The Chess-Player of Cinema

         When considering who should be included in the category of influential filmmakers, one should look for a director that has taken the very core of the art-form and created something that will never again be duplicated save for parody. Without a doubt Stanley Kubrick was one of the very few to work in film in complete control of the final product. Although Spartacus (1960) is the only blemish to his groundbreaking style and visual avant-garde genius, his other films are the capstone of any genre and carry unmatched, uncanny vision from start to finish.

         Stanley Kubrick was personally reluctant towards interviews or public appearances; but, if one watches his films, one will no doubt understand who he was. He gave his craft all it could bear and by doing so, he belonged to his work. There is a haunting reality to Kubrick that allows an audience to reach farther into the characters they see (though most of the characters in Kubrick's movies would be so unbearable that it would be impossible to form a coherent relationship with them).

         Lolita (1962), for instance, was publicly shunned (but not unappreciated) because of the unnatural and eerie relationships involved throughout the plot. James Mason's Humbert Humbert depicts a hauntingly human middle-aged man trapped in a forbidden relationship with his nubile young stepdaughter (Sue Lyon), who is enticed away by the conniving Quilty (Peter Sellers).

         Kubrick pushed social cinema boundaries in A Clockwork Orange (1971) by showing gratuitous violence and sexual assault; by doing so, he included the audience inside the intimacy of insanity. Full Metal Jacket (1987) shows the meticulous detail Kubrick gave to truthfully displaying the horrors of boot camp and Vietnam, an unprecedented landmark for better understanding the reality of conflict.

         His work was also landmark in technology as seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which used the first space technology to provide a realistic approach to science fiction. Barry Lyndon (1975) was more of a mechanical breakthrough; Kubrick used cameras with specially designed lenses from NASA, which allowed for a wider view, and therefore giving more space for invention with every shot. Unconventional sets and dark humor takes us inside Dr. Strangelove, where Peter Sellers lacks little in talent and the ending although dramatic, is extremely troubling and thought provoking to any audience's psyche.

         The Killing (1956) had (in its time) unparalleled continuity and superb acting performances from Sterling Hayden and other cast members. Without this movie, I doubt considerably that there would be a Pulp Fiction (directed by Quentin Tarrantino in 1994) today. The irony of the story no doubt resembles that of Eric von Stroheim's 1924 Greed and the nature of character development from the aspect of outlook. The horrific images and set productions for The Shining (1980), along with a very believable Jack Nicholson, put this performance among the best horror films ever made. The last film Kubrick directed was shrouded in mystery. Since Kubrick died before the final cut was made, there are some who speculate that Warner Bros. tinkered with the editing of his last production, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Kubrick was never afraid of showing the graphic nature of a scene, and although most of the scenes in the movie of a graphic nature are moving, they are not captivating.

         Without Kubrick, I doubt very honestly that American cinema would not be what it is today. Each and every film maker has been influenced in some way by his work, which was influenced by no one. Though there are a few directors that have acquired a unique vision of their own, all are still barely nipping at the master's heels.

Ben Huffman

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