THE CONTORTED FACE A fascinating thread that runs through Kubrick's output is that in EVERY film of his there is a character(s) who at one point become the focus of the camera's attention while there face is most mangled position: Full Metal Jacket - Leonard when he is crazy in the head The Shining - Jack Nicholson's face obviously, in several scenes: Heeere's Johnny; looking out the window at the snow; banging on the door or the pantry etc. Barry Lyndon - Captain Quinn's face during his duel with Barry when he goes to raise his pistol. A Clockwork Orange - Alex obviously - the scene when he gets home from the milk bar and after having set upon Billy Boy and the residents of HOME. And the end of course. 2001 - When Bowman is going "beyond the infinite" there are several scenes of his face being contorted. Dr. Strangelove - The characters Gen. Buck Turgidson, Gen. Ripper and Strangelove himself all exhibit the contorted face at one time or another. Lolita - Lolita herself makes a few of them, but James Mason doesn't really make any of those severe face contortions that charac- terize the others. Paths of Glory - Kirk Douglas during the failed attack on the anthill - his face gets twisted while blowing his whistle. The Killing - Elisha Cook (George Petey) makes the weirdest of faces when he kills his wife, her boyfriend and his hoodlum friend. (R.P.) THE USE OF SPACE [The following was a dialogue on Kubrick's use of space which appeared in the Kubrick newsgroup] MG: Frances Yates was an British scholar who specialized in hermetic philosophy. She wrote a book called THE ART OF MEMORY (Two of her other books are GIORDANO BRUNO & THE HERMETIC TRADITION AND THE ROSICRUCIAN ENLIGHTENMENT.) The books can be tough going, but are well worth the repeated readings. THE ART OF MEMORY was about a mnemonic technique developed by classical orators as a way of remembering a speech. They would form in their minds an image of an architectural space (someplace large and open, usually a place they were familiar with), and then they would place within that space striking images and objects that reminded them of various parts of the speech. When it came time to speak, they would imagine themselves entering the architectural space and would proceed through it, room by room, seeing the icons that would then jog their memories. The space represented the structure of the speech, the icons represented the content. One of the rules was that the icons should be as striking as possible, even bizarre and grotesque. (To me, this sounds like the Overlook, with its stillframe horrors, and its endless snapshots of its history hanging on the walls. Also consider the sealed-off spaces of the WWI trenches, the War Room and Burpleson Air Force Base, Discovery, and Parris Island. And consider, of course, Kubrick's penchant for bizarre iconic imagery.) Later, during the Middle Ages, hermetic philosophers used the Art of Memory for their own purposes, weaving it into their philosophy of a pantheistic universe (for instance, seeing the icons as talismans that would draw down the influence of the stars). (Sorry if I've only confused the matter. Yates does a much better job at exposition.) For me, the most important point is that these fictional internal memory-scapes were used to catalog the contents of a person's mind, not unlike the function of a personal computer or, eventually, virtual reality, which will make objective and shareable the metaphor of a personal architectural space. (All of which suggests that Kubrick is much farther ahead of his time than most people realize.) GA: Wonderful; very much like what a friend of mine, and anthropologist (and a friend & student of Jerome Rothenberg's) who said much the same thing about the though patterns of meso-american peoples -- they too used systems of architectural mnemonics. Reading this I recall at once all the tracking shots of K's, most if not all of which center a character walking through a maze or set of hallways -- THE SHINING of course but remember all those similar shots in CLOCKWORK; and even the handheld shots following Bowman & Poole around the ship in 2001. Even in STRANGELOVE, the camera following the crew up and down the fuselage of the plane, and in FMJ, the final scenes through the burned-out maze of buildings (or the camera following Bowman as he wanders about the alien's hotel suite . . . ) . . . describing just as much the topology of the place as carrying forward the narrative of the characters actions; as though the place, its shape, its look & feel itself held the Message, and not the action . . . MG: The tracking shots are definitely part of it. So are the faces. But as with everything in Kubrick, these elements work on so many levels, and play off from each other in so many complex ways, that it's very hard to hold a good representation of it in your mind. (For example, remember that Kubrick first used the corridor tracking shot, in KILLER'S KISS, to represent a dream. And faces are used, in all the films, as an alienation effect. As far as faces representing an emotional index, see below.) That might be one reason why there's been so little good writing on Kubrick -- Any attempt to articulate the experience becomes a parody, because it does so little justice to the original experience. The best writing has come from people, like Annette Michelson and Gene Youngblood, who have staked claims on small pieces of territory and then mined them for all they're worth, fractally hoping that the part would somehow stand in for the whole. But I digress . . . THE SHINING might be the best example of the (hypothetical) use of the Art of Memory. It's an isolated space that stands-in for an historical whole (the history of America). (What's really spooky is that it anticipated the whole direction of the 80s -- but that's another digression.) The movie revolves around memory (shining), especially subjective or fractured memory. Subjective: Wendy experiences the hotel as a series of horror movie cliches; Jack sees it as a vice den; Danny, the innocent, sees it for what it is. They create the space as projections of themselves. Fractured: The disorienting intersection of Jack's real-time experience and Danny's memory (his shining to Halloran) when Jack encounters the naked woman in the bathroom. Also, paper memory, in the form of the scrapbook containing the hotel's history that sits on Jack's writing table (which could be seen as the document that sends Jack over the edge). The icons: the Indian motifs dominate the architecture (and the site, a burial ground) while the official history populates the walls in staid black & white photos, all the same size. (And this is a dead giveaway, but Kubrick quotes Diane Arbus' Identical Twins, and Kubrick and Arbus were friends. He quotes Jim Thompson, from THE KILLER INSIDE ME, and he and Thompson were friends.) . . . OBJECTIVITY: THE ARTIST PARING HIS FINGERNAILS (THE "COLD") Kubrick's "coldness" has always been a point of critics. Even Ray Bradbury, criticizing 2001, said that the "freezing touch of Antonioni" hovers over Kubrick in this film. And Harlan Ellison described Kubrick's view as so remote that it's almost alien -- this, while praising Kubrick as one of the few authentic artists in film. The coldness we see in Kubrick's work is there, but I think it's a result of Kubrick trying to look at the human condition as rationally as he can. After all, in DR. STRANGELOVE, we were willing to destroy the world over economic and political differences that, five hundred years from now, will seem meaningless. (Anyone remember 15th century ecclesiastical debates?) _2001_ wasn't about the human characters at all, and the central character of _A Clockwork Orange_ was the subject of a very cold medical experiment. _Barry Lyndon_ forced this same distance on us as well -- these were people long dead, whose goals were as ephemeral as the paper their eternal bills and checks were written on. Is Kubrick really this cold? I doubt it; there are scenes in his films of genuine human pain and caring, but presented in an observational, we're-watching-people-with-hidden-cameras style. The death of Barry's son, and the horror of the final duel. That awful scene between Jack and Danny, where Jack tells Danny he wants to stay in the hotel "forever and ever." The exchage between Joker and Cowboy, where they both 'agree" not to discuss Pyle's collapse, and Pyle's own mental implosion. But I think that the coldness people see in Kubrick's films is mainly his observational stance. It's one of the things I like about his films. (B.S.) USE OF PARALLEL MISE-EN-SCENE According to the Russian theorists, Kubrick's point in 2001 that Man had not evolved emotionally since the missing link should have been made by crosscutting between the apes and the humans. Instead, Kubrick stages and shoots the sequence where the astronauts discover the Monolith exactly the same way that he stages and shoots the scene where the apes discover the Monolith. By the same token, the scene around the coffee table with Dr. Floyd and the Russians, involving mounting tension as the discussion progresses, is shot and staged in a way similar to the scene in which the opposing groups of apes congregate around the water hole. Kubrick's methodology here is subtle and ambiguous; had he shot it using cross-cutting, more people may have "gotten" his point, but it would not have had nearly as much power as it does. (F.B.26) INTERTEXTUALITY There is a degree of `intertextuality' to Kubrick's films which goes far beyond that in any other director of whose work I have any knowledge. I am not referring here to certain directorial `trademarks', for example Kubrick's recurrent distorted facial close-ups, or even his love of eighteenth-century settings. What I have in mind are certain recurrent elements in the films of which I have experienced. A few examples off the top of my head: 1. The colour scheme for the scene on board the space station between Dr. Floyd and the Russians in _2001_. The walls are dazzling white; the chairs are red. This same colour scheme recurs in the washroom scene between Jack and Delbert Grady in _The Shining_. 2. When Lord Bullingdon enters Barry's club in London to challenge Barry to a duel near the end of _Barry Lyndon_, his dress and the motion of the camera recalls Alex's progress through the record bar in _A Clockwork Orange_. 3. The record bar shot in _A Clockwork Orange_ ends with a copy of the _2001_ soundtrack in view. 4. In _Full Metal Jacket_, the composition of the shots for Joker's discovery of the bodies in the pit recollects the scene in _2001_ where Dr. Floyd discovers the Tycho Monolith. 5. Various scenes in _Full Metal Jacket_ recollect scenes from Barry's short-lived military career in _Barry Lyndon_. I am sure there are many more such echoes in Kubrick's work. . . . these serve to me as signposts that there is a unity of themes between Kubrick's films. This is not to say that Kubrick is ever guilty of repeating himself, but rather that he is always re-examining those themes from different angles, shaped by the nature of the project he is undertaking. (C.C.) SUBTLETY Traditional films tend to tell you what to think and feel every step of the way. There is a kind of fear that pervades the classical cinema, part of it a reflection of the culture and its fear of disruption and outsiders, part of it a reflection of the rigid assembly-line structure put in place by the never-benign studio patriarchs. (THIS, more than storytelling and characters, which were already pretty moribund concepts, is what hyper-moguls like Spielberg and Lucas have brought back to cinema.) Kubrick uses a more open-ended, less authoritarian approach. He places the pieces out there in the way that pleases him most and then says, in effect, "see what you can make of this." This allows the viewers the option of investing their emotions in the work, unguided by the characters. It also offers the viewers the option of rejecting the work if they want to (as many have). Rather than approach the films through the predetermined gateway of the hero (which, for instance, forces most women to either stand outside the film or see it from a, usually, hostile viewpoint), Kubrick encourages the viewer to approach the film directly, with as little mediation as possible. (M.G.) After showing a film short I had produced to a few close friends, I was fascinated to see how their "mistaken" readings were so rich and detailed in comparison to the general feeling I had tried to convey. They weren't outside the theme of the film, but were rather more exegetical than I would have expected. They saw things that weren't there, but when I reviewed my own work, I could see them too. I decided I'd clam up about my "intent" from then on. Viewers must have more fun than directors, and I'd rather not spoil it. After the personal experience of this phenomenon, my approach to criticism changed. I now sometimes saw those obscure objects of subtextual suggestion as words in the filmic poem, in which the author may have intended nothing more than what you immediately apprehend -- and maybe to tease your imagination a little. If I wrote eerie verse of ghosts and murders and little boys fleeing their slavering bloodthirsty dads, penned it in red white and blue ink, and arranged the stanzas in the shape of the US flag, what would you "read" in it? Seems a bit sophomoric and heavyhanded to me, actually. Kubrick is so much better, his hints at themes so subtly intertwined in the fine braided thread of the story that they are at the edge of perception. They are the flickering shapes behind closed eyelids whose meaning is only directed by subjective forces, set and setting. Then he provides the immediate visual and aural set, and the novel psychic setting, and lets you do the rest. A little hint here and a little hint there . . . and lookit! they're seeing murdered Indians and profound social commentary. By god that's good. That's very good. Glad I didn't use Arm & Hammer! (J.D.) SYMMETRY In 2001, the scenery, the setting, is as much one of the 'actors' as the humans are. The malevolent hotel [in THE SHINING] isn't just an assemblage of rooms and passages: it's a character in its own right, swallowing up Nicholson and his family. 2001's spaceships, corridors and control panels perform a similar function, swallowing up humanity into their disinfected, air-conditioned machinery, so that the people emerge as disinfected machines. THE SHINING's monstrous hotel spits its human victims out as monsters. And the killing field of FULL METAL JACKET's Vietnam churns out killers. Humanity is a victim of such environments. But these environments are man-made. The puzzle loops in on itself. . . . People shape the world around them, and are then shaped in turn by the worlds they have created. Kubrick charts the manmade landscapes of human experience truthfully. On his canvas, the people are indivisible from the background. The gaming board becomes indivisible from the people who sit down to play on it. . . . [W]atch also for the extreme symmetries (the oh-so-neat squares on the board) which presage disaster in so many of Kubrick's films. BARRY LYNDON is awash with sumptuous architectural elegance. The war room of DR. STRANGELOVE is geometric to an extreme. 2001 is chock-full of symmetrical cabins and corridors. In FULL METAL JACKET, a crucial scene, the training sergeant's murder, takes place in a sterile white latrine. US army training barracks have latrines from a standard-issue pattern, a tidy row going along one wall. Abandoning his usual hyperaccuracy in favour of slight artistic license, Kubrick specially created a set with two rows, on opposing walls. Why? So that the bloodspattered slaughter could take place among symmetry. The icy white of the washroom opposes the mess of spilled blood. Hal's brain room in 2001 is just like those latrines: a symmetrical chamber of execution. . . . Time and again, human plans are drawn up, hatched, in offices and conference rooms of hypnotic, even stupefying, geometric regularity; 2001's square moonbase conference room; a manager's office in THE SHINING's hotel; the generals' palatial headquarters in Paths of Glory. The hotel in THE SHINING is a mass of corridors and stainless steel kitchen storerooms. (There are aural symmetries too. Remember the young boy's tricycle on the parquet flooring, whizzing onto a rug, off the rug, onto the next rug, back onto the floor: whirrr, clump, whirrr, clump . . . ?) Kubrick uses symmetry to achieve two very specific effects: firstly, to lull an audience into a sense of false security, and secondly, to parody or counterpoint the ensuing chaos, the asym- metrical destruction. Danny's extravagant tricycle-rides around the hotel are repeated several times as joyride, rollercoaster, guided tour. Just when we think we've seen the ride, he sets off on another one, a tricycle trip too many (yawn . . .) and WHUMP! The wheels stop, the little feet falter on the pedals. Suddenly we have a spooky pair of twin girls, a liftshaft full of blood, a man wearing a sinister rabbit mask - - just when we thought we were getting a bit bored with all this tricycle riding. In 2001 Kubrick jets Poole into the abyss on a similar -- no, an exact replica -- of Bowman's previous and more or less uneventful spacewalk. The doors slide apart, the pod emerges, the hatch opens, the spacesuited figure is birthed into the immense vacuum like an insect emerging from an egg. Yes, we've seen this bit already, thank you. Ah, but we haven't . . . As our eyes begin to wander, the routine is broken. A pod hurtles towards us, its claws grappling for murder. We, the audience, have our own little plan, and that's to sit there in the dark, imagining (what fools we are) that we know what's going on, what we've seen and what we haven't. Kubrick dashes our plans too, by introducing major dramatic moments, major plot calamities, just at the point where we are drifting off to sleep. His use of dramatic tension is seldom highlighted by warning wails or ta-dums in the soundtrack. He tricks us just as the gods do -- when we least expect it, when we are half-asleep with complacency. Kubrick's screen people set out their pieces in neat rows and start to play, only to find that the very chessboard itself reaches out and turns them into pawns in some other, some deeper and less tangible game. . . . (P.B., pp. 148-9) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE BASIC INFORMATION SECTION ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
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