Cinema Station

Gus & Travis Talk Film: Stanley Kubrick

March 25, 2014
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Here is a new edition of our video blog series Gus and Travis Talk Film. This time we cover Stanley Kubrick, discussing such films as Barry Lyndon, The Killing, Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita and the other works in his filmography.

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100 CRIME FILMS: Video Blogs #2 and 3

August 30, 2012
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We present the new two entries in our video blog series 100 CRIME FILMS: Body Heat (1981) and The Killing (1956).


The Quote Board

June 26, 2012
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The Quote Board

This is the section where we record the words from filmmakers living and dead that we think and hope will provoke, inspire and perhaps challenge new and not- so- new filmmakers in one way or another.

 

If it can be written or thought it can be put on film.

 

A filmmaker has the same freedom as a novelist has when he buys some paper.

 

Here’s to five miserable months on the wagon and the irreparable harm that it has caused me.

– Stanley Kubrick (1928 -1999)

 

*****

 

I steal from every movie ever made.

 

To me movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.

 

I’m not a Hollywood basher because enough good movies come out of the Hollywood system every year to justify its existence without apologies’.

-Quentin Tarantino

 

*****

 

I don’t believe in censorship.

 

If there’s a specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender and I refuse to stop making movies.

 

My movement from painting to film was a very conscious one.

 

I like high impact movies.

Kathryn Bigelow

 

*****

 

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.

 

I can’t really envision a time when I’m not shooting something.

 

Every year or so I try to do something (acting); it keeps me refreshed as to what’s going on in front of the lens, and I understand what the actor is going through.

-Martin Scorsese

*****

A lot of the time you get credit for stuff in your movie you didn’t intend to be there.

 

All directors are storytellers, so the motivation was to tell the story I wanted to tell. That’s what I love.

 

Fight the power that be. Fight the power!

 

I live in New York City, the stories of my films take place in New York; I’m a New York filmmaker.

– Spike Lee

 

*****

 

What we now have a new Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

– Over population

– Science

-Technology

and

– The Media

-Luis Bunuel (1900-1983)

 

*****

 

I dream for a living.

 

Every time I go to a movie it’s magic no matter what the movie’s about.

 

I like the smell of film. I just like knowing that there’s film going through the camera.

 

I’m really not interested in making money.

 

People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a beginning, a middle and an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.

 

When I grow up, I still want to be a director.

 

– Steven Spielberg

 

*****

 

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

 

If my films don’t show a profit, I know that I’m doing something right.

 

Life doesn’t imitate art. It imitates bad television.

 

I’m such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own.

 

As a poet said “Only God can make a tree” probably because it’s so hard to figure how to get the bark on.

 

I want to tell you a terrific story about oral contraception. I asked this girl to sleep with me and she said no.

-Woody Allen

 


Growing up with Great Directors

February 7, 2012
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Driving through the country with my grandfather the other day, I got to thinking about the ways that movies have changed over the course of my life. I’m only twenty-six but it is remarkable to look back at the way the work of great directors has grown up with me.

Take for instance, Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps the first director I ever paid close attention to. As a child, I was amazed by North by Northwest. What a wonderful adventure that film is, a boy’s movie. It is sensational, cinema at its most fun.

As a teenager, I paid more attention to Rear Window. I began to see the master behind the camera and this brilliant experiment enthralled me. Years later, breaching adulthood, I found affection and respect for the film that had alluded me: Vertigo. Now this movie was at the forefront of my mind. The mood, the themes suddenly made sense. The darkness was so alluring and had surpassed the lighter Hitchcock films.

It was less than a year ago that I revisited Notorious. This movie had also escaped my affection upon first (and second viewing). But at twenty-five years of age, I was ready for it. I never knew Hitchcock could be so romantic. Cary Grant’s character was the kind of hero I could now relate to: bitter, mean, daring, brave. Notorious now means Hitchcock to me.

I have grown up with other directors too. John Ford struck me first at the age of thirteen with How Green was my Valley. Still to this day, I attest to the wonder of this film and it’s place (regardless of its reputation for stealing the oscar from Citizen Kane) as one of the great masterpieces of cinema. But the Ford film that lingers with me at present is My Darling Clementine. When I first saw it, I shrugged at the simplicity that I now admire so much. There is so much in so little and I’m old enough to see it.

Woody Allen: from Love and Death to Crimes and Misdemeanors to The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Martin Scorsese: from Goodfellas to Raging Bull to After Hours

Stanley Kubrick: 2001 to Paths of Glory to Barry Lyndon

Even the child filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who once owned most of my affection, has retained at least one ultimate place in my cinema-loving heart: the one adventure to outlast all his others, Jaws.

It is fun to look back on the way that these film change with me over the years, one fading away and another coming into its place. This is one reason why I could never make a definitive list of favorite films. Once I had written it, the list already be different.

To the ever-evolving love of cinema,

-TM


Desert Island Movie #7: Lolita (1962)

April 1, 2011
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Lolita (1962)

Desert Island movie #7

 

 

When I first saw this film in 1962 everyone I knew disliked it. They thought it crude, tasteless, and a crass betrayal of Nabokov’s controversial novel. I thought the opposite. I thought it was a near masterpiece and I still think so. I also thought that the performances of James Mason Peter Sellers and especially Shelly Winters in the principle roles were of award caliber. But I was in the minority because only the screenplay credited to Nabokov (but vastly rewritten by Kubrick and his partner James B. Harris) was nominated for the Academy Award. It lost to Horton Foote’s screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.  In fact as late as 1981 when I asked playwright Edward Albee why he had chosen to adapt Nabokov’s novel for the stage his response was; “Someone has to correct the damage that Kubrick’s film has done.”

Curiously in 1997 after seeing director Adrian Lyne’s version of the same story, that many felt was a closer and more accurate version of the novel, I had nearly the same response to it as my peers had to the Kubrick film. And to me the actors Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and Dominique Swain, good as they often are; here they seem just shadows of the full bodied creations provided earlier by Mason, Winters and Lyons. And the Quilty character so memorably created by Peter Sellers is merely an oafish presence. Kubrick and Sellers presents him as the personification of perversity and evil whose actions justify Humbert’s final act.  In the Lyne version I got no such feeling. Now this is not a critique of Frank Langella’s performance. The role was conceived along different lines that reshaped and reduced his character.

 

The people who hate Kubrick’s version of the story hate it for all the reasons that I love it. Apparently after paying Nabokov to write his screen adaptation of the novel Kubrick and his partner rewrote what Nabokov had given them. They rewrote it to the point where Nabokov himself felt compelled to publish his script. I read them both and prefer what Kubrick and company did with it. He shifted the emphasis away from strictly pedophilia (or in Nabokov’s parlance Nymphet love) to obsessive love. The kind of love that chokes and strangles, becomes possessive in ways that leads to petty jealousies and envy. The kind of love that consumes the lover and ultimately leads to his or her destruction. This apparently did not sit well with the purists who I guess wanted the screen version to embrace the novel’s plotline more closely. Also many felt that the tone was wrong. Kubrick had chosen to tell the story from an absurdist perspective. As a result many scenes take on a comic view of what many feel is a serious/ criminal issue. But I love it and find that many of the scenes involving Humbert, Charlotte and Lolita high comedy of the rarest kind. And Sellers entire portrayal of Quilty a comic tour de force.  James Mason I think gives the best performance of his career as the redundantly named Humbert Humbert while Shelly Winters should’ve been considerably more recognized and praised for what she did with the “Haze” woman’s character. She is by turns crude, pretentious, predatory, amusing pathetic and even soulful. This was as complete a performance as I’ve seen in a long time…The dialogue of the screenplay retains much of Nabokov’s prose style and word play with things like the Town of Ramsdale, Beardsley College and Camp Climax.

 

The opening scene that precedes the credits could work as a one act play by someone like Eugene Ionesco. And the ending where Humbert desperetly tells Lolita that the distance from where they are to the world outside is only 25 paces. “Come with me” he implores her “Live with me; die with me, everything with me.” is to me one of the saddest and dramatically painful bits of acting I’ve ever seen any actor play.

The novel Lolita is considered to be one of the best novels of the 20th Century. There have been four stage adaptations, one musical Lolita, My Love (1971) by none other than Alan J. Lerner of My Fair Lady fame, two operas along with two ballets. All are considered critical as well as commercial failures. To the best of my knowledge none have succeeded at capturing the central comic/tragic essence of the novel better than Kubrick with this film. For besides being comic and tragic it is also dramatically compelling and inventive in unexpected ways. And in the final analysis it does the greatest service a film can provide a novel. It makes you want to read the book.

 

On my desert island I sometimes want to engage with works that move me in a variety of ways. This film takes me through elements of pity and fear and then back again a few times. And that is the reason I have it here on my desert isle.

-GE.


Kubrick and Chess and the Arab Prince and Gregory Peck

August 17, 2010
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Eyes Wide Open , Frederic Raphael’s account of his work with Stanley Kubrick, frustrated me; it is a contradiction, a tortured journal of insecurity written about the supposedly insecure by the insecure. It is perhaps one of the most essential books about movies I have ever picked up and I would recommend it to anyone with cinema interests.

I will say nothing more about the book but to post an excerpt.  This is more dialogue between Kubrick and Raphael.

Kubrick: Sure. I played chess pretty seriously at one point.

Raphael: What was the most serious?

Kubrick: Depends what you mean by serious. I played with some Arab prince one time. That was pretty serious. He had this ivory-handled pistol in his belt. He heard I played chess, so he challenged me to a game.

Raphael: What happened? Did you accept?

Kubrick: It was his house, there were a lot of people around, it was kinda hard not to. Yes, I did. He said he was pretty good. He had this fancy chess set in the next room he took me to.

Raphael: Good players don’t like to play with fancy pieces too much, do they?

Kubrick: Probably not. But he had this fancy set he liked to play with. He closed the door and played a game. He wasn’t bad, he wasn’t good.

Raphael: You won?

Kubrick: I won pretty quickly.

Raphael: So what happened?

Kubrick: He wanted to play again. What could I do? We played again. I figured he didn’t want to

go back in the other room too fast.

Raphael: And what happened the second time?

Kubrick: I made a mistake.

Raphael: And let him win?

Kubrick: And didn’t.

Raphael: You won again! Was that wise?

Kubrick: Probably not.  But… that’s what happened.

Raphael: What did he do?

Kubrick: He didn’t pull his gun exactly, but… He showed it to me. He… made me aware of it. And then he smiled, not too much of a smile, and he said we should go back in the other room where everyone was. He patted me on the shoulder and let me go through first. I didn’t feel too… easy about his attitude, but he was okay. When they asked him who’d won, he looked at me and then he said, “We each drew a game.” I didn’t argue. Anyone who knew anything about chess would know it was ridiculous. And anyone who didn’t, so what?

Raphael: Do you know the story about Greg Peck and Willie Wyler?

Kubrick: I don’t think so.

Raphael: Peck was producing and starring.

Kubrick: Okay.

Raphael: And the first day, Peck suggested Willie shoot a close-up of him. Stanley Donen told me this story. Willie said he didn’t need a close-up and Greg said it would be a good idea to shoot it in case. Willie said they’d pick it up when they had time. He kept putting it off, and finally Greg, as producer, threatened to close the picture down if Willie didn’t do this particular close-up. The studio people came down and begged him not to endanger the whole picture, so Willie said okay, he’d do it before the end of the shoot. Greg said, “Do I have your word? Because otherwise I’m walking right off this set.” And Willie  said, “You have my word.” They went right through the last day of shooting and they still hadn’t done this particular close-up. They did the last setup and Willie said that it was a wrap. End of shooting. Greg couldn’t believe that he still hadn’t had his close-up. Willie said it was too late. Greg said, “You promised. You gave your word. How can you do this?” Willie said, “Know something, Greg? A man holds a pistol to my head, there isn’t anything I won’t promise.”

TM

Frederic Raphael and Stanley Kubrick and Dreams and Movies

August 5, 2010
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Frederic Raphael’s book Eyes Wide Open covers his experience and relationship with Stanley Kubrick while both worked on the adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story into Eyes Wide Shut.

I’m drawn to this book not because I might gain a greater understanding of Kubrick’s last film, or even from an interest in the description of his recluse environment and eccentric ways (which are nonetheless enjoyable) but what really drives me through Raphael’s pages are the conversations, the tidbits of information divulged about Kubrick’s ideas about and taste in film.


Frederick Raphael

Since Schnitzler’s novel concerns dreams and the question of what is real and what is not, it is inevitable that Raphael and Kubrick must confront the subject and how to handle it.  As recent movies seem dominated with dreams, I found these two excerpts appropriate.

When Raphael hints that the whole of Schnitzler’s story is meant to be read as a dream…

Kubrick: It can’t all be a dream.

Raphael: Because that’s not what Schnitzler meant, or beacuse it’s not what you want?

Kubrick: If there’s no reality, there’s no movie.


Young Stanley Kubrick

A similar notion is communicated later, this time by Raphael in a small Hollywood anecdote…

“The story about Louis Malle, when he had just made Black Moon at a budget of two million dollars.  Billy Wilder asked him what it was about.  Louis said, ‘Well, Billy, it’s sort of… a dream within a dream.’  Wilder said, ‘You’ve just lost two million dollars.’  And so they had.”

-TM