The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2021 Review - KUBRICK BY KUBRICK | The Movie Waffler

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Dublin International Film Festival 2021 Review - KUBRICK BY KUBRICK

kubrick by kubrick review
Documentary structured around taped conversations between Stanley Kubrick and French critic Michel Ciment.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Gregory Monro

kubrick by kubrick poster

Whenever unhappy footballers head back to their home countries for international fixtures, they inevitably start mouthing off to the local press about how unsettled they are at their club, as though they're completely unaware that we live in an age of instant global communication and believe their words won’t be picked up by their manager back in England, Spain or Italy. Or maybe they're very much aware of this, and use press conferences on the other side of the world to get a message across indirectly. Perhaps this is why acclaimed English language filmmakers often ignored the press in their own countries but would happily devote hours or even days to speaking with French journalists. Just as Hitchcock had an epic conversation with Truffaut, spawning the book that bore their names, Positif editor Michel Ciment was granted the rare opportunity to speak with Stanley Kubrick at several points between the making of 1971's A Clockwork Orange and 1987's Full Metal Jacket. Just as Hitchcock and Truffaut's extended chinwag formed the basis of the 2015 doc Hitchcock/Truffaut, director Gregory Monro's Kubrick by Kubrick constructs itself around Ciment's recorded chats with the elusive auteur.

kubrick by kubrick review

The trouble with Kubrick is that he was never very open to discussion of his movies beyond the technical aspects. I've always preferred when filmmakers avoid elaborating on the "themes" of their work and leave it to critics and audience members to speculate upon, but that doesn't help Ciment's cause much. Kubrick is happy to talk about HOW he applied the lighting in a scene but refuses to divulge WHY he chose such a scheme and what he wished to convey in doing so.


This means that Monro is forced to explore other avenues beyond the Ciment tapes, which largely results in a rehash of footage Kubrick fans will likely already be familiar with – Arthur C. Clarke discussing the speculative nature of 2001: A Space Odyssey; Tom Cruise on hearing of the director's passing; a young Malcolm McDowell defending A Clockwork Orange from the tabloid hysteria that engulfed the UK on its release. With so many vintage talking heads on display, you're left wondering why Monro didn't seek out any of Kubrick's living collaborators for some fresh footage.

kubrick by kubrick review

Kubrick by Kubrick is most interesting not when the director's voice is present but when his methods are being questioned by those collaborators who didn't have the best time working alongside him. Composer Leonard Rosenman talks about assaulting Kubrick after putting his orchestra through the 105th take of a recording that he viewed as having been nailed in the second take. Marisa Berenson bemoans her Barry Lyndon experience as akin to being a glorified stand-in, present simply to be lit nicely. Sterling Hayden expresses sheer bemusement at Kubrick's insistence on take after take during Dr. Strangelove, ultimately unsure of whether he actually gave the director what he was looking for.


The great irony of Kubrick is that while he was a notorious control freak, he liked to populate his films with actors known for their improvisational spirit. Think Peter Sellers in Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and most of all, R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, a non-professional performer who practically hijacked the film's opening act from Kubrick and created arguably its most memorable moments. I've never heard Kubrick speak about this curious dichotomy, and it's a shame that Ciment never brings it up in his conversations. Or perhaps he did but was given the famous Kubrick brush off on the matter.

kubrick by kubrick review

Heavily aural, Kubrick by Kubrick might have worked just as well as a radio production. There's no real breakdown of Kubrick's visual work of the likes seen in the excellent recent doc Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist. Instead the audio is accompanied by a graphic recreation of the hallucinatory bedroom from the climax of 2001, upon which key props and items from whichever movie is currently being discussed are placed – the helmet from Full Metal Jacket; the mask from Eyes Wide Shut; the sword from Spartacus et al. Monro has the good sense not to distract us with any overly flashy visuals, but if you're already familiar with Kubrick's work, Kubrick by Kubrick wouldn't lose much impact if you were to simply listen to its audio like a high-end podcast.

Kubrick by Kubrick
 played online at the Dublin Film Festival.



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