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Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the world’s greatest film directors. Within his directing life, he made only 16 films, but they are noted as some of the most influential and important films ever made. His films regularly make it to the top ten on film lists that are compiled each year.
Kubrick was born in the Bronx, New York in 1928. On his 13th birthday, Kubrick was given a camera by his father. The camera was put to good use, as Kubrick soon began photographing and selling his photographs. At the age of 17, he became an apprentice photographer.
The leap from photographer to film director was not a large one. In 1951, using his own money, Kubrick made a documentary called Day of the Flight. The path had been set, and from there, Kubrick began making films such as The Killer's Kiss in 1955 and The Killing in 1956. Hollywood began to take notice, and after directing Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory in 1957, Kubrick was approached to direct Douglas again in Spartacus.
After the success of Spartacus in 1960, Kubrick was set to direct Marlon Brando in One Eyed Jacks in 1961. Both Brando and Kubrick had their own meticulous ways of working. Agreements could not be reached between the two, and in the end, Brando ended up directing himself. Frustrated with Hollywood, Stanley Kubrick left for England, where he lived and worked until his death. All of his films since his arrival in England have been made there.
Kubricks's process of film making was seen as painstakingly meticulous. He is said to place great demands on his actors, but for most, the end result has been worth it. His films often dissect the dark side of human nature, and many have been the center of much controversy.
His first film in England was Lolita, based on the controversial book of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov. Kubrick took great care with this film in order that the sexuality involved would not fall foul of the British censors. His next film, in 1964, was Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The film started out as a drama, but after deciding that the ideas around the theme of nuclear war were too funny, Kubrick turned it into a satirical comedy instead.
The commercial and critical success of Strangelove gave Stanley Kubrick artistic and financial freedom. He went onto make what is considered by some to be the greatest film ever made. 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, set the standard for every science fiction film made since. It became a cult classic, as did his next film, A Clockwork Orange. The violence in A Clockwork Orange was said to be responsible for many copycat outbreaks of violence, and the director banned his own film in Britain.
Kubrick's reputation as a perfectionist had also grown by this time. The demands he made on his actors and his commitment to his films were becoming legendary. A notoriously private man, he never gave interviews and became a virtual recluse. He continued to make films, such as The Shining in 1980 and Full Metal Jacket in 1987.
Kubrick’s last film was Eyes Wide Shut in 1999, starring Tom Cruise and his then wife Nicole Kidman. The film took two years to make and was reportedly the cause of much strain to the marriage of Cruise and Kidman. Stanley Kubrick died in 1999 of natural causes. He was a visionary filmmaker whose films were intelligent, thought-provoking and always visually exhilarating.
I never really got into most of Stanley Kubrick's movies, but I did like Full Metal Jacket. I appreciate the fact that 2001: A Space Odyssey was an important leap forward in movie making, but I couldn't get past the strangeness. I don't even want to discuss A Clockwork Orange. That movie stayed in my brain for months. I only watched it because I wanted to see the second movie in the double feature.
What I really liked about Full Metal Jacket was the dialogue. I think Kubrick was at his best when he let his characters launch into those long monologues. The drill sergeant's semi-serious rant as he dresses down the new recruits is classic. I also
like the way Kubrick incorporates music into the scenes. It's not the usual Hollywood scoring. The scene in Full Metal Jacket where the documentary film crew is pulled along a trench while "Surfin' Bird" plays in the background is a perfect example.
Stanley Kubrick has always been one of my favorite directors. I always got the feeling he placed the camera so that the viewer had a front row seat on the same stage as the actors. Whether a set was spacious or sterile or cramped, viewers experienced the scene viscerally. I think of the claustrophobic snow tunnel scenes in The Shining, or the vast expanse of black floor space in Dr. Strangelove.