the heretofore wheelchair-bound Strangelove (Peter Sellers, in one of three roles in the film) suddenly rises and takes a few short, hobbled steps forward. “Mein Führer!” he cries in elation. “I can valk!” But too late: it’s all over, as a thoroughly distressing montage of mushroom clouds, accompanied by the WWII sentimental hit “We’ll Meet Again.”

The original ending was a bit different. What first interrupted Strangelove’s elation was General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) once again seeing the Russian ambassador (Peter Bull) taking secret snapshots of the War Room, whereupon Turgidson attempts to dissuade him by throwing a custard pie from the War Room’s buffet in his face. At which point there breaks out the king of all pie fights, halted by…the inevitable end of the world.

Kubrick’s editor, Anthony Harvey, who had also cut the director’s prior film Lolita, recalls the press screening, which happened to occur on or around November 21, 22, 1963, the day of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “There we are. I was showing it to the press, I remember, around that time.  We canceled everything and we all trudged on to Grosvenor Square, stood in shocked silence as the news unfurled.  That’s the date.  And some weeks after that, I believe, the film was going to be released.  And Columbia Pictures were very nervous about anything to show the president—any president—in that state, as it should be.  Columbia was worried.  And they were Columbia Pictures.  That ending, how it started, the George Scott character threw a custard pie to the Russian ambassador, and it missed and hit the president.  And then all hell broke loose.  And it was like there was about two minutes when, after this brilliantly constructed film, it devolves into a kind of silent Mack Sennett sort of thing, with everybody getting hit by custard pies.  And somehow they were very worried, the studio, about releasing it.  They found it might be offensive or something. So Stanley took it out for the moment, and then the film opened and he just didn’t feel like putting anything back.  So that remained in the cutting room floor.  But it was a brilliant piece of work.  Who knows?  I certainly thought it was.  But I think when you get to a point in working on a film for almost a year, and this sort of sudden pressure comes in as a result of what happened to Kennedy, it’s a sort of clear-cut situation.  So that was removed.  And it never went back.” While stills of the footage exist, it’s still unclear as to whether the scene survived the loss of the original negative, or exists in Kubrick’s archive. Despite the hopes of some cinephiles, it is not, finally, included on the new Blu-ray disc of Strangelove.

Despite its grand theme of global apocalypse, Strangelove is a fairly intimate film. A brief sojourn in the love nest of General Buck Turgidson aside, the film has only three locations: Burpleson Air Force base, from which General Ripper launches the doomsday-predicating attack; the bomber commanded by Major Kong; and the cavernous War Room from whence the President, the joint chiefs, and the mysterious Strangelove strategize. One of the most remarkable things about the film is its deft cross-cutting between the three narratives unfolding in those locations in parallel time. Harvey recalls that getting all the pieces to fit wasn’t at all easy: “When the editor normally shows the first cut to the director, it never, never seems to be what you thought it might have been in the script.  And in this particular case I remember we didn’t think it was any good at all.  So we just took the whole film to pieces, we had a huge kind of war room of our own in the cutting room, and we put up pieces of paper representing every sequence in different order.  It took three months of working back and forth, thinking of the writer, did we get the right balance, you know?  And then almost at the end, one of the reels in the cutting disappeared; for no reason at all it vanished.  Nobody could find it.  They thought it was in the wrong pile.  So we had to start from scratch.  And I tell you, there was no copy anywhere, so we had to really start again.  Or I had to start again, putting it back together.  And we never found it.  I don’t know what happened!”

“Working with Kubrick overall was remarkable.  I just learned a hell of a lot.  As an example he always thought if an actor is giving a brilliant performance, don’t cut to the other actors but keep going on the same performance.  And leave it to the viewer to imagine the other person’s reaction. The more simple it is, the better—which I thought was tremendous. I think you can over-edit things and you lose momentum rather than gain it. And Kubrick was always very encouraging about my directing ambitions. He sometimes gave me material that he thought would interest me.  One I remember was called Lunatic at Large.” Lunatic at Large, a script by crime fiction kingpin and two-time Kubrick collaborator Jim Thompson (Paths of Glory, The Killing) recently emerged from the Kubrick Archive and is currently in production.

As for Harvey, the realization of his directing ambitions caused him to drop out of Kubrick’s next project, 2001: A Space Odyssey. “I was in New York to cut that picture, and one night I went down to the Cherry Lane Theater and saw a marvelous play by Leroi Jones called Dutchman, and I bought an option on it.  And went back to London and there was I, starting to direct.”  Harvey went on to direct Katherine Katharine Hepburn, with whom he would form a lifetime friendship, in The Lion In Winter, and make the cult favorite, and quirky-indie-band-namer They Might Be Giants, co-starring Strangelove’s Scott.

Directors choose Kubrick

Posted in Kubrick info on April 10, 2010 by kubrickblog

Mike Kaplan (director of ‘Never Apologise: A Personal Visit with Lindsay Anderson’ and Kubrick’s head of marketing from 1968-1973) on ‘Killer’s Kiss’ (1955)(Moody B-thriller set in the back alleys, nightclubs and warehouses of 1950s New York): ‘I love the tactile feel of New York in the movie. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but movies that leave an impression on me often do so through their feel and sense of place, and this one certainly did. The scene I remember best is where Irene Kane and Frank Silvera walk through Times Square and eventually come down that long flight of stairs: the look and feel are just perfect. One of the hallmarks of Stanley’s films is that they all have a visceral impact: even back in 1955 it was there. You also have the constant police sirens in the background, which is really the sound of New York. There’s no doubt that after “Fear and Desire”, which Stanley wouldn’t let people see, “Killer’s Kiss” is the film that established his reputation and set his career rolling.

Neil Hunter (‘Lawless Heart’ and ‘Sparkle’) on ‘The Killing’ (1956)(Sterling Hayden leads a gang of petty criminals to rob a racetrack): ‘I think of “The Killing” as the film where Kubrick hit his stride. It has that fascination with constructing a perfect mechanism, in this case a racecourse heist, that he returned to later in “2001” and “Dr Strangelove”. He gives us that principle of order, the perfect crime committed by professionals, then throws in the opposite: chaos, anarchy – which is to say, humanity – embodied by the girlfriend of one of the gang, the racecourse teller. It doesn’t have the grand philosophy he would later lay claim to, though it does have the pessimism. It also doesn’t have the stylistic boldness and formal clarity of his later work: it’s looser. Yet it may be his most purely enjoyable film. It’s a true genre film, and a very powerful one, rather than an attempt to transcend genre or create a new form. His later films would employ a startling range of different sounds, and use music very deliberately and unpredictably. Here, it’s used in a more conventional way – the jazz, for example, telegraphing the unreliability of the teller’s girlfriend (as if her performance wasn’t doing the job!). But above all there’s the excitement of a great filmmaker saying, “Look what can be done. Look how easy it is.” There’s a speed and ruthlessness to the filmmaking which echoes the heist, the killing itself.’

Nick Broomfield (‘Kurt and Courtney’, ‘Battle for Haditha’) on ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957)(Bleak moral drama set during World War I): ‘This harrowingly describes an incident when three innocent men are executed. We are introduced to a bare-chested Kirk Douglas and are reminded of his later appearance in Kubrick’s “Spartacus”. Douglas stars in the film as a colonel seeking justice for his men. The film shows how the army chain of command promotes ruthless ambition and corruption of the worst kind at the expense of everything else, including military efficiency. It is shot in long takes either with the actors moving around the frame or in long tracking shots. This is particularly effective when we see Douglas walking along the trenches past his men. It is a contrast to the fast-cutting action sequences of contemporary cinema. It reminds one that the army – rather like the free market economy and privatised industry of the day – is a system which serves the rich and powerful, and everyone else is just cannon fodder to be sacrificed.’

Andrew Kötting (‘Gallivant’, ‘This Filthy Earth’) on ‘Spartacus’ (1960)(Critical and commercial smash about a slave revolt in Ancient Rome): ‘The last time I saw it was as a kid. The main thing I remember about the film is what a fantastic physique Kirk Douglas had. There’s that wonderful frisson between him and Tony Curtis. The gay subtext of the film is something that, even at an early age, I was aware of and, in a strange way, moved by. I always thought if Kirk had just had a really good session with Tony the whole thing would have been resolved a lot easier, don’t you think? Slavery and all that. It’s kind of sad that my only memories of the film are crass ones. There’s the “I am Spartacus” thing too, it’s become something of a gag now: I used to say it all the time when I was in trouble. If I’d done something wrong I’d always put my hand up and confess to it as Spartacus. And people would often join me.’

Peter Whitehead (‘Charlie is My Darling’, ‘The Fall’) on ‘Lolita’ (1962)(James Mason is nymphet-obsessed Humbert in Kubrick’s adaptation of Nabokov’s novel): ‘I was pretty angry when I first saw this in 1962 – and I’ve seen it since and my opinion hasn’t changed. Kubrick’s version of Nabokov’s 1955 novel is not at all satisfactory. It’s very obviously watered down, tame and was merely exploiting or building on the reputation of the novel. Kubrick set himself an impossible task because the novel is so literary and interior and dark. We were in forbidden territory with the book – and Kubrick’s film is not forbidden on any level. The novel was very psychologically exact about certain aspects of the relationship between old age and teenagehood. The film was trying to be provocative – but it didn’t go far enough. The girl (Sue Lyon) was obviously far too old. It was a rape of the novel. Perhaps Kubrick was just too young and nobody would have let him make it another way anyway. John Huston would have been perfect as a director. The later version of “Lolita” [Adrian Lyne’s 1997 film with Jeremy Irons] was much better. At least the girl was the right age.’

Mike Nichols (‘The Graduate’, ‘Charle Wilson’s War’) on ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (1964) (Kubrick’s third film about war – this time, the Cold War – is a masterpiece of black humour): ‘He was a friend and I loved and revered him. I think that my favourite moment is Peter Bull as the Soviet ambassador and the fight with Peter Sellers as Dr Strangelove. It was that improvised, half-assed, completely brilliant aspect of Stanley that I loved the most. Then, later, he became the opposite: he had to have total control over everything, doing 500 takes just to get it right. It was another kind of genius, but it would never have permitted those moments of improvised mastery that were in “Strangelove”. In the end, I think he began to have trouble, because if you can’t leave home, you lose track of reality, and I think that happened to him. Still, he made great movies and he was a completely gifted director. If you look at “2001: A Space Odyssey”, you suddenly realise: My God, there’s nobody in this movie! There are those two guys who you can’t quite tell apart as they have no real characteristics, and the rest is just… Well, what is it?!’

hekhar Kapur (‘Elizabeth’) on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)(Sci-fi epic loved by stoners and intellectuals alike): ‘Forty years on and we are still trying to comprehend its visual and poetic philosophy – what more can you ask from a film? Just for sheer achievement in the art and technology of cinema, “2001” remains a defining movie for me. It is certainly the film that made me fall in love with cinema and want to become a director. Visually, it was one of the most compelling of its time, setting standards in visual effects that have yet to be bettered. Most people now associate “The Blue Danube” waltz with that amazing cut from the broken bone defying gravity as it sails up in slow motion to the space ship floating in space: a cut that not only leaves the audience to imagine the entire history of human development, but also is one of the best uses of classical music in film that I have ever seen. It still takes my breath away.’

Nicolas Roeg (‘Performance’, ‘Don’t Look Now’) on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) (Colourful study of psychological conditioning with rape, violence and Beethoven): ‘I never met Kubrick. We came very close at one point, and then drifted away again. It was around the time of “A Clockwork Orange”. Si Litvinoff owned the rights to the book and we had planned to do it together. I’d been working on a treatment and I’d even met with Anthony Burgess. We talked about it and decided to take a completely lateral look at the piece. I received a call from Si who said the producer and studio executive John Calley had phoned him from the US and told him he was coming to England to see Stanley. So I said, “Stanley who?” and he said “Stanley Kubrick”. He knew we owned the rights to the book and d he was interested in getting them for Stanley. ‘Kubrick, obviously, wanted total control, and the studio finally did a deal with him. I must say I did like his attitude towards film and the fact that he was an artist and complete unto himself. He wasn’t under corporate censorship, and he was never trying to make a film that you’d be able to pigeonhole in any particular genre. I think that was the case with all his films. One day, some time later, after they’d done the deal, Si said that he’d offered the book to Stanley when he first picked up the rights. Kubrick later said to him, “Oh yeah, I remember you sent it to me but I didn’t read it. I didn’t like the cover!” ’

Stuart Cooper (‘Overlord’) on ‘Barry Lyndon’ (1975) (Lavish Thackeray adaptation often deemed Kubrick’s most underrated work): ‘My link with Kubrick is that we both shared the same director of photography, the great Johnnie Alcott. “Barry Lyndon” alone is probably enough to hang your hat on. I remember at the time there was some mild criticism saying it was a beautiful film, but perhaps lacking in substance. It was probably his softest picture, though without question one of the most exquisite movies ever made. Alcott brought an enormous amount to the film, which was reflected in his Oscar. Johnnie was the master of natural light. My recollection was that there was a very special zoom lens they used which was given to them by Nasa. It was what they used to get all those landscape shots that look like Renaissance paintings.’

Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’) ‘The Shining’ (1980)(Stephen King adaptation with Jack Nicholson in one of his most extrovert roles): ‘My most profound epiphany in cinema is the moment in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the planets align with the monolith in some galactic equation. The sense of cosmic order floors me every time. But just as Kubrick inspires awe with his harmonic compositions, he can equally instil terror. The most chilling aspect of “The Shining” is the blunt symmetry of endless corridors and patterned carpets. A shot of an empty hall and a lone, red door disturbs you even before the blood starts to flow. ‘It is these graphic images that keep me coming back. I was underwhelmed when I first saw “The Shining”. Perhaps I wanted the detail and the closure of the novel. But its eccentricity and ambiguity gnawed at me and forced me to re-watch. Its shattering images haunt me to this day.’

Guillermo del Toro (‘Hellboy’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) on ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) (Critique of the Vietnam war, filmed in London): ‘I admire Kubrick greatly. He is often accused of being a prodigious technician and rigid intellectual, which people say makes his films very cold. I don’t agree. I think that “Barry Lyndon” or “A Clockwork Orange” are the most perfect marriages of personality and subject. But in fact, “Full Metal Jacket” is even more so. It looked at rigidity and brutality with an almost clinical eye. It is, for me, a singular film about the military, about war and its consequences. The famous scenes like the induction with R Lee Ermey where he renames the soldiers and reshapes them into sub-human maggots had a particular impact on me. Also the suicide scene with Vincent D’Onofrio in the bathroom. And the sniper set-piece at the end. Those are absolutely virtuoso pieces of filmmaking.’

Barbet Schroeder (‘Reversal of Fortune’, ‘Terror’s Advocate’) on ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999) (Kubrick’s last film was an erotic psychodrama starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman): ‘It was a strange phenomenon with his movies: they were never completely understood when they were released. Then, once you let a few years pass, they are suddenly deemed masterpieces and no one really discusses them. It even happened with his last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut”. When it came out, people were floating. In my opinion they didn’t really “get it”. There is so much substance and so much craft, it’s visually quite staggering. The right amount of time hasn’t quite passed for it to be reconsidered. It always takes a few years. It’s very strange. The reason for this, I think, is that each of his films is so different, there’s no precedent for any of them. Every movie stands on its own. And that’s what I like.’

Arizona Times review Shining 10/04/2010

Posted in Kubrick info on April 10, 2010 by kubrickblog

80 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.

They just love it for the wrong reasons.

(Not King, by the way, who famously didn’t care much for it at all.)

Mention the film to a casual fan and he’ll inevitably reply, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Ugh. That’s the problem. In a great performance by Jack Nicholson, what everyone remembers is the scene where he goes way over the top. Granted, at the time, the topical “Tonight Show” reference – back when that didn’t mean dissing Jay Leno – was pretty stunning stuff.

But over time, the rest of the performance has held up better.

Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a sobered-up author with a troubled family life looking to set things right and get some writing done in the isolation of taking care of an enormous hotel, closed for the winter. He and his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) will be snowed in; in-season caretaker Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) sets them up with food and supplies before taking off, leaving them alone for the winter.

Only they’re not alone. Jack has regular conversations with ghosts of past employees. The isolation drove a previous winter caretaker insane, and he murdered his family. Jack seems to be following the same path, as the famous scene in which Wendy discovers that his “work” while he’s been there consists of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” typed again and again over hundreds of pages.

But Danny has the “shining,” a psychic ability that allows him to see things that have happened and that will happen – and those things aren’t good (“REDRUM! REDRUM!”). It’s a gift he shares with Dick. Works out a little better for Danny than it does for Dick, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

There are scares aplenty, but what’s most effective is the creeping sense of dread and doom that Kubrick and Nicholson bring to the movie. Nicholson doesn’t just pop up with an axe and start chopping in the most famous scene. How he gets there is the good part, slowly disintegrating into madness. Kubrick takes his time, which is unusual for horror movies. But it’s appropriate here because Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” (King was behind a 1997 TV remake) isn’t just a horror film. It’s that and so much more.