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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Stanley Kubrick Marathon!

Stanley Kubrick

It had always been embarrassing back then, to admit to people that I've never seen a single Stanley Kubrick film before (Artificial Intelligence: A.I doesn't count). Harbouring such a shameful secret, how can I even call myself a lifelong film buff, let alone a filmmaker?

I did attempt to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey back when I was fourteen (it was that period when I attempted to watch as many classics from American Film Institute's list of top 100 movies in America cinema as possible). Unfortunately, back then, my mind was too untrained to bear a film like this, seeing non-speaking prehistoric apes dominating the beginning for... more than fifteen minutes, then going through another lengthy amount of time without much dialogue, just Johann Strauss' "Blue Danube" waltz playing... I gave up after the first twenty minutes. Back then, easier fare like Casablanca (still one of my all-time faves, watching it was a weekly fare during my teenage years) and Citizen Kane appealed more to me.

Few weeks ago, Kubrick's last film, the notorious Eyes Wide Shut, was playing on TV. Watching it, I was amazed by how good (and underrated) the film actually was, and surprisingly funny too. With a jealous Tom Cruise perpetually angsting and fantasizing about Nicole Kidman having sex with this uniformed guy. Unfortunately, I missed the last third of the film (it didn't bore me to sleep, I was just too tired, the film was playing on TV after midnight).

Since then, I made a mental note that I would watch Kubrick's classics, knowing that by now, eight years have passed, I'm more likely able to enjoy his stuff (... considering the amount of unbearable arthouse fare I had stomached over the years, I'm mentally strong enough now). However, I didn't really make any move to borrow his stuff from the uni library (my dad has most of Kubrick's stuff back at home, in Malaysia, so never bothered) until last Friday, when the professor of my Advanced Screen Production unit remarked that there was something Kubrick-ish about some of the shots from the Girl Disconnected (my upcoming short film, to the uninitiated readers) previews I showed the class (which received a warm applause, great morale booster), and that 2001: Space Odyssey is a 'must-watch' for me as reference.

Encouraged by it, I engaged in a mini-Kubrick DVD marathon of sorts in the past two days, watching three of his films, not that much, I know, but hey, this is Stanley Kubrick we are talking about, his works ARE emotionally and mentally taxing! So, some brief thoughts of the three Kubrick films I watched:

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

My professor wasn't the first one to make a Kubrick reference regarding my production. When shooting a train scene (photos here), I had glasses of milk being served to the main characters as part of the story, and Justin remarked that it was pretty psychedelic, something like... A Clockwork Orange.

screenshot from A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange, the first film of the marathon (I figured it would be an easy watch compared to, ah, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is one hell of a movie. I didn't know that even back then, Kubrick was so hip that he was already MTV techniques like fast mo (during a threesome sex scene accompanied by the William Tell Overture, wtf?) and slow mo for his scenes. Yeah, I wasn't surprised why the film had been so controversial, it has the main guy beating a writer up with his friends, then gangraping (the actual rape is shown offscreen) his wife while singing 'I'm Singin' In The Rain'! Malcolm MacDowell seemed so different when he was younger!

It's an interesting (and darkly comedic, in my opinion) social commentary that didn't seem to date at all, with various awesome scenes that reek of badassness. After finishing it yesterday evening, around eight, I immediately made my way to the library to return the DVD, just so I could pick up another Kubrick film. Highly recommended to those with an open mind.

A fan-made trailer of A Clockwork Orange

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Marisa Berenson is Lady Lyndon in Stanley Kubrick's Barry LyndonAfter returning A Clockwork Orange, I picked up Barry Lyndon, a period film that took place during the Napoleon era. (other films like The Shining and 2001: Space Odyssey are in the 'Reserved Section', meaning that I can watch it in the library, but it ain't available for loaning). Barry Lyndon was met with lots of negative reviews (and performed badly in the US box-office... but it was a hit in France) initially, yet enjoyed a gradually improving reputation as time goes on. Martin Scorsese, director of The Departed (check out my film review) called this his favourite Kubrick film.

Being a sloooow period flick (with undeniably lavish and beautiful costume and set designs, insanely beautiful cinematography), Barry Lyndon lacked the flashiness and flair of A Clockwork Orange. And I started to question my own sanity in watching something like this so late in the day, especially when it was a three-hour long film. My attention wandered, and I ended up writing last night's entry about Fremantle Beach.

But during the second half of the film, I started getting more and more engrossed, especially after main guy Barry (Ryan O'Neal) ran into the HOT Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson). That scene below instantly had me hooked.

And I was immediately enthralled by the sheer soap opera-ness of the film from then on. Seeing main guy Barry marrying Lady Lyndon, improving his social rankings, and then clashing with his stepson, Lord Bullingdon (who had disapproved Barry ever since he was a child as he knew that Barry was there for the gold!). Lord Bullingdon's lines after he grew up were particularly memorable to me as he delivered them with sheer angsty drama. Copied and pasted from IMDB:

Lord Bullingdon: [after Barry has whiped him repeatedly with a cane] Will that be all Mr. Redmond Barry?
Redmond Barry: Yes that will be all.
Lord Bullingdon: Well then look you now- from this moment, I will submit to no further chastisment from you. I will kill you, if you lay hands on me ever again. Is that entirely clear to you sir?
Redmond Barry: [under his breath] Get out of here!

And another:

Lord Bullingdon: Don't you think he fits my shoes very well your ladyship.

[kneels to his stepbrother]

Lord Bullingdon: Dear child, what a pity it is that I am not dead, for your sake. The Lyndons would then have a worthy representative and enjoy all the benefits of the illustrious blood of all the Barrys of Barryville. Would they not; Mr. Redmond Barry.

Lady Lyndon: From the way I love this child my lord, you ought to know I would have loved his elder brother had he proved worthy of any mother's affection.

Lord Bullingdon: Madam! I have born as long as mortal could endure the ill-treatment of the insolent Irish upstart whom you've taken into your bed. It is not only the lowness of his birth and the general brutality of his manners which disgusts me, but the shameful nature of his conduct towards your ladyship. His brutal and ungentleman-like behavior, his open infidelity, his shameless robbery and swindling of my property, and yours. And since I cannot personally chastise this lowbred ruffian, and as I cannot bear to witness his treatment of you and loathe his horrible society as if it were the plague; I have decided to leave my home and never return, at least during his detested life or during my own.

OH YEAAAH! Lord Bullingdon is THE MAN!

Highly recommended for those with high patience and an ironic sense of humour.

Trailer of Barry Lyndon

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Poster of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space OdysseyAfter going through two films by Kubrick, I was confident that I can most definitely survive 2001: A Space Odyssey. I watched this today in the afternoon, bringing my laptop into the library.

What was boring to me when I was fourteen became an amazement to me now. The ape scenes, the space station, the lack of dialogue. In the past, I only wanted to know WHAT was happening, but never appreciating the HOW, I do now. How the hell did Kubrick direct people into acting like apes? How the hell would he be so gutsy that the first fifteen mins of his film would be dialogueless scenes about apes? And man, the special effects... before the age of CGI... HOW COULD THOSE BE POSSIBLE?

I stared in bewilderment, and shuddered at how eerie HAL was. (also drawing some inspiration that I can use for future shoots in my film) But of course, like most people, it was the insane 'Star Gate sequence' that blew me away. Dave the Astronaut, traveling across vast distances of space and time through a tunnel of colorful light and sound... and then going through various stages of ageing, and then becoming a baby again. Something like that, it's totally indescribable.

I looked around, the experience was too insane for me to go through alone, I almost hoped that someone else in the library would come over and watch what I was watching. But alas, there was none. I stared, and stared. Shaking my head in disbelief, the work of a master indeed.

Emotionally and mentally sapped, I decided to take a break from my Kubrick marathon. But here are some 2001: A Space Odyssey-related videos:

2001: A Space Odyssey trailer

The 2001: A Space Odyssey opening you've never heard. You see, Stanley Kubrick originally hired Alex North to compose the score for the film, but he ended up using 'Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss, and other classical music

Highly recommended to all patient viewers who welcome intellectually stimulating masterpieces. Oh, and if you're not afraid of spoilers...

The last ten minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, watch it if you don't fear spoilers.

I was too emotionally and mentally drained after watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, thus cancelling my plan to follow it with The Shining, not sure whether that'll be the next Kubrick film I'm going to watch though.

One thing I like about Stanley Kubrick is his unpretentiousness and sense of humour. He's not like M. Night Shyamalan, who goes around calling himself an auteur, inserting himself in films, and playing the roles of martyr authors destined to save the world. (yes, this is a non-subtle jab at 'Lady In The Water'). He's so technically brilliant that he elevates the quality of his materials to greatness, you don't see him being blatantly obvious in trying to 'convey an important message to change the world'. Hell, I think I've met more film students who are more, ah, pretentious than Stanley Kubrick (... although yours truly had often been accused of belonging to the latter category as well... *sob*).

I wonder what my next Kubrick film should be? I kinda wanted to finish Eyes Wide Shut...

So, any other Kubrick fans here?

(And yes, that Wordpress default theme is named after him)