From a storytelling point of view, from a directing point of view, there is one thing I associate with what he does, which is calm. There is such an inherent calm and inherent trust of the one powerful image, that he makes me embarrassed with my own work, in terms of how many different shots, how many different sound effects, how many different things we’ll throw at an audience to make an impression. But with Kubrick, there is such a great trust of the one correct image to calmly explain something to audience. There can be some slowness to the editing. There’s nothing frenetic about it. It’s very simple. There’s a trust in simple storytelling and simple image making that actually takes massive confidence to try and emulate. #
In his (fantastic) biography on Sergio Leone, Something To Do With Death (p299), Christopher Frayling writes about Once Upon a Time in the West:
Stanley Kubrick admired the film as well. So much so, according to Leone, that he selected the music for Barry Lyndon before shooting the film in order to attempt a similar fusion of music and image. While he was preparing the film, he phoned Leone, who later recalled: 'Stanley Kubrick said to me, "I've got all Ennio Morricone's albums. Can you explain to me why I only seem to like the music he composed for your films?" To which I replied, "Don't worry. I didn't think much of Richard Strauss until I saw 2001!" Barry Lyndon could have been Once Upon a Time in Georgian England: the music, the choreography, the deliberate pace, the ritualized duels. Leone reckoned, though, that maybe Kubrick didn't quite have the common storyteller's touch to pull it off.
One day perhaps, you'll get some sort of insightful blog post from me. But that day is not today!
This remains one of the strangest things to come out of a Kubrick production. Though it's prominently featured as the first track on the official soundtrack, I don't know whether Kubrick himself had anything to do with it, though given his propensity for control, probably.
Stranger still, it became the #2 on UK pop charts. Uhm good.
Michael Herr, author of Dispatches, easily one of my all-time favorite books, worked with Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket. Soon after he passed away, Herr wrote Kubrick, a short but wonderful memoir of the man himself; this is the opening paragraph:
Stanley Kubrick was a friend of mine, insofar as people like Stanley have friends, and as if there are any people like Stanley now. Famously reclusive, as I'm sure you've heard, he was in fact a complete failure as a recluse, unless you believe that a recluse is simply someone who seldom leaves his house. Stanley saw a lot of people. Sometimes he even went out to see people, but not often, very rarely, hardly ever. Still he was one of the most gregarious men I ever knew, and it didn't change anything that most of this conviviality went on over the phone. He viewed the telephone the way Mao viewed warfare, as the instrument of a protracted offensive where control of the ground was critical and timing crucial, while time itself was meaningless, except as something to be kept on your side. An hour was nothing, mere overture, or opening move, a gambit, a small taste of his virtuosity. The writer Gustav Hasford claimed that he and Stanley were once on the phone for seven hours, and I went over three with him many times. I've been hearing about all the people who say they talked to Stanley on the last day of his life, and however many of them there were, I believe all of them.
— Michael Herr. Kubrick. Grove Press, 2000. Page 3.
As far as I'm concerned, it's the only book on Stanley Kubrick truly worth reading.
Stanley wanted me to choose the stills that would be necessary for publicity. Movie promotional images were always produced by unit or special photographers on the set who photographed what they saw. Stanley held, correctly, that these traditional film stills weren’t an accurate representation of what was on screen and he prevailed with the studio in the unprecedented process of taking the images directly from the film. (Stanley, who had begun his career as a photographer for Look magazine, always had strong opinions about the medium.)
Because at this point, any tidbit is a breath of fresh air; a short Kubrick story from Kiran Shah, whom Ring fans might remember as a scale double on Lord of the Rings, and now The Hobbit:
[he] got to know Kubrick a little bit, but even being on friendly terms with the maestro didn’t save him when he popped in for a visit on the set of Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley spotted him and said, “Kiran, out!” We all know the stories about how Kubrick didn’t like a lot of crew around and that was Kiran’s little tale about it.
And a happy new year. When this baby hit’s 88mph, you’re going to see some serious shit.
[During the production of The Empire Strikes Back] The art department experienced an awful setback, when Stage 3 at Elstreet Studios burned to the ground. “Stanley Kubrick had built a hotel for The Shining, and they kept on covering it with salt, which was melting, so the studio was a real mess,” says [Empire Strikes Back Production Designer, Norman] Reynolds. “And it was cold and it was just dreary, really dreary. And then the hotel set caught fire and the stage burned to the ground. It was a tough time, actually.”
“The still photographer on The Shining, Murray Close, took a wonderful picture of Stanley standing in front of the smoldering remains, and he had a wonderful smile on his face.” says Boone. “I saw a print of that, but Murray was forbidden to have that picture published.”
Norman Reynolds recalls that [legendary production designer, John] Barry was dumbfounded one day while working with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. They were on an apartment set and, although the fridge would remain closed throughout the scene, Kubrick insisted that Barry fill it with food props that the character would’ve stocked. “They had a bit of a falling out as a result of that,” Reynolds says. [p101]
Stanley Kubrick attended the funeral of the John Barry, the the production designer on Star Wars, who had died suddenly:
“That really was a really big shock to see Stanley [Kubrick],” says Tomkins. “The only time Stanley came out of his shell. I mean, you never would get Stanley going to anybody’s memorial service, but he did come to John’s. So I was quite impressed by that, that he must have like the guy very much.” [p95]
Samsung cited the viewscreen used in a scene in Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey as prior art in the lawsuit filed against them by Apple over the likeness of the Galaxy Tab vs. the iPad, claiming that:
In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. The clip can be downloaded (sic) online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ8pQVDyaLo. As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor. (Source)
Setting aside the fact that there can’t be any question in the minds of rationally thinking people, that the Galaxy Tabs treads in the footsteps of the iPad, albeit drunkenly and without much conviction, there’s the small issue that despite Samsung’s claims, the iPad shares almost no properties with the viewscreens in 2001.
- It is about twice the size of the iPad.
- It’s edges are flush with the screen, except at the bottom.
- It has ten physical push-buttons, numbered 1 through 10 at the bottom.
- There is no interaction with the device, aside from Bowman turning it on to view a video signal.
Samsung’s claim misleads by using the term ‘personal tablet computers’, when in fact there is nothing to indicate them as such. The claim also links to a YouTube video which specifically uses the words “Apple iPad” in its title.
There’s only one problem; the viewscreen in 2001 are not computers, they are, flat, battery-powered TVs. They look and and operate exactly how you would extrapolate a TV if you were looking to make a film taking place some 30 years in the future. Smaller and portable. And vertical, for the same reasons that hallways in science fiction films are never simply square. And they display no interactive properties beyond that, nor do they share such crucial properties with the iPad as its grapping bezel, or compact size. Not to mention the ability to function as something other than a TV.
It is no more prior art to the design of the iPad, than a TV set is prior art to the design of the Mac.
Read also: Joen and I follow up.
Update: Justice is served in Germany.
We’ve just returned from a screening of Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, at Cinemateket with Jan Harlan – Kubrick’s brother-in-law and the film’s director – in attendance. The documentary itself, supreme as it is, is available on DVD; however, the Q&A session with Jan Harlan isn’t. A shame, as Harlan was both funny, honest and insightful about Kubrick and his filmmaking.
Which is why I recorded it.
Afterwards I asked him what had become of the 18 hours of material shot, I believe by Kubrick’s (later estranged) daughter Vivian, for Full Metal Jacket. Unfortunately it seems the sound was lost for most of it, and what remained is what made its way into this and the Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes documentaries. Shame.
Update: Thank you Jay Goodman Tamboli for normalizing the audio for me.
I bought this beautiful poster from Martin Ansin last year, but didn’t receive it until just the other day (it’s a long way from Uruguay). I can’t wait to put it up on the wall I’ve got in mind for it.
PS: You can contact Martin if you’re interested in buying his posters. Both the art and the print itself are phenomenal.
Stanley Kubrick died today, 10 years ago, on March 7th, 1999 at the age of 70. It’s a strange tradition, to remember someone on the anniversary of their death, but it beats not remembering them at all. Luckily, Kubrick is most certainly worth remembering.
On my desktop I have an entry-draft of considerable length concerning Kubrick, which I had intended to publish today. However, instead I fell into writing on a science fiction project I’ve been working on for a while (making significant headway I might add), and I like to think that writing is something Kubrick himself wouldn’t have minded taking precedence over me idolizing him and his work; he after all held the act of creation in particularly high regard, and considering the problems I’m having writing my project, I see what he means.
In reality, idolizing Kubrick is probably better done simply by watching or re-watching one of his films anyway, any one of which speaks volumes more about the man than I ever could.
‘I used to want to see almost anything. In fact, the bad films were what really encouraged me to start out on my own. I’d keep seeing lousy films and saying to myself, “I don’t know anything about moviemaking but I couldn’t do anything worse than this.”’
- Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, softcover edn., Mississippi, p. 103.
It being Kubrick appreciation week, it seems fitting Matt let me know that somebody went ahead and named their dog after Kubrick. Not the man though, but the WordPress theme I did!
Kubrick is named after the default Wordpress theme, Kubrick! It’s a really nerdy way of naming our new pup, but my husband wanted to name him with something that’s related to web design and development. #
On the 7th, it’s a decade since Kubrick’s death, and so I wanted to spend this week tributing my favorite director, by leading up to the day with some small pieces from or about him. This first one comes from Michael Herr’s excellent ‘Kubrick’ book:
He viewed the telephone the way Mao viewed warfare, as the instrument of a protracted offensive where control of the ground was critical and timing crucial, while time itself was meaningless, except as something to be kept on your side. An hour was nothing, mere overture, or opening move, or gambit, a small taste of his virtuosity. The writer Gustav Hasford claimed that he and Stanley were once on the phone for seven hours, and I went over three with him many times. I’ve been hearing about all the people who say they talked to Stanley on the last day of his life, and however many there were, I believe them all.
- Michael Herr, Kubrick, hardcover edn, Picador, 2000, p. 3.