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Stanley Kubrick
Biography, Eyes Wide Shut, films, DVDs, books

Article added in October 1999


One of the most secret American film directors, the late Stanley Kubrick, died March 7, 1999. Born July 26, 1928, in the Bronx, three years after Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle had been published in Die Dame, Stanley Kubrick had a brilliant career - with relatively few films. In 1927 in the Bronx, his father, Jacques Kubrick, a student in medicine, marries his mother, Gertrude Perveler, a woman of a Jewish family of Austrian descent. The year after, Stanley is born. In 1942, still a high school student, the American magazine Look publishes his first photograph. Three years later, at the tender age of seventeen, Look printed Stanley Kubrick's picture of a newspaper seller overwhelmed by the announcement of President Roosevelt's death. That same year, Stanley Kubrick begins an apprenticeship as a photographer at Look. In 1946, he becomes a reporter for the magazine and travels through the USA and Europe. Only twenty years old, he marries his classmate Toba Metz. Among his famous photographs of that time is his series of pictures of boxchampion Walter Cartier. Together with a school friend, Alfred Singer, an office-boy, he decides in 1950 to shoot cheap short films. Among them, the sixteen-minute picture Day of the Fight, again on Walter Cartier. The year after, he leaves Look in order to become a movie director. He produces low-budget features like Fear and Desire (1953) or Killer's Kiss (1955).
 
In 1954 Stanley Kubrick moves to L.A. where he forms a production company, together with his friend James B. Harris. After his divorce, Stanley Kubrick marries in 1955 Ruth Sobotka, a glamourous dancer of the New York City Ballet. A few films and another divorce later, he marries the German painter and actress Christiane Harlan in 1958. He met her on the set of his antiwar drama Paths of Glory. This time, Stanley Kubrick finds the love of his live. That same year, Marlon Brando hires him as director for his Western War and Peace. But Kubrick leaves in dissent and an indemnity of $100,000. Brando was always intervening in his work. After Kubrick leaves, Brando himself takes over the directing. In 1959, Stanley becomes the director of Spartacus. Anthony Mann was fired after only eight days of shooting. Stanley Kubrick takes the job although he has no influence on screenplay, production and distribution. Spartacus is Kubrick's first commercial success. The movie wins several Oscars and a Golden Globe for best film. Spartacus remain his only all-Hollywood production. He dislikes the experience with the Industry. In 1961, Stanley Kubrick shoots Lolita, based on Nabakov's book of the same name. The film is another commercial succes, although the critics don't like it. Stanley Kubrick creates his own production company and moves to Great Britain - where he dies forty years later. In 1963, he shoots Dr. Stangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb for Columbia Pictures. This satire on the Cold War is based on the novel Red Alert by Peter George. Peter Sellers takes three parts in it. In 1968 follows Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is another commercial success and again a certain number of critics in the USA tear it to pieces. The next year, Stanley Kubrick wins his first and only personal Oscar, not for directing but for the visual effects in his science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1970, he directs A Clockwork Orange, a satire on orgies of violence in film. That movie wins him the New York Film Critics Award. Due to copycat crimes, his film gets a lot of criticism in Great Britain and Stanley Kubrick, deeply hurt, withdraws it from circulation in the UK. In 1973, he starts working on the costume drama Barry Lyndon, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. In 1976, the film is rewarded with four Oscars.
 
Three years later, Stanley Kubrick shoots The Shining with Jack Nicholson in the leading role. Based on a horror novel by Stephen King, it is another commercial success and again is criticized by the press. In 1986, his long time cameraman and friend John Alcott dies. With his innovative camera directing, he had a decisive impact on Stanley's films. By his friend's death, Kubrick has already started working on the Vietnam-drama Full Metal Jacket, based on the novel by Gustav Hasford. The film opens in the cinemas in 1987. Several other projects occupy Stanley Kubrick in the following years, such as A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) or The Aryan Papers, but none of them ever materializes. In the end, he goes back to Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story. In 1996, the project takes on palpable shape. The couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise are chosen as leading actors. In 1997 in Venice, in his absence, Stanley Kubrick gets honored with the Golden Lion for his entire works. At the same time, the shooting of Eyes Wide Shot goes on. It takes fifteen months to finish the film based on Schintzler's story. For "disciplinary reasons", Harvey Keitel is replaced by Sydney Pollack in a supporting role. On March 2, 1999, Stanley Kubrick has just the time to present his final cut to Warner Bros. Only five days later, a heart attack takes him away in his sleep.
 
Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist, and he knew a lot about the technicians' work. So shooting with him wasn't easy. It wasn't rare for him to make his actors repeat scenes forty times. Stanley Kubrick is described as a coolheaded person, absolutely in command of himself. A brilliant but difficult person. Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) called him a "talented idiot". Stanley Kubrick explained his habit of requiring a lot of takes to Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket), taking the example of Jack Nicholson: He only learned his lines on the set. With the first takes, you would get the usual Jack Nicholson most directors would be happy with. After another ten or fifteen takes, he would be awful but then would start to understand the lines and what they meant. By thirty or fourty takes it would become something new since Nicholson had become unconscious about what he was saying. According to Stanley Kubrick, people don't do their homework. Terry Semel (co-chairman at Warner Bros. film division), who worked closely together with Kubrick since Barry Lyndon, explained that Stanley always did his films with small crews and on very low daily rates. So he had all the time to finish his work and never got under financial pressure (see New York Times, July 4, 1999). In addition to this, for Stanley Kubrick, filmmaking was mainly a form of art and not - like for many in Hollywood - a business.
 
His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story (Traumnovelle). But there are a lot of obvious and less evident differences. Stanley Kubrick's film is about a contemporary New York couple and not about Schnitzler's early 20th-century Vienna. With both, Kubrick and Schnitzler, Freud's interpretation of dreams as an unconscious way of fulfilling a desire plays an important part. Schnitzler's allusion to unconscious and unfullfilled desires is in a very direct and even clumsy way related to the word "Denmark", since the entrance password to the orgie is also Denmark. In Eyes Wide Shut the password is "Fidelio". According to Georg Seesslen (Filmbulletin), this is an allusion to Beethoven and Nietzsche, "Fidelio" as an outbreak of the Dionysian. At the same time it literally means fidelity and is therefore an admonition. Among other differences, there is the fact that Bill (Tom Cruise) gets literally unmasked at the orgie and finds himself in the role of the victim whereas Schnitzler's Fridolin bravely asks for satisfaction and keeps the mask on. The end of the story is disappointing and in essence the same in both the book and the film. Kubrick only added the final sentences with Alice (Nicole Kidman) saying that there is something very important they should do. On Bill's question what it is, she answers: "Fuck". Kubrick changed a lot more in his film. He invented new scenes and introduced the person of Ziegler (Sydney Pollock), for instance. But astonishingly, the critics have not pointed out the most striking difference: in Schnitzler's work the inner monologue of his leading actor is essential and his trademark. Kubrick does not use it. So we can only guess from Bill's mimic art and gestures what he is thinking and feeling. Eyes Wide Shut is an entertaining film on the fragility of love and truth. We only dislike the uninspiring ending inspired from the book. Or is "life must go on" in Eyes Wide Shut - against all appearances - again the old and pessimistic Kubrick?






Get the Stanley Kubrick DVD Box Set from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.de or Amazon.fr.
 

Alexander Walker: Stanley Kubrick, Director. W.W. Norton & Co, Hardcover, Sept 99, 368 pages. Get it from Amazon.com.
 

Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael: Eyes Wide Shut : A Screenplay. Arthur Schnitzler: Dream Story. Warner Books, August 1999, 281 p. Get the film Eyes Wide Shut on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon.co.uk.
 
More films with Nicole Kidman, co-star in Eyes Wide Shut: Moulin Rouge, The Others, Birthday Girl, The Hours; the biography of Nicole Kidman.





Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
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