Monday, March 29, 2010

Not coming to a theater near you: Stanley Kubrick

Over at Not coming to a theater near you, there's a fine feature on my favorite filmmaker Stanley Kubrick which started late last month. How did all this time slip and I didn't hear about it!? The main article was posted last month and they've released pieces on all his films since. I started with the Fear and Desire article and it's made me rethink my dismissal of the film. Looking back I think there was a point where I drank the Kool Aid and brushed aside the film solely for Mr. Kubrick's embarrassment over it. I was fortunate enough to see it in 1994 before he had it taken away from the Film Forum's retrospective. At that time, having read some interviews with him, I was aware that he dismissed it, but not aware he would go to such lengths as to have prints of it appropriated and locked up.

So, I want to say that Fear and Desire is not a very good Kubrick film. I can understand why he was so dismissive of it. However, I don't agree with his attempts at removing it from the public's reach. It is a significant work in his progression as a filmmaker, regardless of how embarrassing he may have thought it was. It certainly shows the promise of a new voice on the landscape, and did contain some great use of composition. Furthermore, the film contains some very effective scenes, one in particular with Paul Mazursky which NCTATNY covers in the article. However, the film does dive into some very pretentious territory, making it an allegory for all wars, and saying in the end, that we are literally fighting ourselves. It was Kubrick's ambitious college film that was actually released! How many filmmakers can say that at the start of their careers?

So now I'm torn. Being that Kubrick garners the highest respect from me, I do wish to honor his memory.. The question is, was he right to acquire as many of the remaining prints of the film and remove them from circulation? Add to that the legal protections he's acquired to keep any remaining prints out of theaters and distribution, he certainly has/had a right to do so. On the other hand, does the film stand as a historical record for one of the greatest filmmakers that probably will ever be? Belonging out there among his other films, within our reach; to complete the picture of the man?

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