With only three ﬁlms in the last twenty years, why is Stanley Kubrick still reckoned to be among the world’s greatest living ﬁlm- makers? A television retrospective of his movies shows his genius but a new Cineﬁle documentary ﬁnds the man is as enigmatic as ever.
Alan Morrison reports.
Ask any ﬁlm fan to name a list of movies they most want to see and chances are A Clockwork Orange will be very near the top. Never seen (legally) in British cinemas since shortly after its release in 1971 — di- rector Stanley Kubrick himself insisted it be shut away after newspaper reports blamed the film for ‘copycat‘ muggings across the country — it has built up an almost mythical fascination among fans. A de- cent copy, minus Dutch subtitles, is the video genera-
tion’s equivalent of the Holy Grail.
Nevertheless, images from A Clockwork Orange have seeped into popular British culture. Film trade paper Variety described Trainspotting as 'a Clockwork Orange for the 90s’; ﬁlm buffs noted that the scene in Danny Boyle’s ﬁlm featuring a slow track-and-zoom on Spud and Tommy sitting in a booth in a club was a ‘homage' to the opening shot in the Kubn'ck classic. and Blur completely ripped off the iconography in their Milk Bar video for ‘The
interest in Kubrick has increased recently and it looks likely that he’ll be back behind the camera this
year directing Hollywood first couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in the sexual jealousy thriller Eyes Wide Shut - his first since the l987 Vietnam movie Full Metal Jacket. After that. sometime into next cen- tury, he might be able to complete the long awaited sci-fi movie A.I.. once computer special effects can catch up with his concept of a robot-populated futur- istic world. Long gaps between projects are now part ofthe Kubrick enigma: working back from his 'Nam movie, you have The Shining (l980) and Barry Lyndon (I975) — three films in two decades. and none instantly ranked among his best.
Kubrick will. however. always remain influential for his work in the 60s — in (relatively) quick succession came Spartacus. Lolita. Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey. By this point. the Kubrick style was well- established — smooth tracking camera move- ments, extreme facial close-ups and. thematically, the dehumanisation of individuals by their environment.
His almost total control over projects was also re- marked upon — as director. producer and co-writer of his ﬁlms. he'd also have a heavier than usual hand in the photography. editing and subsequent copyright. This. in turn, fed the rumours of his eccentricities. of a
man who would order a hundred takes of a simple shot in order to get the tiniest detail as he wanted it.
Some of the legend is deflated. some increased, by Channel 4's Cineﬁle documentary on Kubrick, which kicks off a short retrospective of his work. Collaborators including Anthony Burgess. Arthur C. Clarke and Malcolm McDowell shed light on his ﬁlm- making secrets. and there's even violent excerpts from A Clockwork Orange itself. The precedent for this was set by Channel 4‘s Forbidden Fruit series, which won a legal battle for clips under ‘fair dealing‘ mics which allow the TV equivalent of a literary quoata- tion. This doesn't indicate a softening on Kubrick's pan to show the movie in the UK.
With no Kubrick interview available, actor Jonathan Pryce voices chunks of old interviews; not for nothing is the programme subtitled ‘The invisible Man‘. And yet the ﬁlms themselves say all that needs to be said: surely it‘s better to build a cinematic Taj Mahal once a decade than knock up a garden shed a couple of times a year.
C inejile: Stanley Kubrick is on Thursday 20 June on Channel 4 and isfollowed by a screening of his I955 film Killer's Kiss.
Stanley Kubrick: the movies’ Invisible man
Black and white nu'nstrels
Through sheer size alone, the 830’s ten-part series Dancing In The Street is likely to stand tor sometime to come as the deﬁnitive television his- tory oi rock and pop. it’s a sublect that television is periectly suited to, considering its own history isn’t much older and in many ways rock and TV combine to tour the basis oi popular culture.
llnllke other televised histories which lack primary visual sources,
', 9 ,i v V. ' u“ Ma” "‘ 7'” 5m: '99! Pop rocks out
on television at one time in their ca- reer. Even lion goasiarbackas 1955, asthlsserlesdoes, toeero on the rock ’n’ roll clock, there are enough survivors still alive today to
interview anew. And should the prin- cipal characters like Buddy llolly or Elvis Presley have departed to the great soundcheck in the sky, there’s usually a drummer or studio techni- cian on hand to remember those sem- inal early recording sessions.
From the ﬁrst einsode, it’s clear that the series presumes that the his- tory oi pop is really about the assimi- lation oi black music into white youth culture. It identiﬁes Fats Domino as the first pop musician because he played a hooky-friendly version at rhytiun and blues, which previously had been kept in the black-only ghetto oi 3&3 charts, record labels and clubs. it took white singers (Presley, Jerry lee lewis), labels (Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis) and radio stations to
spread the music at southem blacks across America.
lane at this is news, oi course, and even spread across ten episodes, Dancing In the Sheets can cover 40 years oi pop history only focusing on the iamlllar ﬁgures oi each musical generation. there is little time to travel down the obscure by-ways that are as much part oi music iandom as seeing again Elvis’s ﬁrst appearance on the Milton Berle show. But despite a rather strait-laced commentary and grindineg chronological approach, there are enough great clips to nude this an absorbing watch. (Eddie Gibb) Dancing In The Street begins on Sat 15Juneon8802. A bookcttbesane title by Rolling Stone contributing editor Iicbert Palmer Is published by SDI: Books.
The List l4-27 Jun 1996 81