Behind The Scenes Interesting

The (Extended) Making of The Shining

Extended Staircases to Nowhere

The full version of The Elstree Project‘s documentary about The Shining is now available online.

Stanley Kubrick’s famous horror was originally documented in a 17 minute short film, as part of the project designed to document the famous studios of Elstree and Borehamwood.

But now they have released a much longer version lasting 55 minutes with contributions from:

  • Brian Cook – 1st AD
  • Jan Harlan – Producer
  • Christiane Kubrick – Wife of Stanley Kubrick
  • Mick Mason – Camera Technician
  • Ray Merrin – Post-Production Sound
  • Doug Milsome – 1st AC and Second Unit Camera
  • Kelvin Pike – Camera Operator
  • Ron Punter – Scenic Artist
  • June Randall – Continuity
  • Julian Senior – Warner Bros. Publicity

They discuss many aspects of the film including the 2nd Unit footage shot in America, the different stages at Elstree, the use of Steadicam, the fire on set, and what Kubrick was like to work with.

> The Elstree Project
> Buy The Stanley Kubrick Boxset from Amazon UK
> Previous Stanley Kubrick Posts


Rare Dutch Documentary on Stanley Kubrick

Part of a Dutch documentary about Stanley Kubrick has surfaced last December on YouTube and offers tantalising glimpses into his working methods.

I’m guessing it would have been made and broadcast on Dutch TV as a tribute in the months after the director’s death in March 1999.

You can watch the 13 minute piece here:

Among the things it features are:

  • Rare footage of Kubrick talking to the press at the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) where he reveals production actually began in 1965
  • George Sluizer, director of The Vanishing (1988), with wise words about the genuine emotion in Kubrick’s films
  • Kubrick spent several hours on the phone to Sluizer trying to persuade him to edit digitally – this was the pre-Avid days of the late 1980s when he was using Montage to edit Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  • How Belgian director Harry Kümel, who made Daughters of Darkness (1971), met Kubrick and found him to be charming and open about the filmmaking process
  • Actress Johanna ter Steege describes Kubrick’s pre-production work on his abandoned adaptation of Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies
  • Malcolm McDowell at the Venice Film Festival in 1997 on how Kubrick encouraged Steven Berkoff to spit all over him on A Clockwork Orange (1971)

If you watch the documentaries Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) on the most recent DVD and Blu-ray box sets of Kubrick’s work and Jon Ronson’s Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (2008), you’ll see a pattern emerge of great passion, technical obsession, restless curiosity and affable charm.

I love the fact that if you went into the St. Albans branch of Ryman‘s stationary store sometime in the 1990s you could bump in to one of the greatest directors in cinema history buying some ink and pens.

> Buy The Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray collection at Amazon UK
> More on Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia


Autism and the Movies

Do the recent spate of movies dealing with autism and Asberger’s syndrome present a shift in a wider understanding of the condition?

Wikipedia define it:

Asperger syndrome, also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.

NHS Direct say:

Autism and Asperger syndrome are both part of a range of related developmental disorders known as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). They begin in childhood and persist through adulthood.

ASD can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are grouped into three broad categories, described below.

  • Problems and difficulties with social interaction, such as a lack of understanding and awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings.
  • Impaired language and communication skills, such as delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly.
  • Unusual patterns of thought and physical behaviour. This includes making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting. The child develops set routines of behaviour, which can upset the child if the routines are broken.

Last Friday, actor Brian Cox was on The Review Show on BBC2 as a panellist to preview the films up for consideration this year.

He vigorously defended Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which features a central character with the condition.

As I wrote last week, Stephen Daldry’s film was the subject of an unusual amount of venom from some critics.

It is fair enough to criticise the film (and I would echo some of those criticisms) but was there something revealing in the more negative reviews?

Many seemed to focus on the central character’s condition as “annoying”, which could have been reflective of a lack of understanding and tolerance regarding the condition of autism and Asperger’s.

One person who can’t be accused of ignorance is David Mamet, who wrote an interesting chapter about it in his 2007 book, Bambi vs Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business.

He makes the claim that it may have played a key role in the shaping of Hollywood:

I think it not impossible that Asberger’s syndrome helped make the movie business.

The symptoms of the developmental disorder include early precocity, a great ability to maintain masses of information, a lack of ability to mix with groups in age-appropriate ways, ignorance of or indifference to social norms, high intelligence, and difficulty with transitions, married to a preternatural ability to concentrate on the minutia of the task at hand.

This sounds to me like a job description for a movie director.

He goes on to say:

Let me also note that Asberger’s syndrome has it’s highest prevalence among Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants. For those who have not been paying attention, this group constitutes, and has constituted since its earliest days, the bulk of America’s movie directors and studio heads.

Referencing Neal Gabler’s book An Empire of Their Own, he points out the fact that key early Jewish pioneers of Hollywood – Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Joseph Schenck, William Fox and Carl Laemmle – all came from an area of Europe within a 200 mile radius of Warsaw.

Mamet goes on to note that many prominent Jewish directors share this Eastern European lineage, from Joseph Von Sternberg right through to Steven Spielberg.

In 1999, just a few months after Kubrick’s death, Spielberg gave a lengthy and fascinating interview about his friend, in which he talked about his mastery of technique:

“Nobody could shoot a movie better than Stanley Kubrick in history”

In their book Asperger Syndrome: A Gift or a Curse?, Viktoria Lyons and Dr. Michael Fitzgerald have a whole chapter exploring the notion as to whether or not Kubrick had Asberger’s.

They note his obsessive interest in photography, all aspects of the filmmaking process and exhaustive research.

(It is also worth noting that Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell and Patricia Highsmith also appear in the book as case studies)

In a comment on a blog about Kubrick’s Napolean project, for which he conducted industrial amounts of research but never actually made, someone says the key may lie in his films:

“The best evidence for Kubrick being an Asperger is not perfectionism,it is the recurring themes of his films.
Aspies see themselves, or think the world sees them as robots, computers, or aliens. In A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the main character is a robot who thinks he is human. HAL, in 2001 is also a piece of artificial intelligence, a human-like computer. The definition of “A Clockwork Orange” in the first page of the book “a clockwork orange-meaning that he has the appearance of an organism but is in fact only a clockwork toy”

His preference for enormous numbers of repeated takes might also indicate something: a simple line by Scatman Crothers in The Shining (1980) was reputedly shot 148 times, a record for the most takes of a single scene.

But that attention to detail and exhaustive research pays off in the final films, even if they took a number of years to be fully recognised for what they are.

Asberger’s was the subject of Adam (2009), a drama about a young man (Hugh Dancy) and his relationship with his new neighbour (Rose Byrne), which won the Alfred P. Sloan prize at the Sundance festival – an award that acknowledges films that focus on science and technology.

In the film Dancy’s condition and interest in science, specifically the cosmos, is presented with tact and sensitivity.

All of which is a welcome contrast to the ‘mad scientist’ archetype that’s been so pervasive in pop culture since the “It’s alive!” scene from Frankenstein (1931):

Given that scientists in are usually the most sane and rational people whose discoveries and inventions have helped save countless lives, it begs the question as to why this notion persists.

The irony is even richer if we accept Mamet’s theory about Hollywood’s founders – a system created by people who may have had Asberger’s, actually perpetuates the stigma surrounding it.

Films like Rain Main (1988) seem to be the exception that proves the rule and even that film’s legacy is still debated.

But could that be about to change?

David Fincher – like Kubrick, a meticulous director of rare talent – has recently been attracted to projects with two lead characters who appear to show traces of Asberger’s and autism.

Animal welfare expert and autism advocate Temple Grandin recently talked to George Stroumboulopoulos about the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010):

(For anyone doubting the accuracy of the book or film check out this interview with Aaron Sorkin, this one with producer Scott Rudin, this intriguing Quora thread and this /Film article here).

Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is another computer hacker with limited social skills, but her character is arguably a key reason why the book caught on in the way that it did.

Not only does it reverse the gender stereotype seen so often in Hollywood – e.g. man saves ‘the damsel in distress’ – but it possibly reflects a generation of women not only comfortable with computers, but capable of using them as a tool to fight their various battles.

In the same way that Zuckerberg uses his coding skills to outwit the entitled Winklevoss twins, Salander utilises her hacking skills to get revenge on various sleazy and sexist men.

Let’s not forget that the original title of Steig Larrson’s novel was “Men Who Hate Women” and that the female protagonist was partly inspired by the author witnessing the gang rape of a girl, which led to his lifelong hatred of violent abuse against women.

Her position as an outsider is thus cemented by her endurance of abuse as well as her distant personality – the fact that her character has resonated so strongly in pop culture, surely suggests something about the sexism and intolerance that is still prevalent in the modern world.

On the official site for the original Scandinavian production, there is even a whole section devoted to whether or not the character has Asberger’s, but it isn’t presented necessarily as a flaw – it is just who she is and in some ways works to her advantage.

After all, she is described by her employer (Goran Visnic) in Fincher’s film as “one of the best investigators” he has but “different”.

She is the latest in a long line of obsessive loners in Fincher films: there is the disillusioned, library-dwelling cop in Seven (1995), the coldly distant financier in The Game (1997), the split-personality at the heart of Fight Club (1999), the determined mother in Panic Room (2002), the outsider-cartoonist in Zodiac (2007) or the old-man-getting-younger in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).

All feature some special gift, which can often be both a blessing and a curse.

If this sounds like a superhero movie, you might be interested to know that Fincher was offered the first Spider-Man movie but this extract from a Q&A session at the BFI Southbank in Febraury 2009 reveals why that never happened:

Q4: You’ve made films where improbable things look realistic. Did you ever consider making a superhero movie or fantasy, where things are bit more difficult to make believable?

Fincher: I was asked if I might be interested in the first Spider-Man, and I went in and told them what I might be interested in doing, and they hated it. No, I’m not interested in doing “A Superhero”. The thing I liked about Spider-Man was I liked the idea of a teenager, the notion of this moment in time when you’re so vulnerable yet completely invulnerable. But I wasn’t interested in the genesis, I just couldn’t shoot somebody being bitten by a radioactive spider – just couldn’t sleep knowing I’d done that. [audience laughs]

But if you think about it, The Social Network is a kind of superhero movie where geeky outsiders (like Peter Parker or the X-Men) use their special talents to create something bigger than themselves – its just in this case its a website that connects millions of people rather than a symbolic crimefighter.

If you want to take that analogy further, Michael Chabon’s 2000 novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, depicts Jewish outsiders working during the ‘Golden Age‘ of comics, which is loosely inspired by the lives of real people including Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Like Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin falling out over Facebook, Spiderman creators Lee and Steve Ditko had some disagreement over the character who would become famous – essentially, Lee did the writing whilst Ditko did the drawing.

People I discussed The Social Network with seemed divided about the central character: older viewers perceived him as a jerk who betrayed his friends, whilst younger one saw him as a hero for sticking it to the privileged Harvard elite and building a website that has become a huge part of their lives.

In fact, the film works as a brilliant metaphor for Hollywood itself – brilliant Jewish upstarts defy the East coast establishment (represented by the Winklevoss twins) to find their nirvana on the West Coast (Silicon Valley).

Although many see the final scene as a Rosebud-style comeuppance for Zuckerberg, they seem to forget the small matter of him not only becoming a billionaire, but having an unusual amount of control of the company he founded.

The geek really does inherit the earth.

The photo the Zuckerberg character he keeps refreshing is that of a former girlfriend played by Rooney Mara, the very same actress who plays Lisbeth Salander, reinforcing the connection between the films.

Mara was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and was on the red carpet last Sunday.

It was the very same carpet where Sacha Baron Cohen poured ‘the ashes of Kim Jong Il’ over Ryan Seacrest (a stunt which spread like wildfire on Twitter and already has 7.2 million views on YouTube):

What does this have to do with Asberger’s or autism?

Sacha’s brother is Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and director of the University’s Autism Research Centre.

Wikipedia have more details:

He is best known for his work on autism, including his early theory that autism involves degrees of “mind-blindness” (or delays in the development of theory of mind); and his later theory that autism is an extreme form of the “male brain”, which involved a re-conceptualisation of typical psychological sex differences in terms of empathizing–systemizing theory.

Here he is giving a lecture in Stockholm:

In a recent interview with the broswer he was asked about books and films he’d recommend.

Among his choices were The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time by Mark Haddon, the 2003 bestseller which featured a narrator with Asberger’s, and Werner Herzog’s film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974).

The central character is famous in Germany for being – as the title might suggest – one of those real-life enigmas who has inspired endless debate.

He appeared in a Nuremberg village in 1828 with no language, he was taken in by the local doctor who tried to help assimilate him to normal society.

Part of the fascination with central character and Herzog’s film are the underlying questions it throws up, but Baron-Cohen thinks it is significant for other reasons:

Kaspar Hauser might be the first well-documented case of autism in literature, or even in history.

Some people wonder whether autism is just a modern phenomenon, but here we have a very early account. The film (and the original book) raises very similar issues to those raised in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and shares a main character who is somehow detached from humanity.

Like The Curious Incident, Kaspar Hauser also suffered neglect and abuse (of a different kind – he was reportedly chained up and isolated for the first 17 years of his life), so this by no means represents autism.

Indeed, it could be more similar to the case of Genie, a so-called feral child who was also reared in isolation and never properly developed language or social skills.

It taps into the same fascination that anthropologists have with other cultures, but in this case it is a fascination with someone who is not part of any culture.

There’s a sort of mirroring that goes on, because the character is so detached he is observing other people. Some people with Asperger syndrome describe themselves as feeling as though they came from another planet: they watch human interaction and they don’t quite understand it. They don’t feel that they can participate in it.

Baron-Cohen has hit on something here about autism and the power of cinema.

It is a medium which presents us with an immersive ‘second reality’ on screen and that rare chance to escape from our sense of self (as long as the film isn’t really bad).

‘Escapism’ is often used as a derogatory term for disposable entertainment, but surely any film that achieves a sense of escape from ourselves is successful on some level.

For people suffering from a sense that they can’t participate in ‘normal society’ (which by they way, isn’t so normal these days), it may come as a welcome relief.

The spectrum of autism – of which Asberger’s is a part – is something that the mainstream media and general public finds hard to grapple with.

Perhaps because the stereotypes perpetuated and recycled through the media, only increase the social taboo, prevent discussion and increase the sense of isolation.

But it is heartening to know that one of the UK’s leading experts finds something of real value in a Herzog movie.

The German auteur has carved out a unique career in both features and documentaries, and Kaspar Hauser was his international breakthrough – it is ironic that a film about isolation should connect internationally.

Perhaps the recent spate of films dealing with autism can have a similar connection, not just with people who have the condition but with the wider public too.

Asberger’s and autism is much more than the ‘annoying kid’ in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or Dustin Hoffman’s autistic savant in Rain Main (1988).

It may be embedded in the very DNA of Hollywood and some cinemas greatest filmmakers.

>; More on Asberger’s Syndrome at Wikipedia
>; Extremely Loud and Autism
>; Review of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
>; Wrong Planet on ‘Asberger’s Movies’


Is the Internet becoming HAL 9000?

What does the resignation of an England football manager have to do with a science fiction film made in 1968?

The connection lies in lip reading, John Terry and Stanley Kubrick.

Let me clarify those three things before we see how they intersect.

  • Lip reading is a technique of understanding speech through the visual movements of the lips, face and tongue with information.
  • John Terry is the Chelsea footballer who was caught up in a racism row, which ultimately triggered the resignation of England manager Fabio Capello.
  • Stanley Kubrick is the director of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which two astronauts are caught lip reading by the ship’s computer HAL 9000.

But how precisely do the worlds of football and cinema collide?

Well, let’s take the John Terry case first.

The England national team manager Fabio Capello resigned yesterday, which was front page news in the UK.

Over the last few months a storm had been brewing over an alleged racist incident involving Terry.

It finally exploded when the Italian manager resigned after he felt that his bosses at the FA had mismanaged the whole affair.

The controversies section on his Wikipedia entry are a reflection of how Terry’s personal life has affected his professional activities.

This was the case on October 23rd, when during a game with West London rivals Queens Park Rangers he was involved in an altercation with an opposing player Anton Ferdinand.

The incident was serious enough for him to be questioned by police and later charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.

One of the factors that may yet influence the case was footage that quickly spread online as people posted links to YouTube videos via Facebook, Twitter and forums.

Here is just one example, captured by Jonny Gould on his iPhone whilst watching the game on television.

He later posted it to YouTube where – as I write this – it currently has 117,119 views:

It shows how a site built for sharing videos has also become something of a social hangout as well as the largest media library ever built.

People can like or dislike and exchange comments on videos that can be seen instantly around the globe.

This is how one gamer and football fan responded, inviting viewer comments to his YouTube channel:

In previous years, when something like this happened organisations or rich individuals could place an injunction, effectively silencing newspapers until everything was public knowledge.

We now live in a digital world where controversial claims can be dissected at dizzying speed before they are even investigated, let alone brought before a court.

Footballers like Ryan Giggs can’t stop all the speculation being posted about them on Twitter, whilst Joey Barton (@joey7barton) and Wayne Rooney (@waynerooney) can stamp it out by using their own accounts as their own 140 character press office.

What is a pest for some is useful for another.

In the case of John Terry, how is all the online speculation going to affect his court case?

His defence lawyers might argue that the current videos on the web unfairly prejudice his case, but the prosecution could equally argue they be used as Exhibit A in evidence.

It is a matter for the judge to decide whether or not video from a site currently outside of UK law is admissible in this particular case.

But how does Stanley Kubrick fit it to all this?

His film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) managed to have a profound influence on both cinema (e.g. Star Wars, Alien and The Terminator series), technology (e.g. the iPad and Siri) and even US game shows.

His thoroughness in releasing his films also helped shape the modern box office report.

Just four months after Kubrick’s death in March 1999, Steven Spielberg spoke of how his friend told him about the profound importance the Internet would have:

“Stanley predicted that the Internet was going to be the next generation of filmmaking and filmmakers …and when I woke up on Sunday morning, I do what I do every morning. I clicked on AOL to get my headlines …and it said ‘Kubrick dead at 70’.

It was only days later that the irony, that that’s how I would discover that Stanley had moved on, was going to come from the technology that Stanley had sort of – both with giddiness, excitement and also with profound caution – told me was going to be the next generation that might change the form of cinema…”

Kubrick was correct about the profound effects of the Internet, not just on cinema (e.g. piracy, distribution and marketing) but about how it has become this vast abyss into which we push and pull information, some highly personal, on a daily basis.

When I saw Jonny’s video of John Terry (which passed from Sky Sports to his iPhone and then on to YouTube) my first thought was of this scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey where the spaceship’s computer HAL 9000 lip reads the astronauts who are discussing him in (what they think) is a private space:

The parallels with the Terry case are striking: he could yet be convicted by a lip reading video in the same way that Kubrick’s two astronauts were rumbled by a supercomputer.

The Internet has, in a sense, become HAL 9000.

If you haven’t seen the film I won’t spoil the ending, but the solution to a problematic super computer is remarkably similar to what governments and politicians from around the world have proposed in the light of leaked US cables, uprisings, revolutions, riots and copyright infringement.

In a broader sense the automated distribution of vast amounts of personal data via sites like Facebook (which currently has 845 million users), may yet have profound effects on our lives and the world we live in, whether we use them or not.

As different forms of social media spread and continue to reshape our lives maybe Kubrick’s sci-fi film will become even more relevant?

> More on John Terry, The Internet and Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia
> BBC News report on the Terry case and the Capello resignation


Steven Spielberg on Stanley Kubrick

In 1999 Steven Spielberg sat down for a lengthy and fascinating interview about Stanley Kubrick.

Conducted by Paul Joyce, parts of it were used in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures and clips surfaced on the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray re-issues from Warner Bros.

An Italian Kubrick site recently posted the unedited 25 minute version that aired on British TV around the release of Eyes Wide Shut at UK cinemas (which if I remember correctly was September 1999).

It is a fascinating discussion which covers:

  • Spielberg’s first experience at a Kubrick movie
  • How the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey was a mind-altering experience
  • The violence in A Clockwork Orange
  • How they first met on the set of The Shining
  • Kubrick’s late night phone calls to other directors
  • How he found out about Kubrick’s death on the Internet

> More on Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg at Wikipedia
> The Stanley Kubrick Collection (available on Blu-ray here)

Directors Interesting

A Stanley Kubrick Odyssey

This twelve minute montage of Stanley Kubrick movies is a hypnotic tribute to the director.

Incorporating clips from from The Killing (1956) through to Eyes Wide Shut (1999), it highlights various motifs using editing and split-screen effects.

Titled ‘A Stanley Kubrick Odyssey’ it was cut together by Richard Vezina and the music featured is Summoning of the Muse by Dead Can Dance and Sanvean by Lisa Gerrard.

People who often accuse Kubrick’s films of lacking emotion should definitely watch this.

> Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia and MUBi
> Dead Can Dance


Stanley Kubrick and The Tree of Life

Is a Stanley Kubrick quote from 1968 the best description of The Tree of Life?

There are more than a few interesting parallels between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terrence Malick’s latest film.

In their different ways, both ask questions about the origins of human existence, contain astounding visuals courtesy of Douglas Trumbull, use a lot of classical music and have attracted rave reviews.

Both have also been incorrectly labelled as difficult, divisive films – 2001 was a major critical and financial success but because four prominent New York critics disliked it, was labelled as getting a ‘mixed’ response.

Malick’s latest film currently has outstanding critical scores on review aggregation sites like Metacritic (85), Rotten Tomatoes (85) and a very respectable IMDb rating of 7.9, despite some critics recycling the words ‘pretentious’ and ‘perfume ad’.

But after seeing Malick’s film I was immediately reminded of something Stanley Kubrick once said in a Playboy interview around the release of his sci-fi epic:

Playboy: If life is so purposeless, do you feel its worth living?

Kubrick: Yes, for those who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces a man to create his own meaning.

Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre (a keen enjoyment of living), their idealism – and their assumption of immortality.

As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s élan (enthusiastic and assured vigour and liveliness).

Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining.

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfilment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Stanley Kubrick in interview for Playboy, Stanley Kubrick Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2001, p.73

Is this not a near-perfect summary of The Tree of Life?

> My review of The Tree of Life
> Kubrick interview at Google Books
> The Tree of Life and 2001: A Space Odyssey at the IMDb


Letters to Projectionists

Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Terrence Malick and Michael Bay form an unlikely quartet of directors who have written letters to cinema projectionists.

This year has seen some interesting correspondence surface between filmmakers and projectionists about showing their film correctly.

Recently Glenn Kenny published a letter given to him by former Time critic Jay Cocks found a letter Stanley Kubrick wrote in December 1975 about the correct way to screen Barry Lyndon:

That also triggered a debate about the aspect ratio of the recent Blu-ray release from Warner Bros.

Recently, Ray Pride published a 2001 memo David Lynch wrote to cinema ‘projection departments’ in order to remind them of the aspect ratio, sound (‘3db hotter than normal’) and slight tweaks to the ‘headroom’ for screenings of Mulholland Drive.

(By the way, Lynch has also announced plans to open a themed nightclub in Paris, inspired by the film).

Last month the San Diego Reader reported that Terrence Malick penned a ‘fraternal salute’ to projectionists showing his latest film The Tree of Life in which he asked them to:

  1. Project the film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
  2. The correct fader setting on Dolby and DTS systems is 7. Malick asks that faders be kept at 7.5 or even 7.7, system permitting.
  3. The film has no opening credits, and the booth operator is asked to make sure the “lights down cue is well before the opening frame of reel 1.”
  4. With all the recent talk of “darkier, lousier” images, operators are asked that lamps are at “proper standard (5400 Kelvin)” and that the “foot Lambert level is at Standard 14.”

At the other end of the directing spectrum, the Facebook page of American Cinematographer has posted a letter from Michael Bay in which he outlines to projectionists how to screen the ‘Platinum 6’ version of Transformers: Dark of the Moon for the ‘ultimate 3D experience’.

Interestingly Paramount, who are releasing the film, are the only major studio not to embrace the controversial pay-per-view plans which caused such a stink with theater owners back at Cinema Con in April.

After some high profile disappointments (3D versions of Pirates of the Carribbean 4 and Green Lantern grossed less than expected) this tentpole release will be keenly watched by Hollywood.

One recent complaint has been that US cinemas are not changing the 3D lenses for 2D screenings, which dims the brightness levels on the latter.

The letters are also timely as projection in multiplexes is often poor, with multiplex chains skimping on bulbs and often showing a movie with the incorrect aspect ratio.

With the advent of digital projection systems these problems were supposed to be addressed, but it seems that some cinemas are still cutting corners and shortchanging audiences and filmmakers.

This video demonstrates how modern cinema projectors work:

Back in 1998, Paul Thomas Anderson spoke to Mike Figgis about the old saying that the ‘projectionist has final cut’ and how he witnessed a bad Fuji print of Boogie Nights at an LA cinema (relevant part starts at 6.24):

To some this may seem like technical trivia but if cinema is to survive in an era of digital downloads and shortening windows, then projection standards must remain high.

> More on Movie Projectors at Wikipedia
> Wired on how modern 3D projectors work
> Guardian article on the life and work of a cinema projectionist
> How Stuff Works on movie projectors

Thoughts Trailers

Reactions to The Shining Since 1980

These different trailers for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) give an interesting glimpse of how different eras perceive a film.

After the commercial disappointment of Barry Lyndon (1975), Kubrick wanted to do something with a bit more box office potential.

An adaptation of a Stephen King novel with a big star (Jack Nicholson) seemed to be a way of combining his interests as a director with the opportunity for a hit movie.

As it turned out the end result was met with a lukewarm critical reaction and modest box office before gradually establishing itself as a classic over time.

We can see part of this journey in how The Shining has been depicted in various trailers down the years.

Before the original US release in May 1980 there was this creepy teaser, which used the now famous image of blood coming out of an elevator.

The mood and mysterious tone kept users guessing, whilst cleverly using one of the signature shots.

On its release in the UK a few months later, Warner Bros were probably disappointed at the patchy reception in the US.

This recently unearthed UK TV spot reveals a lot more, but the inclusion of a still featuring Jack Nicholson’s grin (different from those used in other marketing materials) makes me wonder if the publicity department was having an off day when they approved this.

Kubrick then made a number of cuts to the film (around 25 minutes worth) before it opened in London and it seems initial audiences were baffled or even bored by what they saw.

The director was even nominated for a Golden Rasperry Award for Worst Director (!), which seems ridiculous now but perhaps speaks to its gradual appeal.

Part of that was down to screenings of the film on television and video during the 1980s, as it gathered a new audience who could appreciate its unusual style and considered approach.

This trailer for the ABC TV premiere in 1983 calls the film a ‘ultimate exercise in terror’ and cuts together some of the famous images in the film, including one scene involving skeletons dressed up at a party that was excised from the UK cut.

By now the film had ended its theatrical run, but a new audience was beginning to experience it just as the home video boom was taking off.

But why did it succeed with home audiences just three years after cinemagoers had partly rejected it?

Part of it may be down to Kubrick’s style, which doesn’t always make concessions to first time viewers and that The Shining has a special quality when you see it at home.

After all, it explores the quiet terror of being alone in a building and the ghosts of the people that may (or may not) have lived there before.

Perhaps the solitary nature of viewing it in the home suited the film better than the communal environment of the cinema.

Another technical detail worth pointing out is that it was effectively shot in the aspect ratio of 1.37, which means that although it was conceived and framed for a 1:85 theatrical release, the film was visually well suited to the squarer screens of TV and didn’t have to be pan and scanned.

After Kubrick’s death in 1999, British critic Jonathan Romney wrote an appreciation of The Shining for Sight and Sound, which was an excellent response to the initial criticisms:

“At first sight this is an extremely simple, even static film. [..] Kubrick had put so much effort into his film, building vast sets at Elstree, mak­ing a 17-week shoot stretch to 46, and what was the result? A silly scare story – something that, it was remarked at the time, Roger Corman could have turned around in a fortnight. But look beyond the simplicity and the Overlook reveals itself as a palace of paradox…. Even if the drama appears straightforward, there’s the matter of the unearthly stage it’s enacted on – the hotel itself, with its extraordinary atmospherics. Hotel manager Ullman (Barry Nelson) welcomes Jack by telling him how a former caretaker, Charles Grady, went crazy and chopped up his family: the problem was cabin fever, the result of confinement in isola­tion. Not only do the Torrances suffer cabin fever but Kubrick wants us to as well. The Shining makes us inhabit every comer of the painstakingly con­structed hotel sets, and the way the film guides us along corridors, around corners, up staircases – thanks to Garrett Brown’s revolutionary new gizmo the Steadicam – makes us feel we know every inch of the place, even (especially) the sound of its silences.”

It is true that there is an unsettling power to the film which takes the viewer right inside the mysteries of a particular place, rather than focus on the struggle between an innocent protagonist and an evil monster.

After his death people began to focus less on Kubrick’s reputation as a ‘reclusive genius’ and focus more on the glory of his work, which continues to inspire a generation of filmmakers fascinated by his attention to detail and impeccable craft.

With the proliferation of cheap digital editing tools and the web, frequent homages to Kubrick appear online, but perhaps the most memorable was this 2005 reworking of the film’s trailer as a romantic comedy:

The New York Times later reported on how it came about:

Robert Ryang, 25, a film editor’s assistant in Manhattan, graduated from Columbia three years ago with a double major in film studies and psychology. This week, he got an eye-opening lesson in both. Since 2002, Mr. Ryang has worked for one of the owners of P.S. 260, a commercial postproduction house, cutting commercials for the likes of Citizens Bank, Cingular and the TriBeCa Film Festival. A few weeks back, he said, he entered a contest for editors’ assistants sponsored by the New York chapter of the Association of Independent Creative Editors. The challenge? Take any movie and cut a new trailer for it – but in an entirely different genre. Only the sound and dialogue could be modified, not the visuals, he said. Mr. Ryang won the contest, and about 10 days ago, he said, he sent three friends a link to a “secret site” on his company’s Web site where they could watch his entry. One of them, Mr. Ryang said, posted it on his little-watched blog. And that was that. Until this week, when he was hit by a tsunami of Internet interest. On Wednesday, Mr. Ryang said, his secret site got 12,000 hits. By Thursday the numbers were even higher, his film was being downloaded and linked to on countless other sites, it had cracked the top 10 most popular spoofs on, and a vice president at a major Hollywood studio had called up his office, scouting for new talent.

The video has since been seen over 3 million times on YouTube.

By 2008 Kubrick’s status as a legend was complete and when UK channel More 4 screened a season of his films that summer, this trail was a wonderful homage to the making of The Shining:

Over the course of nearly thirty years, the reputation of Kubrick’s horror has grown. But what kind of trailer would Warner Bros cut for the film today?

Another edit on YouTube (by a user named Chigawa) gives us some idea:

The fact that The Shining still resonates, after the chilly reception in 1980, through numerous showings on TV and home video, is a testament its enduring power.

> The Shining on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon UK
> IMDb entry for The Shining
> Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia and MUBi
> List of edits to The Shining made for its UK release


Matthew Modine’s Full Metal Jacket Diary iPad App

The Kickstarter project to turn Matthew Modine‘s Full Metal Jacket Diary in to an iPad app is tantalisingly close to its funding target.

During the making of Full Metal Jacket (1987), Modine was allowed to keep a detailed diary and director Stanley Kubrick even granted him rare permission to take photos on set.

The end result was a limited edition book of about 20,000 copies but producer Adam Rackoff and Modine came up with the idea of an iPad app based on the existing materials.

It will use rescanned images, along with audio of Modine reading his own diary entries and feature previously unseen content.

Last month Rackoff and Modine created a Kickstarter page to raise the $20,000 needed to complete this project.

As I write this they currently have 252 backers who have pledged $17,889 of the $20,000 goal.

Potential donors can pledge from $1 up to $10,000.

The deadline is Friday 3rd June.

Previous film releated Kickstarter projects have included a Robocop statue in Detroit, and the US indie film I Am I.

> Kickstarter page for Matthew Modine’s “Full Metal Jacket Diary” iPad App
> Full Metal Jacket at Wikipedia
> Stanley Kubrick at MUBi

Directors News

Stanley Kubrick Exhibition in Paris

Last week an exhibition devoted to Stanley Kubrick opened at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris.

It originated in 2004 at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and was designed by curator Hans-Peter Reichmann in close collaboration with Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan and The Stanley Kubrick Archive in London.

Stanley Kubrick – L'exposition by lacinematheque

Over the last few years it has travelled to various cities across the globe including Berlin, Zurich, Rome and Melbourne.

The archives contain a number of documents from Kubrick’s productions including scripts, letters, research materials, photos, costumes and props.

It also includes materials from films that Kubrick planned but never made, including the Napoleon project from the early 1970s and the Holocaust drama Aryan Papers which he planned in the early 1990s.

The layout of the exhibition is designed so each space is dedicated to a film and it takes up two floors of the Frank Gehry building, on the 5th and 7th floors, with large-scale models and interactive digital installations.

The exhibition runs until July 31st.

> Official site for the Kubrick Exhibition in Paris
> Virtual exhibition
> Find out more about Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia
> Kubrick Archive in London
> Get directions via Google Maps

Directors Interesting

Remembering Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick died on this day in 1999 and here are a series of people paying tribute to him.

Steven Spielberg remembers their relationship:

Tom Cruise recalls working on Eyes Wide Shut (1999):

Nicole Kidman also remembers working on what would be Kubrick’s final film:

Here is a BBC News report the night he died:

In 2001, his regular producer Jan Harlan, director Martin Scorsese and wife Christiane Kubrick joined Charlie Rose for an hour long chat around the release of the documentary Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Pictures.

There is also this montage (by YouTube user vezina2001) set to the music of Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard:

Then there is this montage of all his films:

> Stanley Kubrick at MUBi and Wikipedia
> BBC News on Kubrick’s death

DVD & Blu-ray News

The Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray Collection

Warner Home Video have announced details of 9-film Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray box-set and a new anniversary edition of A Clockwork Orange (1971) to come out in May.

The collection includes Blu-ray debuts for Lolita (1962) and Barry Lyndon (1975), premium packaging, new bonus features and a special hard cover book.

The 9-film DVD collection features the films and includes 40-page book.

A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition will be a 2-disc affair featuring a new 25 minute documentary.

The good news for Kubrick fans is that Lolita (1962) and Barry Lyndon (1975) will be available for the first time on Blu-ray, whilst the bad news is that you’ll have to shell out for the full set as Warner Bros don’t initially appear to be releasing them as single editions (although I’m sure that will happen at some point).

At the moment these details are for the US only release but it is highly likely it will be the same set for the UK.

Amazon UK has a release date of May 23rd on their site with artwork to be confirmed.

Below are the details in full.


Bonus features are included in the Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Blu-ray Collection whilst the Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection on DVD includes the films only.

Spartacus (1960): This genre-defining epic is the legendary tale of a bold gladiator (Kirk Douglas) who led a triumphant Roman slave revolt. Filmed in glorious Technicolor, the action-packed spectacle won four Academy Awards® including Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Cinematography Costume Design and Art Direction. This is the first time the film has been included in a Warner Bros. Kubrick Collection.

Lolita (1962) *NEW ON BLU-RAY*: Humbert, a divorced British professor of French literature, travels to small-town America for a teaching position. He allows himself to be swept into a relationship with Charlotte Haze, his widowed and sexually famished landlady, whom he marries in order that he might pursue the woman’s 14-year-old flirtatious daughter, Lolita, with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love, but whose affections shall be thwarted by a devious trickster named Clare Quilty.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964): The cold war satire is a chilling dark comedy about a psychotic Air Force General unleashing an ingenious, foolproof and irrevocable scheme sending bombers to attack Russia, as the U.S. President works with the Soviet premier in a desperate effort to save the world. The film stars Peter Sellers, in multiple roles, George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Stanley Kubrick’s dazzling, Academy Award®-winning achievement (Special Visual Effects) is an allegorical puzzle on the evolution of man and a compelling drama of man vs. machine. Featuring a stunning meld of music and motion, the film was also Oscar®-nominated for Best Director, Art Direction and Writing. Kubrick (who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke) first visits the prehistoric age-ancestry past, then leaps millennia (via one of the most mind-blowing jump cuts ever) into colonized space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted space, perhaps even into immortality.

Special Features

  • Commentary by Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
  • Documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
  • Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future and What Is Out There?
  • 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork
  • Look: Stanley Kubrick!
  • Audio-Only Bonus: 1966 Kubrick Interview Conducted by Jeremy Bernstein

Barry Lyndon (1975) *NEW ON BLU-RAY*: Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) is a young, roguish Irishman who’s determined, in any way, to make a life for himself as a wealthy nobleman. Enlisting in the British Army and fighting in Europe’s Seven Years War, Barry deserts, then joins the Prussian army, gets promoted to the rank of a spy, and becomes a pupil to a Chevalier and con artist/gambler. Barry then lies, dupes, duels and seduces his way up the social ladder, entering into a lustful but loveless marriage to a wealthy countess named Lady Lyndon. He takes the name of Barry Lyndon, settles in England with wealth and power beyond his wildest dreams, before eventually falling into ruin.

The Shining (1980): From a script he co-adapted from the Stephen King novel, Kubrick melds vivid performances, menacing settings, dreamlike tracking shots and shock after shock into a milestone of the macabre. The Shining is the director’s epic tale of a man in a snowbound hotel descending into murderous delusions. In a signature role, Jack Nicholson (“Heeeere’s Johnny!”) stars as Jack Torrance, who’s come to the elegant, isolated Overlook Hotel as off-season caretaker with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd).

Special Features:

  • Commentary by Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and historian John Baxter
  • Vivian Kubrick’s Documentary The Making of the Shining with Optional Commentary
  • View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining
  • The Visions of Stanley Kubrick and Wendy Carlos, Composer

Full Metal Jacket (1987): A superb ensemble falls in for Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant saga about the Vietnam War and the dehumanizing process that turns people into trained killers. The scathing indictment of a film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Joker (Matthew Modine), Animal Mother (Adam Baldwin), Gomer (Vincent D’Onofrio), Eightball (Dorian Harewood) and Cowboy (Arliss Howard) are some of the Marine recruits experiencing boot-camp hell under the punishing command of the foul-mouthed Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermy). The action is savage, the story unsparing, and the dialogue is spiked with scathing humor.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks
  • Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Kubrick’s daring and controversial last film is a bracing psychosexual journey through a haunting dreamscape, a riveting suspense tale and a career milestone for stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Cruise plays a doctor who plunges into an erotic foray that threatens his marriage – and may ensnare him in a murder mystery – after his wife’s (Kidman) admission of sexual longings. As the story sweeps from doubt and fear to self-discovery and reconciliation, Kubrick orchestrates it with masterful flourishes. His graceful tracking shots, rich colors and startling images are some of the bravura traits that show Kubrick as a filmmaker for the ages.

Special Features:

  • Three-Part Documentary: The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut
    • The Haven/Mission Control,
    • Artificial Intelligence or The Writer as Robot
    • EWS: A Film by Stanley Kubrick
  • Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick
  • Interview Gallery Featuring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg
  • Kubrick’s 1998 Directors Guild of America D.W. Griffith Award Acceptance Speech


The 40th Anniversary Blu-ray features the following:

Disc 1

  • Feature Film
  • New Bonus Features
    • Malcolm McDowell Looks Back: Malcolm McDowell reflects on his experience working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick on one of the seminal films of the 1970s
    • Turning like Clockwork Considers the Film’s Ultra-violence and its Cultural Impact
    • Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
    • Documentary Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange
    • Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange
    • Theatrical Trailer

Disc 2

  • Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Produced and directed by Jan Harlan the brother of Christiane Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick’s widow). Kubrick’s career comes into sharp focus in this compelling documentary narrated by Tom Cruise. Fascinating footage glimpses Kubrick in his early years, at work on film sets and at home, augmented by candid commentary from collaborators, colleagues and family.
  • O Lucky Malcolm! Documentary about the life and career of actor Malcolm McDowell produced and directed by Jan Harlan.

> Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia and MUBi
> 2004 Guardian Article on Kubrick’s Boxes

Directors Images Interesting Random

Stanley Kubrick’s IBM XT

Back in January 1984 Alan Bowker helped Stanley Kubrick get set up with an IBM XT computer.

Bowker’s website has photos of the famous director at home in the UK, which includes images of his office, printer and two cats.

> Alan Bowker’s site
> Stanely Kubrick at Wikipedia and MUBi

Interesting Short Films

iSPEC by Joseph Kosinski

A short film based on The Shining demonstrated Joseph Kosinski‘s early talent.

Before directing Tron: Legacy, Kosinski made a name for himself with award-winning commercials and in 2003 he made a short called iSPEC for Apple.

The premise imagines a personal media device and virtual experience which places the viewer within the world of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film.

It is completely computer generated.

You can watch a higher resolution version on Kosinski’s official site (under the ‘Work’ section).

> Joseph Kosinski
> The Shining at the IMDb

Amusing Awards Season

Robert Duvall is upset at Stanley Kubrick

In a recent round table interview Robert Duvall expressed his anger at director Stanley Kubrick for making actors do so many takes.

The veteran actor was taking part in an awards season discussion for The Hollywood Reporter with fellow actors Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Colin Firth, Ryan Gosling and James Franco.

When he heard David Fincher made Eisenberg do fifty takes in The Social Network he seemed aghast (at 0.53) and put forward his views on Kubrick and the performances in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange (at 2.37).

The discussion of Fincher continues in this second video with Franco chipping in with his opinion and Ruffalo explaining how Fincher’s process worked in Zodiac.

Duvall admits that Fincher got good performances in Seven (1995) and even reveals that he turned down a part in the film.

Presumably he was referring to R. Lee Ermey‘s role? (Ironically, Ermey worked with Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket).

UPDATE: The full video of the round-table discussion is here:

> Robert Duvall at Wikipedia
> The Hollywood Reporter Awards Watch

Behind The Scenes Images Interesting

Dr Strangelove Set Photos

Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War satire Dr Strangelove was shot at Shepperton Studios, just outside of London, during 1963.

This is a collection of photos from the set, some of which are in colour.

[Source: Flickr user Pineapples101]

> Dr Strangelove at the IMDb
> Details on the Dr. Strangelove Blu-ray
> Find out more about Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia
> Peter Sellers demonstrating his mastery of accents on the set of Dr Strangelove
> Essay on the ‘last secrets’ of Dr Strangelove


Dr Strangelove at The Barbican

Later this month Stanley Kubrick‘s classic Cold War satire Dr Strangelove will be screening at The Barbican in London on April 27th.

Prior to the screening, Sir Christopher Frayling, Professor Ian Christie and veteran production designer Assheton Gorton (Blow Up, Get Carter) will have a panel discussion about production design and its relationship to contemporary design and architecture.

Kubrick’s film is notable for the iconic production design from Ken Adam who made his mark designing the villain’s lair in Dr No(1962).

That brought him to the attention of Kubrick who then recruited him to design the set for his new ‘Cold War comedy’, about the global chaos that could be unleashed if the wrong person pushed the wrong button.

Adam rightly received huge plaudits for his recreation of the Pentagon’s War Room, which has become one of the iconic sets in film history.

For more details on the event just visit The Barbican’s website here.

> Dr Strangelove on Blu-ray
> Dr Strangelove at the IMDb 
> Event details at The Barbican

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove (Sony): The Blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War satire is one of this year’s major releases on the format.

Released in 1964, it stars Peter Sellers (in a remarkable performance encompassing three roles: US president, the scientist title character and a British RAF group captain), George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden.

Loosely based on Peter George’s novel Red Alert it depicts the chaos that ensues when an unhinged US Air Force general launches a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

With its splendid mix of intelligence, wit and technical brilliance it remains one of Kubrick’s finest works and also one of the truly great films of the 1960s.

This Blu-ray release came out last summer in the US and was based on a 4K restoration by Sony (although sadly no sign of the famously deleted cream pie fight).

There are a couple of visual issues surrounding this release worth noting as they apply to any classic work restored for Blu-ray.

Firstly, the aspect ratio is done in 1:66. As The Digital Bits reported:

The original theatrical presentation varied between 1.33 and 1.66. In recent years however, we’re told that Kubrick’s associates (who manage his estate) have become more comfortable with the 16×9/1.78:1 aspect ratio of HD displays, and they believe that Kubrick himself – if he’d really had the chance to look into it – would have preferred his full frame films to be presented on home video (in HD) at a steady 1.66 to take better advantage of the 1.78:1 frame. So that’s the reasoning for the decision.

The other issue which caused some debate was that of grain. The basic argument here revolves around how much grain should be removed in the transfer process. Purists argue that grain should be preserved as it was part of the original negative, whilst others think that if directors would have removed grain if they had access to modern digital tools.

To complicate the issue, there are some who think that that the whole issue is a non-starter and that grain is an inherent part of the film image.

There isn’t really a definitive answer, as it depends on the film and your viewpoint, but given the heated arguments around such releases of The French Connection and The Third Man, it is likely to remain an issue that crops up in future.

Gary Tooze of DVD Beaver thinks grain was always an important part of the film:

Grain has always been an important part of the visual texture to this film – it’s preserved here nicely without becoming a distraction. This is a great B&W, 1080p presentation. The new TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is also quite good, offering the expected improvements in clarity and resolution. For those who prefer it, however, the original mono audio is here too.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere felt badly let down by the grain in the image, describing it as:
…more than a visual disappointment — it’s a flat-out burn. I paid $35 bills for it yesterday afternoon and I’m seething. It’s hands down the worst grainstorm experience since Criterion’s The Third Man because Sony’s preservation and restoration guy Grover Crisp went the monk-purist route in the remastering and retained every last shard of grain in the original film elements.
Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running took a different position, arguing that Kubrick wanted grain in the film:
Of course this brings up all the old arguments as to grain and its place in a motion picture’s image, the rather absurd supposition by some that if dead filmmakers could return from the grave they’d immediately avail themselves of digital technology and erase all the film grain from their oeuvres, etc., etc. I don’t think I’m going that far on a limb to say that Kubrick in particular liked a little grain in his images.
Whatever the debate over the visual transfer it is still an essential film for any collection and the extras are plentiful, including:
  • Coded for all regions (A, B and C), extras are in SD. Features include:
  • 1080P 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English and Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
  • English Mono
  • Hungarian, Czech and Polish DD5.1
  • Subtitles (Main Feature): English, English HOH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Slovak, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish
  • Subtitles (Extra Features): English, Spanish
  • BD Exclusive: The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track – Embark on a journey into the very heart of the Cold War exploring, in fascinating detail, the military and political world in which Dr. Strangelove takes place. What did the film get right and where did it take liberties with established military procedures? And just how close were we in the early 1960s to a real atomic exchange? This multimedia experience includes Graphic-in-Picture pop-up trivia and Picture-in-Picture commentary that help shed some light on an era of secrets and heightened paranoia, all of which helped inspire this classic film. Picture-in-Picture interviews include:
  • Thomas Schelling (RAND* Corp. employee during late 1950s and early 1960s – wrote article on novel “Red Alert” that prompted Kubrick’s interest in adapting the book to a film)
  • Richard A. Clarke (Author of “Against All Enemies,” counter-terrorism and command and control systems expert)
  • Daniel Ellsberg (RAND Corp. employee during late 1950s and early 1960s; consultant to JFK admin., Dept. of Defense)
  • George Quester (Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland; expert on nuclear proliferation, deterrence, and nuclear diplomacy)
  • David Alan Rosenberg (Temple University professor; Historian of Nuclear Strategy; ex-military)
  • No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat
  • Inside: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Strangelove
  • Best Sellers Or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove Remembered
  • An Interview with Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara

Dr Strangelove is out now on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

> Buy the Blu-ray at Amazon UK
> IMDb Entry
> Find out more about Dr Strangelove and Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia


Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001

Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001

An interesting photo of director Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001.

[Via LinkMachineGo]


Stanley Kubrick in The New Yorker

Kubrick New Yorker profile

Audio recently surfaced online of Stanley Kubrick being interviewed by Jeremy Bernstein of The New Yorker in 1966 (listen to it here).

Sliated has some interesting PDF files which shed more light on the famous director who was then in the midst of filming 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of them is a PDF of the final profile which ended up in the November 1966 issue.

But they also have an auction entry which shows the proofs of the profile with descriptions of the edits and annotations Kubrick wanted.

Last, but not least, there is a piece by Bernstein recalling the interview which include the following nuggets of information about the legendary director:

  • Kubrick had taken flying lessons but by the mid sixties never flew again as he considered it “too dangerous”.
  • For his move to England he transported his possessions in 140 Boy Scout foot lockers.
  • He considered leaving the USA during the Cuban missile crisis and booked a boat trip to Australia with his family – but cancelled when he discovered he would have to share a bathroom with a neighbouring cabin.
  • Before moving to St Albans Kubrick lived in a large apartment on Central Park West.
  • 2001 was shot at Elstree and during the filming Kubrick lived in a suite at the Dorchester Hotel.
  • Physics was the only course in high school in which he had gotten a decent grade.
  • Kubrick toyed with the idea of casting Jackie Mason (!) as the voice of HAL, although he may have been joking.
  • During one take of a scene when Keir Dullea (who played astronaut Dave Bowman) was talking to HAL he farted so loudly, it sounded like “a stupendous burst of machine gun fire”.
  • The interview was recorded on one of Kubrick’s tape recorders, upon which he did most of his screen writing.
  • When the film was first shown to the press and invited guests in New York Kubrick ran the projector himself and decided to cut around 17 minutes from this version.
Directors Interesting

Stanley Kubrick interview from 1966

A fascinating 75 minute interview with Stanley Kubrick conducted by Jeremy Bernstein in 1966.

Stanley Kubrick interview with Jeremy Bernstein, 1966 from vvL on Vimeo.

These audio recordings were used to assist in the writing of Bernstein’s long-form profile of Kubrick, published in the November 12, 1966 issue of The New Yorker.

If the above video doesn’t work, listen to it here:

The Daily Video

The Daily Video: Brian Eno on Barry Lyndon

Brian Eno discusses why he loves Stanely Kubrick‘s Barry Lyndon.

(I think this was from some TV show in the mid-90s)

> Barry Lyndon at the IMDb
> Find out more about Brian Eno at Wikipedia


Why Stanley Kubrick used ‘Daisy’ for HAL’s death in 2001

This video explains why Stanley Kubrick used the song Daisy Bell for the death of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

[Link via Digg]

> 2001: A Space Odyssey at the IMDb
> Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia

Interesting TV

Stanley Kubrick season on More4

A Stanley Kubrick season starts this month on UK TV channel More4, with a series of his films screening between the 15th and 25th of July.

Channel 4 Creative Services have created this excellent TV spot to promote the season, which is a one shot recreation of The Shining set, shot from Kubrick’s point of view:

(If the video doesn’t work try this direct link over at The Guardian)

The season kicks off with a documentary called Citizen Kubrick, which screens on Saturday 15th at 10pm.

It is presented by Jon Ronson, who was invited to the director’s estate in 2001 to explore the many boxes the Kubrick had collected during his life at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire.

The resulting documentary is the story of Kubrick and the archive, now housed at University of the Arts London.

The season continues over the next two weeks with the following films:

  • Day of the Fight (1951): An early documentary short about a day in the life of a middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier and his fight with black middleweight Bobby James. (Saturday 15th July, 11.05pm)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975): Kubrick’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon went under-appreciated at the time but remains one of his most enduring and visually stunning films. The tale of an 18th Century Irish adventurer (Ryan O’Neal) is now regarded as one of his most important works and is notable for the remarkable cinematography from John Alcott. It is also Martin Scorcese’s favourite Kubrick film. (Screens on Sunday 16th July, time TBC.)
  • Paths of Glory (1957): One of Kubrick’s early classics – a searing anti-war film about innocent French soldiers sentenced to death after taking the blame for the mistakes of their superiors. Kirk Douglas gives an excellent central performance as Colonel Dax, an officer trying to prevent the soldiers’ execution. Watch out too for a cameo near the end from the actress who whould become his wife Christiane Kubrick, then credited as ‘Christiane Harlan’. (Screens 17 July, 11:55am).
  • Flying Padre (1951): Another documentary short about two days in the life of a priest in New Mexico called Father Fred Stadtmuller whose spreads the word of God with the aid of a mono-plane. (Screens on Friday 18th July, 12.55pm in the afternoon)
  • Lolita (1962): Kubrick moved to England in the early 1960s to film this adaptation of Vladimir Nabakov’s novel and stayed here for the rest of his life. James Mason stars as Humbert Humbert, a middle aged professor obsessed with a precocious young girl. Although aspects of the novel had to be toned down for censorship reasons, it is still a work of considerable interest. (Screens Friday 18th July at 9pm).
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C Clarke‘s short story The Sentinel reimagined science fiction on film and inspired a generation of writers and directors. The story charts how a mysterious alien intelligence influences mankind from it’s earliest origins to a futuristic space mission involving two astronauts and an advanced computer named HAL 9000. The visual effects (overseen by Kubrick and engineered by Douglas Trumbull) are still dazzling and the use of classical music (especially Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra) is now inextricably linked with the film and it’s imagery. (Screens Saturday 19th July, 1.30pm)
  • Killer’s Kiss (1955): Kubrick’s second film is a short (only 67 mins), low budget film noir about a has-been boxer (Jamie Smith) who falls for a woman with a violent boyfriend. (Screens Monday 21st July, 11.30pm)
  • The Killing (1956): Notable for being Kubrick’s first feature with a professional cast and crew, this is a tautly plotted heist drama adapted from Lionel White‘s novel Clean Break by Kubrick and co-screenwriter Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden (who would return in a key supporting role in Dr Strangelove) takes the lead. (Screens Wednesday 23rd July, 12.05am).
  • The Shining (1980): A remarkable and enduring adaptation Stephen King‘s novel about the winter caretaker (Jack Nicholson) of a remote hotel who slowly goes insane, endangering his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son (Danny Lloyd). Although King was upset with Kubrick’s take on the material, there is much here to feast on, especially the meticulous production design, inventive sound editing and innovative visuals. It was the first time Kubrick used the Steadicam, which was invented by Garrett Brown – the cinematographer who achieved many of the remarkable tracking shots in the film. (Screens Friday 25th July, 9pm).

It is a great chance to catch up on the work of one of the most important directors in the history of cinema.

> Find out more about The Stanley Kubrick Season at More4
> Read more about how the More4 promo was created at Media Guardian
> Stanley Kubrick at the IMDb
> Official Kubrick site at Warner Bros
> Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London Archives and Special Collections Centre
> Essay on Kubrick at Senses of Cinema by Keith Ullich
> An extensive set of links to interviews with Kubrick at Archivio Kubrick
> A Guardian feature and webchat with Jon Ronson about the Kubrick archive in 2004
> An exhibiton of Stanley Kubrick’s work in Germany
> An archive of the debate in the New York Times over A Clockwork Orange
> Stephen King discusses his first phone call with Stanley Kubrick
> Steven Spielberg talks about his admiration for Kubrick

Amusing Interesting

Stephen King discusses working with Stanley Kubrick

Check out this interesting video of Stephen King talking about working with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining: