“Barry Lyndon” and Complete Artistic Transportation

The eighth entry in my series, Stanley Kubrick – A Year of Masterpieces.


Barry Lyndon is one of Stanley Kubrick’s most overlooked films. Cinephiles and casual fans alike are quick to list a dozen other Kubrick films as a favorite before even considering this film – if they even care for it at all. But, if one is to judge by the magnitude of the artistry, Barry Lyndon may be Kubrick’s greatest triumph. His intention with the film is crystal clear: to approach the “period piece” with the respect that it deserves, both in terms of accurate storytelling and through aesthetically appropriate cinematographic techniques. The result is a resounding expression of the power of cinema, as Kubrick positively transports us into the world of Mr. Redmond Barry.

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The Horrorshow Sinny “A Clockwork Orange”: Stanley Kubrick’s Subversive Defense of Free Will

In A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick means to make you uncomfortable.  The magic of the film is that it can show terrible things and then making us care about the mind of the man responsible for them.  Kubrick accomplishes this titanic task through three main techniques, each of which will be detailed in this piece:  heightened stylization, a uniquely likeable non-hero in Alex, and the unification of every aspect of the film into a potent thematic statement:  Free Will is sacrosanct.  These aspects make A Clockwork Orange an undeniable classic film, as important today for what it reveals about humanity as it was in 1971.

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Cinematic Components Fuel Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”

Introduction

It is a sin to write this.  Mr. Stanley Kubrick told me so:

2001 is a nonverbal experience; out of two hours and 19 minutes of film, there are only a little less than 40 minutes of dialog. I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content.1

-Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly bypasses verbalized pigeonholing, but that doesn’t mean the film defies explanation and discussion.  The present piece will analyze how Kubrick succeeds at the rather lofty goal of creating this  “visual experience” by looking at three key cinematic components that Kubrick uses to tell this story.  First, we’ll look at aural components like dialogue, music, and soundtrack.  Then, we’ll delve into the visual components like special effects and cinematography.  Finally, we’ll deal with thematic components, focusing on Kubrick’s use of archetypes.  Together, these components produce a rare beauty: a pure expression of cinema and the power that it has to inspire the imagination.

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“Dr. Strangelove” and the Paradox of Absurd Logic

A Year of Masterpieces: The Filmography of Stanley Kubrick

Introduction

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a satirical masterpiece.  In this piece, we will discuss the germination of the great film and then detail how the director combines a serious camera (Part I), genuine but exaggerated characters (Part II), and a farcical tone (Part III) into one of the greatest condemnations of the military state of all time.  Kubrick’s aim is simple:  to subvert the grim seriousness of the Cold War by showcasing the absurdities that arise from taking concepts like “mutually assured destruction” and “nuclear deterrence” to their logical conclusions.

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State of the Blog: May 2017

April showers bring May flowers, Mayflowers bring pilgrims, and May itself brings the start of Summer Blockbuster Season, that baffling mixture of excitement and predictable, four-quadrant committeethink.  As we touch base at the beginning of this season, I’ll discuss the films that have me stoked for this month (both big and small), talk about a few pieces I have in the works, and generally lay out the plans of Plot and Theme.  Not too complicated, but it should at least be fun.

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Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” – A Most Ambitious Fantasy

The fourth entry in Plot and Theme’s year-long look at the filmography of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out all entries here.


Introduction

In 1962, Stanley Kubrick adapted the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita for his sixth feature film.  Though published only 7 years earlier, Nabokov’s novel was already reaching the status of a classic work due to its controversial subject matter, witty wordplay, and themes of erotic fantasy, hebephilia, and sexual predation.  Working with Nabokov on the screenplay, Kubrick’s adaptation faithfully recreates the key aspects of the novel, capturing the sexuality, irony, and tragedy of a man who lusts after a prepubescent girl.

Still shackled by the Hayes Code, Lolita was thought to be unfilmable, and the director himself later expressed that had he known how severe the censors were going to be, he probably wouldn’t have bothered to adapt Lolita.  Fortunately, he did.

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“Spartacus” – the Three-Headed Triumph of Douglas, Trumbo, and Kubrick

The third essay in a year-long analysis of the films of Stanley Kubrick.  Check out the schedule and explanation here, where you can also find links to all the completed pieces.

Introduction

Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas and written by Dalton Trumbo, may be the best Swords-and-Sandals story ever put to film.  The film is a powerhouse but is easily the least “Kubrickian” film in all of the great director’s filmography.  This is mostly due to Kubrick sharing control with Douglas, who produced the film and had final cut, and the writer Dalton Trumbo.  In this piece, I’ll detail the circumstances surrounding this intense collaboration, starting with the political climate and background of the film.  I’ll continue on with the story and characters developed by Trumbo and Douglas and finish with Kubrick’s stylistic contributions to the film.  Though all three creators approached the film with their own intentions and goals, they were still able to produce an irrefutable classic.

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Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory”, the Abuse of Power, and the Inevitable Absurdity of War

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

-Thomas Grey, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,1751

Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory is often celebrated as the director’s first true masterwork.  Adapting a novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb, Kubrick’s film contemplates power struggles, justice, and the wastefulness of war.  The crux of the story involves three French soldiers who are court-martialed for cowardice after retreating from an impossible attack, but Kubrick’s story is not a mere anti-war film.  The trite idea that “war is bad” is taken as a given, and augmented by multiple impressive cinematic and storytelling techniques into an even more powerful statement:  there is an utter absurdity to war, one that incentivizes an habitual abuse of power and a routine miscarriage of justice.

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Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” Disorients the Audience to Convey an Essential Truth: Dishonesty Doesn’t Sell

Stanley Kubrick described his heist film The Killing as his, “first mature work”, and the film boasts many of the director’s eventual hallmarks.  Techniques that appear in Kubrick’s later masterpieces can be seen in a nascent form throughout the film, as if Kubrick is exploring the possibilities of his own voice and style.  Specifically, The Killing purposely confuses the viewer through keen story structure choices and twists on the heist genre.  The result is a disorientation that forwards a theme that trickery, thievery, and crime – even those which are meticulously planned, are doomed to failure.

Continue reading “Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” Disorients the Audience to Convey an Essential Truth: Dishonesty Doesn’t Sell”

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