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And then peep Scorsese on Kubrick (brought to us by Matt B):

many horror fans were put off by “The Shining,” and I don’t believe that Stephen King, the author of the novel on which it was based, was ever very happy with the movie. Kubrick and his co-writer, the novelist Diane Johnson, kept many elements from King’s novel, but they wrote their own work, turning to Freud’s The Uncanny and Bruno Bettelheim’s book about fairy tales, The Uses of Enchantment, for inspiration. In their film, the horror came from within the family — the violent father (Jack Nicholson) suffering from writer’s block and having a hard time staying on the wagon, the mousy mother (Shelley Duvall) trying to believe that everything is okay for as long as she can and the quiet son (Danny Lloyd) with an extrasensory gift called “shining” that allows him to see terrors past and future. They’re all cooped up in an enormous luxury hotel in Colorado that’s been shut down for the season and where they’ve agreed to stay for the winter as caretakers. The halls and corridors seem to extend to infinity, like the shots of interstellar travel in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and the sense of space itself is terrifying, particularly in those justifiably famous Steadicam shots following Danny as he careens down the corridors on his Big Wheel.

In “The Shining,” Kubrick made potent use of ambiguity. You never really know what’s happening: Is the father hallucinating or is he the reincarnation of a murderer from an earlier era? Are there real ghosts in the hotel or are they imagined by the traumatized son? Is the son sensing the horrors that will be committed by his father or just projecting them onto him? Few movies create such a powerful feeling of unease.


1 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 2:38 pm

In the last couple weeks I've just watched Paths of Glory for the umpteenth time and Lolita for the first time (odd that I'd never seen it, right?). I think I'm in the mood for a lot of Kubrick in the near future. (And yes, I'm one of the people who likes Eyes Wide Shut.)

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 6, 2011 2:50 pm

I like Paths, love the first half of Lolita and walked out of Eyes Wide Shut.

3 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 2:51 pm

I enjoyed all of Lolita, but it does lose some steam when Shelley Winters leaves the picture, doesn't it?

Paths remains very strong in my eyes. Those tracking shots in the trenches stay with you, and I love the ending in the cafe.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 6, 2011 4:02 pm

3) Yeah, but the book suffers from the same problem. The last half is so loose that it just isn't as crisp. Kubrick and Sellers deserve kudos from inventing all those Quilty scenes fresh for the screen. They really work.

5 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 4:40 pm

[4] Nabokov wrote the script, too, but I'm sure a lot of stuff came right from Sellers and Kubrick on set. I think Mason's performance holds it together, but I can see where you're coming from.

6 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 4:43 pm

I enjoyed Scorsese's comments on Barry Lyndon, which I've only seen once. I had heard everything from "Kubrick's best" to "Oh yeah, I sat through that once," and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I think Marty's comments shine a light on some of what I liked about it.

7 The Hawk   ~  Jun 6, 2011 6:48 pm

Lolita, the novel, is unimpeachable. Of course once the tension released, then the, uh, tension is released. But I think it continues beautifully after that as well (unlike Crime and Punishment which just dies on the vine after a comparable tension release). Not a good book to adapt though. Too much of its greatness is because of the first person voice, kind of like The Tell-Tale Heart.

Barry Lyndon would be great but I think Ryan O'Neal is miscast. I think The Shining is Kubrick's last great film.

8 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 7:11 pm

[7] See, I think O'Neal perfectly serves Kubrick's purposes - he's a shallow cipher.

9 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jun 6, 2011 8:51 pm

[6] Hahah, yes I heard that about "Barry Lyndon" too and very much agree. Love Kubrick, but EWS was an apalling way to go out. Made me sad.

Always hear stories about Kubrick being a dictator on the set of the Shining and causing Duvall to have a braekdown. Also Jack would go home afterwards and instantly sleep for 12 hours after doing 40+ takes of the same scene. Great directors usually not the nicest of people..(here in Japan, his crew called Kurosawa Akira "The Emperor", and it was not a compliment..)

10 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 6, 2011 10:03 pm

7) I agree on the novel, because it's saved by Nabokov's travel-writing and satire on America. That doesn't really translate in the movie. The other thing about the movie version is that although it was filmed it England it really is expertly cast.

11 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 10:10 pm

[7] Man, The Shining has really aged well, hasn't it? I remember people really being dismissive of it 20 years ago (not me, mind you), and now it tends to get near-unanimous acclaim as a great film.

I find that even the few times I haven't initially loved a Kubrick film, I've gone back for another look and then had an epiphany. A major artist. I love the Nicholson quote in one of the documentaries about Kubrick, "Everybody pretty much acknowledges that he's the man, and somehow I still think that underrates him."

12 The Hawk   ~  Jun 6, 2011 10:33 pm

[8] I do get that about O'Neil but I think it's just too much. I just don't buy his line delivery ... just too California for that film.

I only relatively recently discovered that people had/have some kind of issue with the Shining and frankly I think it's crazy talk. Particularly any complaints about Nicholson, I just feel like if you have a problem with it, you just don't "get it". I mean you can say "it's not my thing" but it's a terrific performance and a key to the movie's success.

I love love love Dr Strangelove, but I don't know if I really love any other of his movies. I appreciate the hell out of them and they are insanely watchable, that's for sure.

Big question: What about A.I.?

13 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 10:47 pm

[8] Too California....hmmm good point, but it didn't bother me. Neither did the film's length or pace. Funny, I find I really love all of his stuff at this point. That's not to say all his films are flawless, but damn, they really stick with you. He's one of the few directors whose work is truly singular. The first time I saw 2001 in a theater on a big screen, I was completely blown away. Even a great home system just can't replicate that experience.

I've never understood the idea that Kubrick is "cold." Yes, his films tend to have a detached viewpoint, but they're so rich with emotion. Those incredible images he created are deeply affecting.

14 The Hawk   ~  Jun 6, 2011 11:20 pm

Ha I guess I need to see 2001 on the big screen. I know I had one chance and I passed it up out of laziness.

As for Barry Lyndon, I love it for its pace and length. I think it's a strength, really.

I think some of his movies are cold in the sense that yes the images are inspired and beautiful but there isn't a lot of apparent empathy for the human beings residing within those images. Personally I have no problem with this in principle but I can see how it could prevent a viewer from "getting into" the movie. I think it happens a bit with me. It kind of depends though ... It seems a wholly appropriate, effective - definitely singular - way to present the story of 2001 but Full Metal Jacket I think may suffer a little because of it.

15 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 6, 2011 11:23 pm
16 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 7, 2011 9:21 am

I think "Full Metal Jacket" ages poorly. First half is well done, but as a whole it's one of his worst.

17 Greg G   ~  Jun 7, 2011 11:38 am

I have watched Dr. Strangelove about 50 times and love it. Peter Sellers is absolutely brilliant, and could have played every part as far as I am concerned.

I saw Paths of Glory a few years ago, and was very impressed, but the ending comes fairly quickly and it seems like Kubrick was probably not given carte blanche to do the movie the way he wanted to, as it is also one of his shortest films.

Lolita probably fills me with more tension than The Shining. Mason just makes me feel sick with his jealousy and wanted to hold on to something that is not his to own.

The Shining was never a favorite of mine, because it is not my genre of movie, but I appreciate it as a film.

Kubrick was truly a master, and unfortunately most of his movies probably don't won't appeal to the next generation of filmgoers. He is methodical and allows his movies to slowly open and reveal the story. Today's films have to deliver much faster, and the audience has a desire for more immediate gratification.

I feel the same way as you Al with Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. I have a hard time watching the 2nd half of Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut is just a waste of time, and hugely disappointing as a fan of Kubrick's work.

18 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 7, 2011 3:16 pm

[17] Yeah, but where would we have been without George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden? I love Sellers, but it's also probably a good thing he wound up not doing the Slim Pickens part. There's no way he would have improved upon Slim.

I'm still amazed at the outright hostility towards Eyes Wide Shut. I can see how the general public would reject it, but Kubrick fans? There's a lot there to think about - I don't get the knee-jerk loathing. I'll stick with Scorsese on this one!

19 Greg G   ~  Jun 7, 2011 4:58 pm

18) I think one element of Eyes Wide Shut that distracted me was that Tom Cruise and his real life wife Nicole Kidman were cast. It wasn't that the whole movie was a piece of crap, but it just didn't work for me. I like Nicole Kidman and Cruise is not one of my favorites, but at times I can enjoy his work.

Perhaps as a fan of a particular film maker we fans judge them too harshly, and expect too much.

I have always been a fan of Scorsese's work, and as an Irish-American could not have been more excited about the release of Gangs of New York. I was traveling a lot and missed it in theaters so I scooped it up on DVD despite less than stellar reviews. I was hugely disappointed. It wasn't that it wasn't directed well, but at points that would certainly be my opinion. The end of Gangs was way over the top, especially the fight scene it was just so cliche.

I can watch a movie without a great story if the acting and directing are great, but it will never stand out as a work of art.

In Eyes Wide Shut, it is hard to feel for Tom Cruise's character and I am not sure if that is the fault of the actor or just the celebrity of Tom Cruise. Nowadays it is difficult to watch Cruise, Gibson and a number of stars who have allowed their personal lives to interfere with how we see them as characters.

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