In 1999, Stanley Kubrick cast then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman to play well-to-do Manhattan doctor Bill Hartford and his wife, Alice, in what would be his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. The film’s cryptic title and mysterious, sexy trailer, set to Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing,” caught my eye, especially as I was a teenage Kubrick fanatic and closet Cruise admirer. After nearly three hours in a darkened theater, I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew I liked it. Looking back almost twenty years later and after many repeat screenings, I’m not sure the film is as sexually liberated and transgressive as I once thought. Herein, then, I take a closer look at the film’s messages on marriage, fidelity and Tom Cruise’s mysterious on-screen sexuality.
Tag: Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick had never directed a comedy when he adapted Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita for the screen, but its farcical mechanics gave expression to a budding worldview. Nabokov’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, presents himself as the consummate litterateur—a dandy whose attraction to underage girls is a matter of nonconformist élan. But, for all his preening, the character was born of a baboon: Nabokov was inspired by an ape in captivity that sketched the bars of its own cage.
It is not a series of legible images or a black screen that opens A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s operatic adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ classic dystopian novel; but an overlay of colors. First a burning red fills the screen, a color often evoking associations with rage, danger and power. It raises one’s blood pressure, accelerates the heart rate and elicits erotic feelings. Then the image flips to a deep blue, generating the opposite effects of red: calm, truth, and sincerity. It cuts back to red before resting on Alex, (played by Malcolm McDowell), a delinquent who chooses a life of crime. His dangerous yet youthful beauty is as contradictory as the interplay of colors. Already this display of colors provokes emotional conflicts. But the music that plays against these emotions just might fuel them, as our film opens against English composer Henry Purcell’s 1695 Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, reimagined for synthesizer by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos. In bringing her own specific flourish to classical composers such as Purcell, Beethoven, and Rozzini, Carlos works at distorting the films use of music in order to manipulate the way in which we engage and interact, ultimately controlling our free will through a marriage of sights and sounds.
With 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick presented audiences in 1968 with an impressive and expansive interstellar future. Following a haunting origin story, wherein a black monolith appears to a group of prehistoric apes, Kubrick transports viewers to an exotic outer-space world where scientists have unearthed the monolith on the Earth’s moon. After another leap in time, we are brought aboard the spaceship Discovery during its “half-a-billion mile journey” to Jupiter.
Directed by Sergio Martino, Your Vice… is a loose adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat. The story involves an alcoholic writer, Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli), who regularly abuses his unraveling wife Irina (Anita Strindberg). After a string of murders leaves Oliviero the prime suspect, Irina becomes complicit in helping to dispose of a corpse so that more suspicion doesn’t fall on him. As paranoia and infidelity cause the couple’s psyches to dissolve, they begin plotting to kill each other. The film reaches a series of successive emotional heights in its final act, deviating wildly from Poe’s writing with a scene where Irina finally murders Oliviero.
If this plot sounds familiar, that’s because Kubrick has translated it into the iconic “All work and no play” scene of The Shining (1980). While The Shining (1980) is notorious for its dramatic alteration from the source material in favor of original expression, the final product feels so singular that it may come as a surprise to some viewers that parts of the film are as a matter of fact borrowed images.
My sophomore year I’m sitting a few rows back to the far left in my Development of Western Civilization class, the hallmark requirement of an undergraduate degree at Providence College. Professor O’Malley, entrusted with the topic of World War I, asks the sleepy room of students, “Just muster a guess, when do you think the film Paths of Glory was released? Just a wild guess…” My hand shot up like Hermione Granger. As I finally came into O’Malley’s peripheral he called on me. “1957”, I said. O’Malley stepped back and put his hand on the podium in disbelief.
“Joey, do you like movies with gladiators?”
For gladiator movies, none can compare to Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 sweeping epic starring (and executive produced by) Kirk Douglas. The film assembled some of the most talented men working in Hollywood to transport audiences into two male-dominated social worlds of the first century B.C.: The Roman Senate, and a school where slaves are trained to be gladiators. Homosexuality was a common practice in ancient Rome, but the production code enforced by the Hollywood studios during the time of Spartacus’ production presented an interesting challenge for Kubrick and infamous screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. How might these artisans tell a story of the political and physical power of men, stay true to the times they sought to capture, and evade the wrath of the censors? Kubrick and Trumbo met this challenge admirably and artfully, creating one of the most homoerotic studio pictures of all time.
Since its release in 1980, THE SHINING has run the gamut of hypothesis and theories that encapsulates Stanley Kubrick’s film as an intricate, psychological entry into the horror genre; one that is too often ridiculed for lacking intellectual depth or foresight. While most know how far Kubrick veered from the original novel, which Stephen King has openly scrutinized, going as far to produce a mini-series in 1997, what THE SHINING does effectively is utilize time and space in a deliberate effort to entrench us in a descent into madness. Even as the opening credits scroll backwards across the screen, an effect that tells us that the beginning is already the end, we are only allowed access to so much, gliding over our ascending vehicle yet never gaining access to who or what force propels it towards impending doom. Only when it is too late, and we are in the Overlook Hotel, our murderously bloodied winter lodging, are we given entry to the past; one that is covered up with lies and fear induced rationality.
In the annals of film history, few pictures command as extensive a body of interpretation as Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, THE SHINING. There is essentially nothing new one can say about it. Critics, Kubrick aficionados and conspiracy theorists alike have pored over the film in vain attempts to decode the enigmatic scenes, and while many compelling analyses exist, THE SHINING, much like the Overlook Hotel eternally absorbs the souls of its numerous guests, defies expectation by entertaining the diverse pluralism of ideas surrounding the film’s overarching significance.
The Shining – 1980 – dir. Stanley Kubrick
Stanly Kubrick, master visionary and meticulous cinematic craftsman, was so diligent in his details that his career only reached a culmination of thirteen films. Despite this fact, when watching a Kubrick film, you can see where his detailed precision, mastered camerawork and lucid editing take hold. Kubrick was one of the rarest breeds of filmmakers; his craftsmanship places him among the select group of auteur that holds a heavy grasp in defining motion picture history. It’s best to distinguish the film version of The Shining as a separate entity from Stephen King’s novel, as Kubrick takes liberties in order to mold the story around his own particular vision. What is left is a fantastic perspective into the horrors of isolation, frustration and ultimately, madness.