STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES (director: Jan Harlan; cinematographer: Manuel Harlan; editor: Melanie Viner-Cuneo; cast: Tom Cruise (Narrator), Steven Spielberg, Peter Ustinov, Martin Scorsese, Marie Windsor, Jack Nicholson, Woody Allen, Sydney Pollack, Malcolm McDowell, Ken Adam, Margaret Adams, Brian Aldiss, Steven Berkoff, Louis C. Blau, John Calley, Milena Canonero, Wendy Carlos, Arthur C. Clarke, Alex Cox, Allen Daviau, Ed Di Giulio, Keir Dullea, Shelley Duvall, Anthony Frewin, James B. Harris, Michael Herr, Mike Herrtage, Philip Hobbs, Nicole Kidman; Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Jan Harlan; Warner Bros. Home Video; 2001)
“An uncritical and sanitary study on the legendary director.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Jan Harlan was Kubrick’s producer in his last four films, and is also his brother-in-law. He shoots a straightforward documentary on the great director’s film career using interviews from Stanley’s actor friends and family, film clips and photographs. Harlan comes up with an uncritical and sanitary study on the legendary director, who was so obsessive and such a perfectionist he only made a handful of films that spanned a career of almost 50 years. Nevertheless it’s entertaining and because of Harlan’s privileged access through Kubrick’s wife Christiane, who provided rare photographs and footage of home movies never before seen of Stanley (like the childhood movie of him joyfully playing with his kid sister). It tells us basic things about the reclusive man that starts with him growing up in the Bronx as the beloved son of a photography loving doctor to being a Look staff photographer to making an indie film with his own money to his early on success as a director to living a very private life with his tight-knit family for the last 40 years in England. As Jack Nicholson says, “he’s the man” when it comes to films. No argument from me, I consider him the best American filmmaker ever, with Orson Welles a few lengths behind in a distant second place.
There are clips with excellent commentary to mull over from all of Kubrick’s 13 feature films. The films, all great, include: the indie made boxing pic Killer’s Kiss (1955), the racetrack caper film The Killing (1956), the anti-War film Paths of Glory (1957); the gladiatorial epic Spartacus (1960); the controversial Lolita (1962), about good and evil in the study of a pedophile; the insanity over the nuclear war in the black comedy Dr Strangelove or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964); arguably the best film ever made, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the futuristic ultra-violenct black comedy A Clockwork Orange (1971), the technically perfect period drama Barry Lyndon (1974); the haunting hotel film The Shining (1980), the fully realized war film on the Vietnam War, Full Metal Jacket (1987); and, his final film, the dreamy erotic Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
The documentary makes an attempt to find out who the man was, but I think it’s only through his films that you will find what you are looking for about the man. Kubrick was born in July 1928 and died in March 1999, just after completing Eyes Wide Shut.
REVIEWED ON 6/30/2009 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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