barry lyndon 1975
Film-making is a funny old game. Films and movies are such huge projects it can be difficult to say who really owns them. By own, I mean who's film is it - who do I attribute it to?
Films are Art. It's accepted that when looking at Art, we can usually envisage a single person as the instigator. Many Renaissance paintings and portraits are attributed to an individual. In fact they were often painted by the big-name and his technicians.
Durer almost certainly drew all the pencil-lines on his drawings but did he apply all the paint on his paintings? When looking at a Damien Hurst artwork in a gallery, there's a big chance that he has not personally even seen the object, let alone interacted with it. His imposition on the work is purely intellectual - rather like my relationship with Rachel Weisz.
Most of the films I watch are the creation of one man or woman. (As opposed to movies like Die-Hard 7 and Rocky 15 which are made by committee.)
These individuals are the instigators of the work - they have the idea or vision. They then develop the thing in isolation to a point where they can call it a 'film'. Film creators can be writers, directors, producers, actors, celebrities, princesses, Local Council Administrators, Police Inspectors - in fact creators can be anyone And they don't even have to be from the film industry…
But it helps...
Because it's not a Film yet. The next stage is the creator finds someone to make it. These are most likely the film-industry glitterati. Who are a nepotistic bunch of b**tards.
If these b**tards know the creator, or know someone who knows the creator, or someone who's the daughter of an actor who once had a coffee with the creator, then that will help enormously.
So the film now has the money and the will to be made. Producers then employ all the necessary people to get it made and then it's made.
The film is in the can - or on a memory stick as we now say.
The public haven't seen it yet, but exist it does. It's been seen by filmic insiders. So there it is - The Film.
The question I'm asking is whose film is it? Should I file it under writer, creator, director, studio, producer or simply alphabetically under F ?
The film industry has no formula for public attribution. Most often it is a commercial decision that wins the day:-
· Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999) (Executive Producer). His name was the ONLY reason I even considered watching this movie.
· War Horse - A Steven Spielberg Film 2011 (Producer)
· The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - A Martin Scorcese Film (Director Producer)
· Stephen King's The Dead Zone 1983 (Writer)
You get what I mean?
Which brings me to Stanley Kubrick. His name attracts me to a movie. (Whoops - have I sold out to superficial attractive allure too?)
When I watch The Shining (1980), or Full Metal Jacket (1987), I do so thinking: "Settle down, this is gonna be good".
I have it in my mind that Kubrick spent his creative time looking at the movie industry and in particular it's varied genres. He then took all that's good and all that's bad. Mixed it up, added some Kubrick Ubik and went out to create his Single-Overarching-Final-Comment-Summing-Up-This-Genre Film.
And we fall over laughing and crying in awe at the feet of our great intuitive master.
- The Shining (Horror)
- Full Metal Jacket (Post American Vietnam War Guilt Film);
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Cold War Science Fiction)
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Cold War War)
- A Clockwork Orange (Angry Young Men for the late 60s type movie genre (I made this genre up because I like this film and I wanted to include it here.)
And all these movies justify being classed as Single-Overarching-Final-Comment-Summing-Up-This-Genre Films. They take their stories to sometimes farcical extremes, or they subtly undermine genre perceptions. They twist and turn on my line of belief like a turney-twisty thing. Watching them makes me think deeper/wider than I would with most films. It's a bit like reading the Harry Potter Books with Adult Covers instead of the originals - it changes my experience.
Read any review or promotion of these films and they will be attributed directly to Kubrick - written or adapted by him, directed by him, and many produced by him.
But I challenge you to watch them and pick out his 'style'. I can't watch his films and say, "Oh that is so Kubrick" as the camera sweeps over a landscape. His contribution is something altogether different:
He has created films that are an intellectual dissection and re-assembly of genre. They are almost clinical in their creation.
The "film crew scene" in Full Metal Jacket during the battle for Hue is so good it beggars belief. The camera man slowly walks backwards, led by a sound recordist and an assistant director - beautifully slowly through the middle of the hectic battle. Tanks go bang-bang and soldiers shelter behind concrete bunkers and hurl cynical abuse at the American Public through the proffered camera lens. The pace of the film has suddenly become surreal and slow from harsh and life-threatening. Absolutely inspired.
No specific style, just Kubrick- Quality.
In The Shining, I give the cinematographer all the accolades:- The big-sky-empty-sweeping-landscape-opening slides inexorably into incredibly tight scenes one metre cubed. (For my US readers, that's about the size of a KFC Bargain Bucket).
In Dr Strangelove Peter Sellers, the lead actor, gets ownership of the movie as does the writing.
They are all great "Kubrick Films" but "Where's Kubrick?".
Which finally gets us to Barry Lyndon. "Phew", I hear you I hear you phew.
Barry Lyndon is Kubrick's "Costume-Drama-Based-on-obscure-book-written-in-the-dark-old-days-acted-by-big-stars-filmed-in-as-many-large-country-houses-and-in-as-many-European-countries-as-possible-genre" film. It follows a vapid empty character from Rural Ireland to various European countries via an utterly torpid narrative. It's awful.
The scenes are rich and full and the film takes over 3 hours to grind to a halt whilst nothing of interest happens.
It has a narrator whose voice appears at the end of each new Country. Thank goodness because they signal the end of yet another generally empty characterless, pointless and meaningless scene. One step closer to the end methinks.
I watched this film with my partner. "It's a bit chewy", she said…
Watching this film makes me want to curl up and die. It's such a waste of an idea. Such a waste of a reputation.
The only way I can explain this film to myself is to assume Kubrick was getting his "own back" on someone. His financiers, critics, or even his 'public'. This is such a studied and tortuous exercise. I know Kubrick is capable of making a fluid and watch-able film - I can only assume this mess was deliberate.
I think it may be a F*ck You!
Which is funny, because the film is now regarded as being one of his 'classics'.
And can I find any Kubrick in there at all? Well, I can't because as I said, I don't know what I'm looking for - he doesn't have a house-style. All I know is that his jaundiced cynical eye must be visible somewhere in there - let's look…Hmmm…
Maybe Kubrick's great IDEA for this Genre was to produce a truly dreadful film.
Maybe that was the point.
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