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articles on cinematography + collaborators (now: EWS and ACO)

Fernando · 9 · 9089

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Hi there, I just found in my old archives an article from American Cinematographer (oct/99) about the lighting of EWS with Larry Smith, and there are another two articles about SK, they are totally worth it but I'm a little hesitant to post it because of its length, but if an admin agrees I'll do it even thou it might take more than one post, or if enough ppl ask for it also gladly will post them.

Edit: Articles Titles.

1. Cinematographer Larry Smith helps Stanley Kubrick craft a unique look for Eyes Wide Shut, a dreamlike coda to the director’s brilliant career.

2. Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic collaborators recall the man and his very unique methods.

3. Director Stanley Kubrick lent a learned eye to A Clockwork Orange, enlisting lighting cameraman John Alcott, BSC to help create a bleak dystopian futurescape.

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Please post them.
"A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later." --Stanley Kubrick


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American Cinamatographer. October 1999.

Cinematographer Larry Smith helps Stanley Kubrick craft a unique look for Eyes Wide Shut, a dreamlike coda to the director’s brilliant career.

A sword in the bed.

In Viennese author Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle (Dream Story), a seemingly happy marriage is nearly torn asunder when a prominent physician learns that his faithful wife has strayed in her imagination. Stunned by his spouse’s confession, the good doctor suffers Freudian feelings of emasculation that send him spiraling off on a compulsive quest for sexual validation and revenge. He wanders the nighttime streets, determined to regain his pride, and soon meets a succession of temptresses who steer him toward a reunion with an old college classmate—a failed medical student who earns his living playing the piano. When the musician reveals that he occasionally plies his trade at masked orgies staged by wealthy and prominent citizens, the doctor insists on infiltrating that very evening’s event, consequences be damned. Once he gains entrance, however, a sinister twist of fate threatens to derail both his marriage and his sense of security.

Schnitzler’s novella, penned in 1926, fascinated legendary director Stanley Kubrick for several decades. The filmmaker finally took his first serious step toward adapting the material in 1994, when he began collaborating with noted screenwriter Frederic Raphael, who had earned an Academy Award for Darling (1965) and a nomination for Two for the Road (1967). Convinced that male-female relationships hadn’t changed a great deal since Schnitzler’s era, Kubrick told Raphael that he wanted to update the writer’s tale, which was set in 19th-century Vienna, to present-day New York.

The duo hewed closely to their source material, fashioning a dreamlike tale of sexual obsession that became a star vehicle for married actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who were recruited to play Dr. William Harford and his art-curator wife, Alice. Production of the film began in November of 1996, and proceeded at a pace that could only be described as unusually deliberate, even by Kubrick’s standards. The film was finally completed in March of 1998 and released this past July, just four months after the filmmaker’s death.

Renowned for his exacting standards and perfectionist tendencies, Kubrick labored over every detail of the film—right down to the set dressings, which included paintings by his longtime spouse, Christiane. Famously unwilling to travel far from his home base in Hertfordshire, England, the filmmaker had elaborate Manhattan street sets constructed at Pinewood Studios. He also selected various other locations, including an estate in Norfolk that would serve as the site of the orgy, which ostensibly occurs on Long Island.

On one of these scouting trips, Kubrick brought along cinematographer Larry Smith, who had served as a gaffer on both Barry Lyndon and The Shining. The duo drove out to an estate that was being considered for the orgy sequence, and as they examined it from a distance, the director asked Smith how he would light the imposing edifice for a night exterior scene. After Smith detailed his strategy, the pair headed back to Kubrick’s home. "When we arrived at the house, he said to me, ’Well, do you want to shoot the movie?’" Smith recalls. "It was as simple as that. This may sound strange, but I didn’t say yes right away; I actually asked him if I could sleep on it! Because I’d worked with Stanley before, I knew what kind of commitment he demanded. I knew it would be a long schedule and that I’d have to be wrapped up in the project body and soul. Of course, deep down I knew right away that I was going to do it, and I told him so the next day. Obviously, most cameramen would give their right arm to work with Stanley, but ultimately, the reason I said yes was because we’d been friends for more than 20 years, and he asked me personally if I wanted the job. That meant a lot to me."

Smith’s association with Kubrick began in the early 1970s, when he was asked to serve as chief electrician on Barry Lyndon. Smith had carved out a career in exhibition lighting, but he had repeatedly found himself drawn to feature filmmaking, and he jumped at the chance. "At the time, I didn’t really know too much about Stanley," he admits. "I knew he was an American movie director whose films had been very well-received. As soon as I began working on the show, though, I realized that Stanley was not an ordinary person; he had tremendous vision, as well as a unique and very charismatic presence. His personality was quite understated, but when people were around him, they didn’t know quite how to comport themselves. They definitely became intimidated, even though he never resorted to tactics like shouting, screaming or foot-stamping. Rather, their uneasiness stemmed from the fact that he was a very smart man who asked intelligent and searching questions. Interacting with Stanley was a bit like playing tennis with a professional; if you were quick enough, you could hit the ball back to him, but if you weren’t, you wouldn’t last long."

Smith himself managed to return Kubrick’s serve during a day of interior shooting on Barry Lyndon. The production was set up in one of the film’s stately manors, but it was raining heavily outside,—where the crew had set up an array of Mini-Brutes on towers to illuminate the scene through the building’s windows, which were covered with tracing paper. "Things were going a bit slowly, and I was discussing the situation with the director of photography, John Alcott [BSC]," he remembers. "All of the lighting gear was mounted on metal platforms, and the crew was proceeding with caution. Up to that point, I hadn’t had any personal interaction with Stanley, but he ambled over and said to me, ’It’s raining out there, isn’t it?’ I told him it was, and he asked, ’Is it dangerous?’ I answered, ’Well, that’s what they’re saying.’ He replied, ’You’re communicating with the crew, so they’ve obviously got radios, right? Aren’t the radios getting wet?’ I told him, ’No, they aren’t, because we wrapped them in polythene bags.’

"Well, that’s just what Stanley wanted to hear, and from that moment on, we got along famously," he says with a laugh. "I had a very happy friendship with him right up until he died."

Asked to outline Kubrick’s methodology on the set, Smith compares the director to a field general in the military, noting that "any general worth his salt knows that he has to have very good officers down through the ranks. Stanley wanted everybody on his projects to really know what they were doing; he needed to have complete confidence in the people around him. When you’re working on a film as big as Barry Lyndon, with the vastness of the locations and the splendor of it all, you quickly realize that none of it happens by accident— everything has to be very carefully thought-out and choreographed. Stanley had a lifelong fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte, and if he hadn’t been a committed pacifist, I think he would have made a great military strategist, because he was very organized and good with logistics."

Smith confirms that Kubrick was "totally absorbed" by his craft. "When he was working on something, he focused on it completely he couldn’t think about anything else. He did a tremendous amount of research, which is probably why he didn’t make as many movies as some other filmmakers. In fact, he did quite a bit of the research himself— obviously, he would also get other people to gather certain bits of information for him, but if you gave him a slab of material, he’d go through it and ask a barrage of relevant questions. He consumed a lot of books and journals, including American Cinematographer, which he read religiously he was always waving the magazine under my nose to see if I’d read this or that article. If there was a new tool out there, he knew all about it, even though he didn’t necessarily have hands-on experience with it. For that reason, he had no preconceptions about what a piece of equipment could do. He’d simply say, ’Well, let’s get it and try this or that with it.’

"During all of this research and testing, Stanley would gradually get an overall picture of what he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and where he wanted to do it. He had a great deal of foresight, and he didn’t restrict himself to a particular mode of working. He created a new style every time he did a movie, and along the way, he invariably came up with some incredible ideas."

When filming was imminent, Smith says, Kubrick would obsess over every visual element that would appear in a given frame, from props and furniture to the color of walls and other objects. "Stanley would tell the production designers and set dressers exactly what types of lamps, chairs or decor he wanted, and he always preferred using the best materials—he wouldn’t use paper and wood if it was possible to do it with plaster, cement or brick. If we didn’t like the color of the walls or something else in the scene, he’d have them changed.

"Once the sets were built, I’d go in and light them. I’d get the electricians in there, set up all of the practical lights, and then wire them to dimmers to give us the control we needed. After everything was in place, I’d shoot various tests with different exposures. When we looked at the test footage, Stanley would say things like, ’I like that, I don’t like that,’ ’Why don’t we try this?’ or ’Why don’t we go and shoot some more tests?’ A typical comment might be, ’I don’t like the look of that lampshade, let’s change the color.’ The process involved a constant series of adjustments, which is one of the reasons that our schedule was so long. In many ways, it’s a much more expensive and time-consuming way to shoot than simply using lights to achieve a certain color scheme, but that’s the way Stanley worked on all of his movies. He was never afraid to go back to a certain set or location and change things around. He wouldn’t show even a single frame of film that he wasn’t happy with himself. When the paying public goes to see a Stanley Kubrick film, they’re not going to get something that’s simply thrown together."

Smith and his crew would typically have a set completely ready the night before a given scene was scheduled to be shot. The next day, Kubrick would rehearse the actors for as long as he felt was necessary before rolling the camera. The cinematographer notes that Kubrick’s reputation for multiple takes, while accurate, was often misconstrued as perfectionism taken to eccentric extremes. "Stanley’s views about actors are quite well-documented," Smith points out. "With certain actors on his previous pictures, I think he probably felt that he needed 70 takes to get them to do the scene properly! It wasn’t like that with Tom and Nicole, however. We did occasionally do lots of takes, but it was more often due to a logistical problem than acting issues. Stanley didn’t do take after take because he enjoyed it or wanted to drive everyone crazy—the scene was either right or it wasn’t right, and whatever kept it from being right had to be eliminated. It might be something very subtle, like an ashtray facing the wrong way, but Stanley had a phenomenal eye for small details."

On Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick was inspired to work with existing light fixtures and a minimum of "movie lights"—a strategy he had previously pursued to stunning effect on both The Shining (see AC August 1980) and Barry Lyndon (which earned John Alcott the Oscar for Best Cinematography; see AC March 1976). While shooting the latter picture, Kubrick used a pair of special super-fast f0.7 Zeiss lenses (36.5mm and 50mm) to film candlelight scenes with virtually no supplemental lighting. The custom-made instruments were actually still camera lenses developed for use by NASA in the Apollo moon-landing program, later modified for Kubrick by Ed DiGiulio of Cinema Products Corporation in Los Angeles.

Smith reports that Kubrick actually asked DiGiulio to recalibrate the Barry Lyndon lenses for use on Eyes Wide Shut, but eventually scrapped that plan. "Stanley wanted to shoot with available light and real sources wherever possible," Smith relates. "We discussed the idea of using the f0.7 lenses from Barry Lyndon, but they just weren’t right for the type of shooting we were doing. Stanley wanted to be able to show some of the sets, such as the ballroom in the opening party sequence, in 360 degrees, via extensive Steadicam work and wide-angle lenses. He wanted to give the actors the flexibility to move wherever they needed to, and he also wanted to swing the camera around the room without worrying about where the lights were. Furthermore, Barry Lyndon was made more than 25 years ago, when film stocks were rated at 100 ASA. Now we have the luxury of 500- and 800-speed stocks, which eliminates the need for specialized lenses like those old f0.7 Zeisses."

Kubrick framed Eyes Wide Shut in the standard 1.85:1 format, primarily using a set of Zeiss Superspeed T1.3 spherical prime lenses, but occasionally opting to employ Arri’s T2.1 variable prime lenses or a zoom. Smith notes that the auteur favored wider lenses to show off the production values in his sets; most of Eyes was shot with the Zeiss 18mm lens, and the filmmakers rarely went longer than 35mm. A longtime fan of Arriflex cameras, Kubrick deployed a pair of 535Bs, operated by Martin Hume, throughout the production. The filmmakers also made frequent use of a Steadicam rig equipped with a Moviecam SL, operated by either Elizabeth Ziegler or Peter Cavaciuti.

In order to facilitate Kubrick’s shooting strategy, which required the picture’s film stock to be force-developed by two stops at Deluxe Laboratories in London, Smith conducted extensive photographic tests at the prep stage. "Kodak’s Vision 500T stock had just come out, but I was planning to use their old EXR5298, another 500-ASA stock. During my tests, I discovered that while you can’t really force-develop the Vision 500T, the old 5298 could handle it quite well, even if you were forcing it two stops. Kodak designs their stocks to be shot in the middle of the sensitometric curve, rather than at the extreme ends, and when I tried to force the Vision 500T, I found that it had a blue bias. Obviously, that’s a characteristic of that particular film stock, so we opted to use the 5298 instead. That gave us a bit of a problem, of course, because 98 had been phased out, but Kodak assured us that they could provide as many rolls of it as we needed.

"During our tests, we decided that we liked what we were seeing, although we were always debating various issues, such as ’What will force-developing do to the skin tones?’ or ’How will it affect the practicals?’ There’s no question that with force-developing you get exaggerated highlights—they really blow out. We decided that if we pushed everything two stops, it would really have the effect of an extra stop and a quarter or a stop and a half. That’s basically the way we worked it out, and we eventually decided to force-develop everything, even the day exteriors, to keep the look consistent."

Smith credits Deluxe with making this strategy viable. "I’d forced footage before for the odd shot, but never for an entire movie," he says. "I quickly came to realize that it’s not an exact science; you do get some variations, because it’s very difficult to keep things within certain parameters when you’re force-developing every frame on a project of this magnitude. Having said that, I think Deluxe did an incredibly consistent job day in and day out. They put aside a bath just for us, and they always put our stuff through first—that was a special privilege they extended to Stanley. It was a seven-day-a-week job to make sure that what we were getting was consistent, and I give all the credit to the guys who handled that. Ian Robinson was our main contact at Deluxe U.K., but the guy who supervised everything was their director of operations, Chester Eyre."

Eyre, who first worked with Kubrick as a timer on A Clockwork Orange, began collaborating more closely with the director on Full Metal Jacket. He notes that Kubrick never limited himself to standard lab practices, particularly in the case of Eyes Wide Shut. "Stanley had his own ideas about what each picture should look like, and what he was trying to achieve with it. Before he began shooting Full Metal Jacket, we talked about the look quite extensively. He detailed the lighting style he was planning to use, and we did lots of tests. On Eyes Wide Shut, he told me he was going to rate the negative stock faster than the actual recommended speed, and that he wanted us to force-develop it two stops to bring it back to its original exposure level. That created several advantages for him: he could work with less light and obtain a particular mood. Force-developing in that way is very unusual, and it’s normally done as a last resort if the filmmakers are losing their light and are desperate to get a shot. On this picture, though, it was a deliberate strategy that was designed to get a special look; we basically left the negative in the developing bath for a longer amount of time than usual.

"Lab people always worry when things are done in a non-standard manner, and at first we were all surprised that he wanted to do it. However, once we began seeing the results and the quality of the negative, we understood what he was trying to do. If you look at the night scenes in particular, they have terrific exposure and depth, as well as very good blacks."

The results of the two-stop force-development are clearly evident in the film’s first major setpiece, an elaborate Christmas party staged at the spectacularly lavish home of Dr. Harford’s top patient, multimillionaire Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). During the course of the evening, both Bill and Alice are propositioned by predatory members of the opposite sex: as the physician is waylaid by a pair of seductive models (Louise Taylor and Stewart Thorndike), a tipsy Alice takes a spin on the dance floor with an unctuous Hungarian playboy (Sky Dumont). The scene was lit almost entirely with a huge wall of ordinary Christmas lights to create an elegant holiday ambience. "Two months before the movie went into production, we began testing for the party sequence," Smith recalls. "We tried out a variety of different Christmas lights before I found the ones I wanted in a catalogue. They were very low-wattage, but had a really magical quality. The effect is obviously enhanced by the force-developing, which made the lights appear to be much brighter than they were, but even to the naked eye, the visual impact of that setup was sensational.

"We decided to shoot nearly all of the picture at a stop of T1.3, and since we were pushing everything, we were able to create a wonderful warm glow. We also used a Tiffen LC-1 [low-contrast] filter for our night interior scenes, and the effect it produced is especially evident in the party sequence—it made the lights glow and gave everything a slightly surreal edge."
Although the filmmakers used no additional lighting in wider shots of the party, Smith did modify his approach for close-ups of the actors, utilizing a China ball containing a dimmer-controlled 200-watt bulb. "The China balls were very useful if there was any movement in the scene, because they’re very light; we could just walk around with them and do anything we wanted. Normally, I only used a small amount of fill light when things began to get a bit murky, because I knew that the force-developing would give us the exposure level we needed. For the scene in which the Hungarian first approaches Alice, I created some fill with a smaller curtain of the Christmas lights."

Smith found himself striving for a different type of nocturnal ambience when the production moved onto the highly detailed Manhattan street sets at Pinewood, which were built by a production design crew headed by Les Tomkins and Roy Walker. Four blocks’ worth of facades were built and then dressed with street signs and other authentic items that were shipped in from New York City itself. The facades were periodically redressed, depending upon the scene at hand. "Once again, we used available light," he details. "We put New York-type lampposts right in the frame, and they were all on dimmers. They were ordinary lampposts that we converted; we took out the normal bulbs and replaced them with our own 2K single-ended bulbs. To add a bit of light to the scenes, I’d usually turn up the levels on some of the lampposts that were out of shot. We also placed a few 300- or 500-watt quartz bulbs on the buildings, as well as a few other lights that we aimed downward to create pools of light. The rest of the illumination for those scenes was provided by Christmas fixtures and the lights we placed in the various shops and storefronts.

"We did shoot some of the street stuff on real London streets, and for those scenes I occasionally created an overall nighttime ambience with a big blue 18K fixture mounted on a cherrypicker. We didn’t do that so much on our New York street sets, though, because the practical lights were usually enough to create a good atmosphere."

Smith notes that the filmmakers applied a classic trick in a rather unusual manner for a few medium shots of Harford walking restlessly along Manhattan streets. "In some of the scenes, the backgrounds were rear-projection plates," the cinematographer reveals. "Generally, when Tom’s facing the camera, the backgrounds are rear-projected; anything that shows him from a side view was done on the streets of London. We had the plates shot in New York by a second unit [that included cinematographers Patrick Turley, Malik Sayeed and Arthur Jafa]. Once the plates were sent to us, we had them force-developed and balanced to the necessary levels. We’d then go onto our street sets and shoot Tom walking on a treadmill. After setting the treadmill to a certain speed, we’d put some lighting effects on him to simulate the glow from the various storefronts that were passing by in the plates. We spent a few weeks on those shots."

Eight more weeks were required to capture the film’s visual centerpiece: a baroque, ritualistic orgy staged in an elegant mansion by powerful members of society’s upper crust. Concealed beneath a mask and dark cloak, Dr. Harford watches in astonishment as an imposing red-robed figure consecrates a circle of nearly nude women, who then select partners from the crowd of costumed onlookers. The physician soon finds himself touring the mansion’s many rooms, where the masked revelers engage in a salacious display of sexual abandon.

The sequence was shot in Norfolk, England, at an estate that featured an array of Indian architectural flourishes, including a very high, domed ceiling. "In order to light the mansion’s main room, we installed a big truss rig up in the dome," Smith explains. "Mounted in the truss was a Martin PAL 1200 unit, which we rented from a rock ’n’ roll lighting company in London; it has a 1.2K HMI lamp inside that bounces off an adjustable mirror, and you can put different kinds of gobos in it. The truss also held a couple of Martin MAC 500s, which are from the same family of lighting instruments; we used those to light the people standing just beyond the ceremonial circle. To provide some overall fill, we set up some space lights as well. That was our basic setup in the main room, although I did use a couple of small spots for close-ups of the man in the red cloak.
"The shots where Tom’s character begins gliding from room to room were done with the Steadicam," Smith adds. "Once again, we used practical lights for those scenes. I also had some wooden plinths made, and we used those to hide some lights that raked up the columns in the rooms, so you’d never see a direct light. There were a few ceiling lights here or there, and a couple of wall lights, but that was it."

In U.S. prints of the film, digital figures were added—at the behest of the Motion Picture Association of America—to obscure the most explicit action in the orgy sequence. Asked for his opinion on this controversial edict, Smith says simply, "Naturally, I’d have preferred if [the MPAA] hadn’t required that, but Stanley had to comply in order to get an R rating. In Europe, the digital figures won’t be there. Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but European viewers will certainly see much more going on in those scenes!"

A key aspect of the film’s visual design is its meticulous color structure; throughout Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick uses a veritable rainbow of bold colors to underscore the emotional subtexts of various scenes. These hues cover the entire range of the spectrum—the seductive lavender of a prostitute’s dress and bedsheets; the warm oranges and deep blues that dominate the Harfords’ apartment; the glaring, blank whites of the physician’s office; and a crimson red that signals danger throughout the picture, particularly in the orgy interrogator’s flowing robes and the felt surface of Victor Ziegler’s pool table. The film’s script even seems to make sly reference to this strategy on several occasions: when the two leggy models approach Harford at Ziegler’s Christmas party, they offer to take him on a sexual excursion to "the end of the rainbow," and when the doctor seeks to obtain a mask and cloak for the orgy, he eventually rents them from the Rainbow Costume Shop.

Deluxe U.K.’s Chester Eyre submits that the director "had his own ideas about what each picture should look like, and what he was trying to achieve with it. He had a fixed idea about the color of each sequence, and he would strive with you to obtain that color, even if it had no relation to the preceding sequence. He was always focused on the mood that could be achieved with a certain color. In the case of Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley actually supplied us with information about the red, green and blue [timing] lights. He would look at what had been shot the previous day, mentally adjust the colors, write the specifications on the camera sheets he gave to us, and then request certain color combinations that he’d devised with Larry Smith on the set. Normally, it’s left to the laboratory to assess the color of the negative. A filmmaker might ask us to print something a certain way—say, dark and red—but Stanley was asking for specific combinations of colors."

A striking example of this strategy is the Harfords’ apartment, with its mix of warm tones and blue light. Although these scenes were lit mainly by practical household fixtures, Smith used other instruments to add the vivid blue tones. "The blue we used was very saturated, much bluer than natural moonlight would be, but we didn’t care about that—we just went for a hue that was interesting," Smith says. "I used open-faced clear glass arcs to get that particular color, and to create shafts of light that would bring out the sharpness of the blinds. It was an over-the-top blue, but it complemented the orange light very nicely and gave those scenes an intriguing look."

For close-ups, Smith would duplicate the colors with smaller fixtures. "If we were shooting in blue light, we’d use a blue Chinese lantern for the closer shots," he details. "If we were dealing with the orange hue, I’d simply dim down the household bulbs to get a warmer feeling. Most of the movie is at either extreme either very rich and warm, or very blue and cold."

Reflecting upon his collaboration with the one of cinema’s greatest directors, Smith concludes, "Working with Stanley was a great privilege, and I’m very thankful that I met him and got that chance. However, I don’t think my lasting memories of him will necessarily relate to our interactions on the set. The moments I’ll always remember will be those times when we’d be in his office or at the house, drinking some coffee and talking about cricket, football or movies. Stanley had a great sense of humor, and he always had this mischievous little twinkle in his eyes. That’s what I’ll miss the most."


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American Cinematographer. October 1999.

Quest for perfection: Ron Magid

Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic collaborators recall the man and his very unique methods.

Without question, Stanley Kubrick was one of cinema’s most imposing, exacting, independent, and fiercely original filmmakers. His work, which sometimes took decades to reach the screen, was shrouded in mystery, and once the films were finished, many of the elements that went into them—sets, costumes, props, storyboards and preliminary designs—were destroyed. No one, certainly not his close colleagues, dared discuss Kubrick’s working methods—until now. Following the director’s untimely death earlier this year at age 70, several of his collaborators agreed to speak with AC about this often contradictory man who, it turns out, may not have been so reclusive after all. [Ed. note: Some of the following comments, including those of the late John Alcott, BSC and Douglas Milsome, BSC, were culled from past issues of AC.]
Leon Vitali (actor, Barry Lyndon, Eyes Wide Shut; personal assistant, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut; casting director, Full Metal Jacket, EWS): All of this stuff about Stanley being a hermit—he was a homebody, but he’d go out and do his own shopping sometimes. How many A-list directors do their own shopping?

Larry Smith (cinematographer, Eyes Wide Shut): That’s a misperception, that Stanley was a recluse—he was far from a recluse. He was certainly a bit shy around people that he’d just met for the first time, but that didn’t last long. As soon as he could find something of interest that he could communicate about with that person, he was fine. Stanley had a vast vision of many things. He was an intellectual, no question about it, even though he didn’t come from an intellectual background. His father was a doctor, but Stanley was self-taught. He read books, and he could hold his own talking about anything from politics to religion to sport—you name it.

Stanley also had a very warm, earthy side as well. When I went into the kitchen at his house, he’d come ’round, make some coffee and ask, ’Do you want some toast, do you want something to eat?’ He’d put some toast in, and the toast would invariably get burnt. He would take it out with his hand and whack it on the table to get rid of the burnt crumbs. ’Let’s find a knife and put some butter on it,’ he’d say. There’d be a mess all over the place, and the coffee would get spilled. To me, that was fantastic. I’d think to myself, ’Stanley Kubrick is making me tea and toast!’ You don’t realize how important those little things are until the person dies and you realize that you’re never going to do them again.

Ken Adam (production designer, Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon): Stanley was hoping to do all of Barry Lyndon—or most of it—within literally 30 miles of his home in Elstree. At the time, A Clockwork Orange was a great success, but he had received a lot of threatening letters, which made him a bit reluctant to go to far-off locations. I told him that I couldn’t see that plan working out, because I knew where the suitable stately homes were situated, and with one or two exceptions, they certainly weren’t within that radius of Stanley’s house! His stance on the matter was enormously frustrating for me, but eventually, after five or six months, I got him to look at some of the stately homes [further away], and then to go to Ireland to shoot the Irish locations. Of course, once we were in Ireland, he wanted to do all of the continental sequences there, too.

John Alcott, BSC (camera assistant/cinematographer, 2001: A Space Odyssey; cinematographer, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining): When you’re with Stanley, the working relationship benefits from picture to picture. We’ve collaborated together since 1965, and in working with him, there is always a different outlook, a different idea: ’Let’s try something different. Is there any way of doing this differently? Is there any way of making this much better than it was before?’ I feel that when you have as much time as we had on The Shining to—make sure that the sets are right and that the art director is building them to your lighting design, it is a great privilege. You don’t have that privilege when you work with somebody who lacks the visual perception that Stanley has. He is willing to bend over backwards to give you something you may desire in the way of a new lighting technique, which is a great help. As time goes on, Stanley has become more thorough and more exacting in his demands. One has to go away after having done a film with him, gather knowledge, come back, and try to put that knowledge together with his knowledge into another film. He is, and I’ve said this before, very demanding. He demands perfection, but he will give you all the help you need if he thinks that whatever you want to do will accomplish the desired result. He will give you full power to do it—but, at the same time, it must work. (From AC Aug. 1980.)

Garrett Brown (Steadicam operator, The Shining): Stanley is correctly reported to be in charge of every detail, and interested in everything from the air-conditioning to the nature of lunch. On The Shining, we were working at Ellstree studios in Hertfordshire for a year, but at the end we needed to go on location in Hampstead Hospital (about 7 miles away), and we began debating about what would be the fastest way to transport the crew down there. Stanley’s idea was that cars would be faster, but I maintained, ’The underground is by far the quickest way.’ He didn’t believe it, so I said, ’Come with me, I’ll show you! I subsequently had the great joy of taking Kubrick for a ride on the London underground—which he hadn’t been aboard for 20 years. He was looking around as if he had just arrived from Mars. He had never seen ads and things underground, and he thought it was amazingly dirty. Of course, nobody knew who he was; they probably thought he was a mildly retarded fellow who was having a great time on the train. It was really quite fun, and of course, we beat his driver by an enormous margin, but we still ended up traveling by road.

Gilbert Taylor, BSC (cinematographer, Dr. Strangelove): Stanley hated being airborne, so during prep on Strangelove, I did about 28,000 miles in a B-17 Flying Fortress, shooting aerial material [for the background plates]. I remember the night we took off; it was pitch black at about four o’clock in the afternoon, and we were going up with the Fortress to Iceland and then Greenland. It was semi-snowing at the London airport, and suddenly someone said, ’Stanley’s here.’ I thought to myself, ’Oh, Christ! Not now!’ He came on the plane and said to my mechanic, ’The camera mountings are too tight.’ I’d done a lot of that sort of work in my time, and I wanted those mountings to be absolutely solid with the airplane, and not all flippy-floppy. When he began his critique, I said to the pilot, ’Can you start one engine?’ He fired the engine up, and Stanley literally flew off the plane! As soon as he was out the door, I had them tighten those bolts right up again.

Diane Taylor (Gil Taylor’s wife; plate continuity on Dr. Strangelove): I’d done continuity for Disney on a couple of pictures, so I was desperately trying to get on [Strangelove]. I asked [actor] Peter Sellers about it, and he said, ’No problem, I’ll ask Stanley!’ Well, being very young and naive, I didn’t realize that you didn’t ask actors to do that sort of thing. The next time [Stanley] phoned, I asked, ’Could I come and see you?’ I went to his office and said, ’I’d like to do the continuity on your film, please.’ There was a total, terrible silence, and he replied, ’What’s your relationship with Peter Sellers?’ I said, ’There isn’t one at all.’ Stanley told me, ’You’re very young, and I don’t think you could really manage this, but you could probably do the flying stuff. Have you flown?’ I answered, ’Oh, yes!’—I said ’Oh, yes!’ to everything. And he said, ’Come up with some sort of system that would convince me that we could keep track of every [shot].’ I went away and came up with a kind of nautical system for the cameras, port and starboard, using colors and numbers. He told me, ’If you’d like to go ahead, okay!’ [Afterwards], Stanley—the silly billy—cut off all of these things I’d prepared! He found himself in a terrible pickle, because he couldn’t remember what we’d got and where we’d done it! I don’t know why [he did that]. He was a law unto himself.

Garrett Brown: After five takes, anyone else in the world would have considered my shot okay. After 14, it was what even I would consider perfect. But after 30, I was entering new realms. I was really conscious of where this foot or that finger went, as if I was a dancer on Broadway night after night, who learned every floorboard in the stage. It was fantastic. When we saw the dailies, the [Steadicam shots] were as smooth and accurate as a dolly and a great deal less constrained.

Dan Richter (played "Moonwatcher" and served as choreographer for the ape scenes on 2001): First of all, you have to understand one thing about Stanley: I never saw him get angry. He just kept working, you know? Once something was right, he moved on to the next thing, but if it wasn’t there yet, he just kept at it! Now, that might mean 40 takes, an extra eight months, tearing the whole set down and redoing it, or reshooting completely. The process involved a lot of refinement, and we did a lot of testing—over and over and over again. But I loved the guy for it, because that’s the way I liked to work!

Chester Eyre (director of operations, Deluxe Laboratories U.K.): My association with Stanley began when I served as one of the timers on A Clockwork Orange. Working with him was very interesting, because he was obviously a very important producer/director, and we were all in awe of him. Everyone who’s ever worked with the man has learned a lot from him—about both the industry and themselves. He always managed to draw more out of you than you thought was there.
I began working more closely with Stanley on Full Metal Jacket, and he showed me that there was nothing that couldn’t be achieved if you set your mind to it. He could never understand why people weren’t as absorbed with everything as he was. For example, there was one point on Full Metal Jacket where he wanted a special kind of gate made for a camera, and he telephoned an expert who had long since retired. He called me the next day and said, ’I can’t believe it. I offered this man the chance to make a special gate for me, and he told me, ’I’m sorry, I’ve retired.’ He simply couldn’t understand why the man didn’t share his enthusiasm.

Leon Vitali: I can’t understand why an actor complains when a director wants to do more takes, because it’s just an opportunity to do different things, and to give the scene another slant. Stanley was a wonderful director to work with as an actor. From the first day I met him on [Barry Lyndon], it was just a wonderful relationship. He was a very, very open person to talk to. He also had a unique way of working: it would only be you, whoever you were acting with, and him. Everyone else disappeared; there were no cameras, and nobody else was on the set, so you’d be very, very focused. During that time, he’d be looking for angles through his Arriflex viewfinder. You always had to do the scene for real, even if you were rehearsing, because you never know what’s going to happen. The entire course of the scene could change. If it wasn’t clicking for some reason, we’d all go to his caravan and work on the scene. He’d say, ’Well, how would you say this? How would you do this?’ All the time, he was probing you to find what it was you were trying find.

It was just the most magical experience to work for this man, and it happened on Eyes Wide Shut as well, because I was working for him as an actor again [playing the man in the red cloak in the orgy sequence]. We hadn’t really discussed my role in any detail whatsoever, and he didn’t say anything to me through the whole first day of shooting. I found our interaction to be almost like a sort of a teasing game, and Stanley finally said, ’I haven’t said anything to you. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s almost like a sadistic English schoolmaster talking to this unfortunate pupil.’ I just developed that idea more and more [as I confronted Tom Cruise’s character]. My tone was sarcastic and kind; it wasn’t brutal and sort of, ’Remove your mask!’ It was all very, ’May I have the password, please?’ Everything was very polite, which made it a bit more threatening, really. I felt exactly how I felt when we were doing Barry Lyndon. Stanley gave me a wonderful freedom.

Douglas Milsome, BSC (camera assistant, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining; cinematographer, Full Metal Jacket): I’ve actually had a much harder time working with a lot less talented people than Stanley Kubrick. He’s a drain because he saps you dry, but he works damn hard himself and expects everybody else to. Sometimes it becomes a plod because it’s so slow and intricate, but he loves to do things quite differently than they’ve been done before. You can’t really do that sort of thing off the top of your head, so you work very hard to get it together and make something different which bears his mark. Sometimes the relationship can get a little strained because you’ve got to be devoted to him. You eat, drink and sleep the movie, and you’re under contract to Stanley body and soul. But he allows you the time to get everything absolutely right, which is what I find so rewarding. (From AC Sept. 1987.)

Martin Hunter (editor, Full Metal Jacket): Full Metal Jacket was my first feature. [Stanley taught me] that to impart the intended emotion of the scene, it’s crucial that the reactions be precisely correct. Many [directors] believe that reactions are something you pick up at the end of a scene; they’ll just run the camera and say, ’That’ll do,’ which is not the best way to do it. [Stanley] would shoot take after take of people who were only observers in the scene, and didn’t have any dialogue. Then, as we were cutting it, he’d comb through the material exhaustively. I remember saying to him once, ’Stanley, would you ever consider looking at a couple of takes and picking a reaction shot that works, and not bother to look at the others?’ He looked at me in some shock and replied, ’I’d never think of doing that. So much work has gone into it so far, why not take it to its conclusion?’

Ken Adam: On Strangelove, it wasn’t so much the time one had to spend it was Stanley’s continuous questioning of ’What makes you tick?’ That could be soul-destroying. He wanted everything that I did to be justified, and that I found very trying. You finally are liable to lose your self-confidence if everything you do is being questioned, but that was because he wanted to make absolutely sure, intellectually, that what I came up with was right. For me, design, like so many other creative processes, is instinctive. Stanley knew practically every other job as well as and better than most of the other film technicians—he certainly knew photography and had a brilliant visual sense— but he didn’t really know design!

Gilbert Taylor: It’s pretty well universally known that Stanley was a frustrated director of photography, among other things. I never had any trouble with him, though. He had a habit of taking Polaroids and saying, ’I think you’ve got too much light on this.’ And I’d say, ’Well, your Polaroids might have too much light, but on my negative it’s dead right!’ I mean, that’s the sort of thing you had to put up with. He was a completely one-man band, but he was very talented!

Martin Hunter: Stanley once quoted Napoleon to me: ’A general should be able lead a cavalry charge or boil a chicken.’ The first time I actually had a conversation with him was when I was an assistant sound editor, and we were doing the mix [on The Shining] at Elstree Studios. He had caterers bring food into the mixing theater. He didn’t want anybody to take off and have long lunches—he wanted to make sure we were all captive there. Tables were laid out, and by the time I’d got my food, there was no room at any table but his! He was sitting there with his daughter, Vivian, and I felt somewhat embarrassed about sitting by the great man. I guess I had thought he was remote and unapproachable until I met him, but then I found him immediately approachable, and we just kind of chatted. He was incredibly interested in people’s lives and the sorts of mundane details that would be a total surprise to people who didn’y know him. When you knew him, you’d be surprised at just how ’normal’ a person he was.

Gilbert Taylor: You didn’t have a lot of fun with Stanley, because if anybody laughed out loud on the set, they got removed from the floor. He hated anybody who laughed [while working]; we certainly weren’t allowed to laugh on Dr. Strangelove.

Larry Smith: Stanley and I had a good understanding because we laughed at a lot of things. He was a very humorous man. A lot of people don’t understand that about Stanley; he was the funniest fellow you could ever meet. He told some incredibly funny stories and jokes. I’m quite an effervescent sort of person when I’m shooting, and I used to joke with him all the time, sometimes in very serious situations.

Martin Hunter: Between The Shining and Full Metal Jacket I used to do everything for Stanley, from taking meetings with the top brass at Technicolor to occasionally feeding the cats and walking the dog. When we were dealing with the restoration of Dr. Strangelove, one of the people at Technicolor asked me what my title was, and I said, ’I’m not sure. I’ll get back to you.’ When I asked Stanley what my title was, he asked me, ’What’s this other guy’s title?’ I said, ’He’s Director of Operations.’ And he replied, ’Tell him you’re my Director of Operations.’

Ken Adam: [On Barry Lyndon,] Stanley had my continuity sketch artist do hundreds of sketches using various lenses on groups of soldiers, to see how they would look through a 50mm or wide-angle lens. We also experimented with having the first line of infantry in proper uniforms, the second line in paper uniforms, the third line as cutouts, and so on, [and shooting with them] on a limited scale. I always felt that he put such a great amount of effort into the attack and defense sequences because he was thinking of Napoleon, and this approach would have been of vital importance on that project.

Chris Cunningham (animatronics effect expert, who was helping Kubrick develop the unfilmed science-fiction project A.I.): I met Stanley in late 1994, and I worked with him all through ’95. He wanted to see if a [synthetic] child could be made using animatronics to avoid digital effects work, and I was trying to talk him into doing it using computer graphics because I don’t think animatronics are very good. The ironic thing about it was that I was a cynical animatronics person, and it was almost like building an animatronic boy as perfectly as possible would only serve to show him that it still would never be perfect enough.

Dennis Muren, ASC (ILM visual effects supervisor, consultant on A.I.): He wanted the kid to look sort of real but not real. I just remember that he was always searching. That’s the way I’m going to remember Stanley— always searching. I don’t think he ever just looked at something and said, ’That’s it.’

Ned Gorman (ILM visual effects producer, consultant on A.I.): It seemed to me that getting a ’Stanley Kubrick’ performance from this CG kid was going to be really problematic. That’s my personal opinion, but I have a sense that he was so hands-on it would have been almost impossible for him to work with an animation director and get what he wanted. Something I didn’t quite say to him was that if his live-action pictures took two years to post—given his well-deserved reputation for perfection—I could see something like this going on for five years. Presented with the infinite palette of possibilities digital techniques allow, Stanley would have created something amazing, but it could have been tough for him to know when to stop. He was the master and I mourn for the films we won’t see.

Ty Ruben Ellingson (A.I. preproduction effects artist): Kubrick wanted a lot of extra frames on the head and tail of every effects shot. He wanted to be able to say, ’I want this kid to go pick up a ball and walk to the next room,’ and he really wanted it from before and after. I think in a weird sense, he was playing back to his strengths. By leaving an unknown in there, it was like shooting all of those takes: he was leaving himself an option to move around a little bit.

Dennis Muren: Stanley lived on the telephone, just sort of keeping up with things, like where is digital [technology] at? The last time I heard from him, he left me a voicemail and said he’d call me back up at about 9 o’clock. I counted out the time difference [between England and the U.S.], and that was about 5 a.m. his time! I think he just lived at night. He was always up late, at least until 1 or 2 o’clock, because that’s when I would often talk to him. I think it was because he always needed to talk to people in the States. Everybody got phone calls from him. He would call ILM and ask for me, and if I wasn’t there, he would say, ’Well, can you put me in touch with somebody in optical?’ I think John Knoll got a call like that, and I know Stefan Fangmeyer got a call like that. I was even getting calls at home on Sundays. I still don’t know how he got my home number.

Gilbert Taylor: Stanley used to telephone me at home, at around midnight, and say, ’Gil, I want to buy a camera, what shall I buy? And what should I buy along with it?’ He’d spend a whole hour talking to me about which camera he should buy—it was nothing whatsoever to do with [his current] movie or anything! I’d talk to him about it, say ’Bye-bye, Stanley,’ and not hear from him for another year. He was a very strange man.

Ed DiGiulio (President of Cinema Products, supplier of camera equipment for >A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut): Stanley’s death was shocking. I really enjoyed interacting with him, and I still feel a great love for him. He was persistent, insistent, eager for the technology—eager to understand it, deal with it, and use it. You had mixed emotions with Stanley. Generally speaking, my attitude always was, ’What are you bugging me for? Get out of here!’ But then I began to respect and admire him, and to appreciate that he was a true filmmaker. Since then, I’ve often said that filmmaking is an art form, and its palette is technology. Stanley kept pushing the envelope to actually use technology to enhance his filmmaking and storytelling.

Dennis Muren: Stanley’s death was a terrible loss. You’d think that you just wouldn’t hear from for awhile, but the calls would just keep on coming, even after he turned 70. His passing was a real shock and a tragedy; the guy was just great. I mean, he’s one of the few people whose movies are totally him. Nobody else could copy him, and he wasn’t trying to copy anybody else. He was a real artist.

Garrett Brown: My first reaction was perhaps the best sort of feeling one could have at the death of a true artist: I was just sorry that I wouldn’t get to see any more of his movies. I won’t ever get to see A.I. or Napoleon.

Ken Adam: I had just arrived in New York, where I’d been invited by the Lincoln Center Film Society to give a lecture on design, and two producer friends met us at the airport to tell us about it. I paid tribute to Stanley at the lecture, and it was really heartfelt. I don’t think I’ll ever have that sort of relationship with a director again. I recently found some very interesting correspondence from Stanley, and it’s really very touching. You know, we were really like a sort of marriage!

Gilbert Taylor: I was amazed. I thought, ’Gosh, somebody put something in his coffee,’ or something like that! I didn’t think it was natural, because he was the sort of figure that would still be around at 90, you know?

Martin Hunter: I sent Stanley a fax on his 70th birthday, and he sent me back a fax thanking me for my fax! That was our last communication. [His death] came as a huge shock, and it was very sad. I came to terms with it by deciding that Stanley had left us in the way he’d done everything else: it was entirely unexpected. He had seemed immortal, but he just fooled us all again!
under the paving stones.


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American Cinematographer. October 1999.

The old ultra-vilence: Vincent Lobrutto

Director Stanley Kubrick lent a learned eye to A Clockwork Orange, enlisting lighting cameraman John Alcott, BSC to help create a bleak dystopian futurescape.

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus—milk plus velocet, synthemsc or drencrom—which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
— opening narration from A Clockwork Orange

When A Clockwork Orange was released in 1971, the nightmarish near-future world depicted in the film seemed closer to reality than ever. The "free love" mood of the Sixties was officially over. Hippies were being retired and the boils of punk nihilism were beginning to fester. Watergate loomed up ahead, and "sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll" was the youth culture’s new mantra.

Almost a decade earlier, British author Anthony Burgess had presaged a violent, amoral future with the publication of the 1962 novella upon which director Stanley Kubrick’s notorious film version would be based. A first-person narrative, Clockwork was written in the cryptic lingo of its protagonist, the sociopathic Alex DeLarge (played in the film by Malcolm McDowell), a teenage Beethoven-loving hooligan. He and his trio of criminal cohorts engage in fights, muggings, rape, and other assorted viciousness until our self-described "humble narrator" is convicted of a sadistic murder. After landing in prison, Alex feigns religious salvation and volunteers for an experimental reconditioning cure, under the assurance that he will be released if it proves successful. The "Ludovico Technique"—a Pavlovian-response aversion therapy designed to dampen violent urges—renders Alex incapable of committing new crimes, but its programming also leaves him defenseless when confronted by old enemies. Found and tortured by the deranged writer husband of a woman he had fatally attacked, Alex is transformed into a cause célèbre by an overzealous media and conniving politicians decrying the inhumanity of his situation. The debate becomes philosophical: should man tamper with human behavior? In the end, Alex is released from the Ludovico spell and again unleashed upon the world.

The Clockwork novella was Burgess’s attempt to deal with and transform a personal tragedy. During World War II, while he was stationed overseas, the writer’s pregnant wife was savagely beaten in London by four American deserters, causing the couple to lose their unborn child. Afterward, the wife attempted suicide and Burgess self-destructively turned to the bottle. His later observations of various street gangs—including their fetishistic dress codes served as additional inspiration. In regard to his work’s oblique title, the author noted, "The book was called A Clockwork Orange for various reasons. I had always loved the Cockney phrase ’queer as a clockwork orange,’ that being the queerest thing imaginable, and I had saved up the expression for years, hoping someday to use it as a title. When I began to write the book, I saw that this title would be appropriate for a story about the application of Pavlovian, or mechanical, laws to an organism which, like a fruit, was capable of color and sweetness. But I had also served [during the war] in Malaya, where the word for a human being is orang."

Two years after the publication of A Clockwork Orange, director Stanley Kubrick virtually defined the black-comedy genre with Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, his indictment of the Cold War. A prophetic glimpse into a fatalistic future, the film was ironic, pessimistic, and pristine in its technical perfection. In 1966, screenwriter and novelist Terry Southern, who had collaborated with Kubrick on Strangelove, sent a copy of Clockwork to the filmmaker, who didn’t immediately respond to the proposed project. Southern was so passionate about the cinematic possibilities of the story that he purchased a six-month option on the novella for about $1,000 against a purchase price of $10,000, with percentages to be worked out later. He then wrote an adaptation which he sent to several producers, including David Puttnam. In order to determine whether the material would be deemed acceptable by the British film censor, Lord Chamberlain, Puttnam and Southern submitted their Clockwork script. It was sent back unopened, with the remark, "I know the book, and there’s no point in reading this script because it involves youthful defiance of authority and we’re not doing that."

In late 1969, Kubrick finally responded to Southern’s Clockwork suggestion and asked if he still had control of the property. Southern had renewed the yearly option once, but was then unable to pay the $1,000 fee. His lawyer, Si Litvinoff, and friend, Max Raab, had picked up the option. Upon hearing that Kubrick was interested, they sold it to the filmmaker for a hefty profit. Southern said the fee was approximately $75,000, but other sources say Litvinoff and Raab were given $200,000 and a five-percent profit clause, which represented a potential windfall of about $1.2 million. Southern subsequently sent the director his adaptation of the novel and received a letter stating, "Mr. Kubrick has decided to try his own hand." The filmmaker completed a first draft on May 15, 1970. It was the first time the director had worked alone on a screenplay.

Kubrick was just the man to adapt A Clockwork Orange into a film. He would ultimately create a nasty, violent, and morbidly funny look ahead to the youth culture of the Eighties and Nineties, while delivering the bad but pragmatic news that man can’t really change his nature. At the dawn of the Seventies, Kubrick’s career was in its second decade. During the mid-Forties, he had been a wunderkind still photographer for Look magazine, beginning his association with the publication shortly before he turned 17. In 1951, he became a filmmaker and photographed two shorts, Day of the Fight and Flying Padre. A formidable cameraman, Kubrick continued to photograph his own work on the features Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss. However, while making The Killing in 1956, he had his first collaborative relationship with a director of photography—Lucien Ballard, ASC. The situation proved thorny. Ballard was a respected Hollywood veteran who had shot such pictures as The Devil Is a Woman and Crime and Punishment. Kubrick demanded control over every visual detail, including composition and lens choice, and by sheer strength of ego he imposed his will on the seasoned professional. This became a pattern of behavior over the director’s subsequent pictures.

On Paths of Glory, Kubrick hired German cameraman George Krause, who had photographed Man on a Tightrope for Elia Kazan. German rules allowed Kubrick to operate the camera himself, affording him the hands-on control he desired. Spartacus is the only film directed by Kubrick over which he did not have total control of the production. His relationship with Russell Metty, ASC, whose credits included Bringing Up Baby and Touch of Evil, was a disaster for Kubrick, who was not able to impart his vision to the strong-minded director of photography. (Ironically, Metty earned an Academy Award for his expert work; see AC Jan. 1961 and May ’91). Lolita was shot by Oswald Morris, BSC and Dr. Strangelove was photographed by Gilbert Taylor, BSC. The "English" rules of production, which give the director autonomy over camera operation, allowed Kubrick to select the shots, lenses, and framing on both of these pictures, while the two fine cinematographers executed his lighting plans. Kubrick’s ensuing work with Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC on 2001: A Space Odyssey helped to forge a new era in contemporary cinematography through the reinvention and refinement of special effects techniques that had long been practiced in Hollywood and Britain. Toward the end of the lengthy and involved shooting schedule, however, Unsworth asked to move on to other commitments, and his assistant, John Alcott, took over.

Born in London in 1931, Alcott started out at Gainsborough Studios, where his father was a production manager, and worked as a focus puller on such productions as The Singer Not the Song, Whistle Down the Wind, The Main Attraction and Tamahine. Among the material he shot for 2001 was the "Dawn of Man" sequence, which made extensive use of a unique front-projection system (see AC June 1968). For A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick promoted Alcott to the key photographic position and gave him the credit of lighting cameraman. "A Clockwork Orange employed a darker, more obviously dramatic type of photography," Alcott told AC in 1976. "It was a modern story taking place in an advanced period of the 1980s—although the period was never actually pinpointed in the picture. It called for a really cold, stark style of photography."

Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel is depicted in three segments. In the first, Alex and his gang terrorize the locals with their lust for sex and violence. Next, Alex is imprisoned and selected for the Ludovico treatment. Finally, after his release, Alex’s victims get their revenge, but in the end, Alex’s glee for mayhem returns—man cannot alter his fate. Each of the three sections has a distinctive color palette and camera style that expresses the narrative. To depict Alex’s fondness for "ultra-violence," Kubrick and Alcott employed a bright color presentation with high-key lighting, fluid zooms, and dolly shots. Alex’s time in prison and reprogramming is rendered in cool, flat tones, as long takes and subtle camera moves create a somber and then clinical atmosphere. The last segment returns to the environment of the first, but is rendered in gray and low-key tones. Flatter lighting and desaturated colors help to define Alex’s comeuppance.

Understanding that filmmaking is as much a mechanical craft as it is an artistic endeavor, Kubrick has always kept abreast of technical innovations which he could possibly implement in his productions. However, many of his aesthetic and conceptual ideas reached beyond off-the-shelf technology. Haskell Wexler, ASC told Kubrick that Ed DiGiulio, president of Cinema Products Corporation in Los Angeles, was responsive to the demanding requirements of filmmakers, prompting the director to call DiGiulio about his technical needs for Clockwork. After their discussion, DiGiulio purchased a standard Mitchell BNC for Kubrick, which Cinema Products overhauled. DiGiulio also supplied a joystick control for smooth operation of zoom lenses, and a BNC crystal motor. Interestingly, the BNC was not modified for reflex viewing, allowing Kubrick tremendous flexibility in the use of special lenses.

For this film, Kubrick envisioned shots that would utilize extremely long, continuous zooms. "Stanley started chatting with me about getting a 20:1 zoom lens, and I said, ’We could do it,’" DiGiulio has reported. He explained to Kubrick that his company could take an Angenieux 16mm 20:1 zoom and put a 2x extender behind it so that it would cover the 35mm format. However, there would be a loss of two stops of light. "The next day I get a telex that’s a yard long in which he explains to me that the 35mm format he’s shooting in is 1.66:1," DiGiulio remembered. "Then he recites Pythagorean theorem to show me how X squared plus Y squared equals the diagonal root of the sum of the squares—and to point out that [in] going up from a 16mm format, I didn’t need a 2x extender, that I could do it with a 1.61x. Therefore, I didn’t have to lose two stops—maybe a stop or stop and a half. Here he is lecturing me, and I’m saying, ’Why this smart ass, another one of these wild-ass directors.’ I called my old buddy Bern Levy, who was working for Angenieux at the time, and I said, ’Bern, I’ve got this wacko director who wants to do this.’ Bern said, ’Well, you know, Ed, as a matter of fact we do have a 1.6x extender.’ And I said, ’Oh, shit.’ This extender existed for some other application, but the bottom line is that I was able to take a 16mm zoom lens, put this extender on it, and give Stanley the exact lens he wanted."
One outstanding use of this lens system is Clockwork’s signature opening shot, which begins as a tight close-up on Alex’s sneering face and then slowly zooms out as the camera dollies back, revealing his trio of thuggish companions and the bizarre interior of their favorite haunt, the Korova Milkbar. "That shot is one of the great opening sequences," actor Malcolm McDowell told Neon magazine. "Of course, it’s because of Stanley’s technical ability. He saw it the next day and came in all excited. He said, ’You raised your glass, didn’t you? To the audience?’ I said, ’Yes, to the camera.’ He didn’t notice it during filming. But what an opening."

Not incidentally, Kubrick chose to shoot Clockwork with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio partially due to his disgust over the treatment that 2001 suffered in theaters. Improper projection had often all but ruined his precise Super Panavision 70 compositions, compelling him to finally switch to a relatively fail-safe, near-Academy frame. None of the filmmaker’s subsequent films were wider than 1.85:1.

A Clockwork Orange was shot on location for $2 million during the winter of 1970-71. Kubrick’s home, then outside London in Abbot’s Mead, was the command center for the production. The property included editing rooms and a music facility which had a carefully catalogued record collection. The director had screening facilities in his living room, and a garage that served as his office. "Kubrick said, ’I want to make the movie within an hour and a half’s travel time of my house, so figure out how far I can reach in that time in the rush hour,’" line producer Bernie Williams told Neon magazine. "We sent an army of production assistants to go out and shoot stills and do homework on locations. We bought 20 VW minivans, and made them into mobile offices and prop trucks so we could get around more quickly."
Kubrick wanted to create his near-future world by utilizing the modern architecture of contemporary England. He and production designer John Barry spent weeks going through architectural magazines in search of suitable shooting sites, storing selected pictures in a German-made Definitiv display file, which allowed them to cross-reference the material in limitless ways.

The neighborhood block that was home to Alex’s flat was shot in Thamesmead at Wandsworth, an architecturally bold project in London. The auditorium used to display Alex’s cure during a press conference was a library in South Norwood. The writer’s house was shot at two separate locations: the exterior was a house at Oxfordshire, and the interior a home in Radlett. The recently built Brunel (later West London) University was used for the Ludovico medical facility. The deserted theater where a woman is raped and Alex and his "droogs" battle another gang was filmed on the derelict stage of the old casino at Tagg’s Island.

New lens technology made it easier to shoot on location while maintaining Kubrick’s strict technical standards. The record boutique sequence, filmed at the American Drug Store in King’s Road, Chelsea, was shot with an Angenieux 9.8mm lens, which allowed a 90-degree viewing angle. The f.95 lens made it possible to shoot in a room with natural light until late in the afternoon with 200 percent less light than the earlier standard f2.0 lenses required.

The only sets built for the film were the aforementioned Korova Milkbar, the prison admission area, and the writer’s home’s bathroom and entrance hall (other interiors there were shot at a futuristic property known as Skybreak in Warren Radlett, Hertfordshire). These sets were created in a warehouse just minutes from Borehamwood, and were designed solely because they couldn’t be found on location.
To create the Korova’s ambience of sublime debauchery, Kubrick hired sculptor Liz Moore (who had built the Star Child for 2001) to create a series of tables and milk dispensers in the form of—provocatively posed nude women. Kubrick’s plan was inspired by a gallery exhibition he’d attended which had featured furniture composed of life-sized fiberglass female figures. (To aid Moore, he directed John Barry to photograph a nude model in every position he thought might make for a suitable table.) "There are fewer positions than you might think," Kubrick commented with his typically dry wit.

Other, equally suggestive paintings and sculptures were gathered from various artists to help set the tone for Alex’s world of sex and violence (some of these are prominently displayed in his bedroom and at the "health farm" where he commits his murder). To add some contrast in the writer’s home, Kubrick selected "Seedboxes," a sunny picture painted by his wife, Christiane, depicting flowers drenched in ochre light.

Since Kubrick’s early days as a still photographer, he had centered his compositions. Centered and counterbalanced images are pleasing to the eye and respect the frame that embraces them. A centered image represents order, control, discipline, logic and organization—the very qualities inherent in Kubrick’s personality. Shot by shot, Clockwork generally maintains these austere principles, yet the filmmaker recognized that telling Alex’s tale also required the use of more avant-garde camera techniques. "Telling a story realistically is such a slowpoke and ponderous way to proceed, and it doesn’t fulfill the psychic needs that people have," the director told Paul D. Zimmerman of Newsweek. "We sense that there’s more to life and to the universe than realism can possibly deal with."

Kubrick told Joseph Gelmis of Newsday, "I wanted to find a way to stylize all of this violence, and also to make it as balletic as possible." Toward this end, the director over- and undercranked the camera to cinematically interpret the film’s graphic images of brutality, transforming the acts into something beyond mere explicitness. "The attempted rape on stage has the overtones of a ballet," Kubrick commented. "The speeded-up orgy sequence is a joke. That scene took about 28 minutes to shoot at two frames a second. It lasts on screen about 40 seconds. Alex’s fight with his droogs would have lasted about 14 seconds if it wasn’t in slow motion. I wanted to slow it to a lovely floating movement."

Perhaps the most subtle yet extreme cinematic departure from reality in Clockwork is the scene in which Alex and his cohorts take a midnight joyride along a country lane in a stolen "Durango 95" sports car, playing "hogs of the road" with other travelers of the night. The master shot is a head-on angle of the car, with the three passengers hanging on tight as Alex tests his nerve at the wheel. The sequence was photographed on a process stage, with the passing scenery in the nighttime background plate glowing in ghostly fashion. The high-contrast rear-projection footage is overly bright and nearly monochromatic, recalling a similar effect created for F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu in scenes featuring the vampire’s black carriage eerily racing through the night. Intercut shots representing Alex’s POV of the road were slightly undercranked and ostensibly lit by the car’s headlights. A master at the use of projection effects, Kubrick probably employed the exaggerated background plate to convey the euphoria of his drug-addled characters.

To depict Alex’s perverse fantasies, Kubrick turned to movie history in order to illustrate the character’s dream state as he listens to his beloved Beethoven—perhaps suggesting that Alex’s stunted imagination is only capable of regurgitating prefabricated images. Some of the "dream" shots were composed of stock footage, while the filmmaker also relied on re-creations of moments from other motion pictures. "The book describes things stylistically that I couldn’t film," Kubrick told Joseph Gelmis. "I just wanted to have him visualizing some very inappropriate images one might think of while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Violent images. The cavemen sequence came from One Million Years B.C., the film with Raquel Welch. [Alex] would imagine things he had seen in films." A low-angle shot of a woman in a white dress falling through the trap door of a hangman’s platform—displaying both her undergarments and the sudden jerk of the noose snapping her neck—was based on a shot seen in the black-comedy Western Cat Ballou, which Kubrick elaborately restaged. The image lasts less than one second, yet adroitly epitomizes Alex’s crude sexual aggression toward women.

Partially for the sake of production speed and economy, Kubrick and Alcott primarily relied on practical lamps to light the film. Both the Korova Milkbar and the health farm feature clusters of bare Photoflood bulbs built into futuristic fixtures, while other scenes—such as those set in the prison— feature single bulbs strung simply from the ceiling, or exposed fluorescent tubes glowing brightly. Color temperatures often clash.

To supplement this illumination, Alcott often used very lightweight Lowel 1,000-watt quartz lights bounced off the ceiling or reflective umbrellas. This approach allowed Kubrick to shoot 360-degree pans without concern for hiding cumbersome studio lamps, though larger sources were required for many scenes, such as when Alex and his gang assault an old drunk in a harshly lit underground alley. "I find that the Lowel light has a far greater range of illumination from flood to spot than any other light I know of," Alcott would later note. "In fact, it’s the only light of its kind that gives you a fantastic spot, if you need it, and an absolute overall flood. Also, when you put a flag over most quartz lights you get a double shadow—but not with the Lowels. But then, of course, they were designed by a cameraman."

The Clockwork production was originally slated to shoot for 10 weeks, but ultimately took close to a year. Kubrick’s usual high shooting ratio and meticulous methods contributed to the lengthy production schedule. The director demanded 30 takes for the shot in which Alex unexpectedly whacks Dim (Warren Clarke) with a heavy walking stick while they lounge at the Korova. During the shooting of the scene in which Alex bludgeons the Cat Lady (Miriam Karlin) to death with a large penis sculpture, the technical crew was crouched down outside the room while the director personally filmed McDowell and Karlin with his handheld Arri 2C. Writer Alexander Walker was an observer and participant in the event. "Kubrick had decided to shoot the fight to the death in 360 degrees with a handheld camera; the Steadicam hadn’t been invented at that point," Walker told Neon magazine. "Kubrick held onto the camera, the man with the power-pack held onto Kubrick [from behind], and I held onto the man with the power-pack. We were whirling around and it was very difficult to control [our] momentum; we’d end up in a heap on the floor, or I’d be swung around and end up in shot."

Seven months into production, Kubrick began to reshoot or match shots that had been completed earlier. "Once I had to match a laugh [I’d done] eight months before, and I couldn’t do it," actor Warren Clarke told Neon magazine. "I was standing on a rostrum and the camera was below, looking up, so Stanley was tickling my legs, giving me whiskey, a funny cigarette to smoke He tried everything, and I just couldn’t match it. I thought I’d really let the man down and felt despondent, but he was really cool about it—which was unusual, because generally if someone didn’t do something right, he’d fire them."

Perhaps the most audacious scene in Clockwork is the ruthless attack on the writer (Patrick Magee) and the rape of his wife (Adrienne Corri) by Alex and his gang. Little was accomplished during the first two days of shooting, but on the third day, Kubrick blocked out a portion of the action with McDowell, instructing him to knock Magee to the floor and begin kicking his guts out. The director then suddenly asked McDowell, "Can you sing?" It was suggested that the actor could improvise a song-and-dance number while administering the savage beating. McDowell confessed that "Singin’ in the Rain" was the only tune he knew by heart. This resulted in what Kubrick calls the CRM, or "critical rehearsal moment," during which the director and actors come together to create a defining scene. Kubrick immediately looked into obtaining the rights to the song, and discovered that the fee was $10,000 to use it for 30 seconds. Once the rights were in hand, shooting proceeded immediately. Kubrick later invited Stanley Donen, the director of the musical classic, to view his scene and then asked Donen’s personal permission to use the song for the sequence. "He wanted to make sure I wasn’t offended," Donen reports in the biography Dancing on the Ceiling. "Why would I be? It didn’t affect the movie Singin’ in the Rain." Gene Kelly, who had performed the famous number in the 1952 film, felt otherwise. When Kelly and Kubrick met at an awards ceremony following Clockwork’s release, the danceman refused to talk to the director.

Kubrick cut A Clockwork Orange at his estate with editor Bill Butler. They worked with two Steenbecks so the director could continuously screen film for selection. He relied on a Moviola for the actual cutting. At first they put in 10 hours a day, seven days a week; then, as deadlines approached, they expanded to 14 to 16 hours a day.

Music was a crucial element at the center of Burgess’s story, exemplified by Alex’s supreme love for the works of Beethoven. Kubrick wanted classical music throughout the film to provide point and counterpoint with the story. In order to bring a futuristic quality to 18th-century motifs, Kubrick looked to electronics. After hearing Switched-on Bach, a record of synthesizer performances released in 1968, Kubrick hired Walter (later known as "Wendy") Carlos to compose and realize the Clockwork score, which included pieces by Purcell, Rossini, Elgar and Beethoven. The music was recorded in stereo, but Kubrick disliked stereo recording for film; the soundtrack was therefore re-recorded in mono. A Clockwork Orange became the first feature to use Dolby noise reduction on all aspects of the mixing process.

After showing the first print of the titles at the National Screenings Laboratory, Kubrick criticized a hairline shadow on one of the backgrounds and gave a list of instructions. A week before the premiere, the master negative was scratched and the color quality was not to Kubrick’s specification, so he decided to switch labs. The filmmaker personally drove the 16 reels of cut O-negative to the new facility in his tank-like Land Rover, and had editor Bill Butler drive a separate car a short distance ahead of his vehicle in order to absorb any impact in the event of a possible traffic accident.

After review by the Motion Picture Association of America, A Clockwork Orange received the dreaded "X" rating. Dr. Aaron Stern of the MPAA was especially concerned with passing the high-speed menage-a-trois scene, arguing, "If we did that, any hardcore pornographer could speed up his scenes and legitimately ask for an R on the same basis." The picture was released in the U.S. in December of 1971 to strong critical and public response. However, in October of 1972, Kubrick, who had final-cut approval, withdrew the picture from theaters for 60 days to replace 30 seconds of explicit sexual material from two scenes with less-objectionable alternate footage. The MPAA gave the new version of the film an R rating and the picture was re-released at the end of the year.

A Clockwork Orange was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, while Kubrick was nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Bill Butler was nominated for his editing. While it did not earn any Oscars, the film did receive the New York Film Critics’ prize for Best Film of the Year, with Kubrick winning for Best Director.

In 1974, after several copycat crimes were attributed to A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick pulled his film from distribution in England, making it illegal to show it anywhere in the country. The self-imposed ban still holds a quarter-century later.

Tragically, John Alcott died of heart failure at the age of 55 in August of 1986 while vacationing with his family in the south of France. Although Kubrick continued to control every aspect of the cinematography on his films, Alcott made an enduring and distinctive contribution to A Clockwork Orange, as well as Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (for which he earned an Academy Award for Best Cinematography—see AC Mar. ’76), and The Shining (AC Aug. ’80). The use of light in these films is intrinsically linked to Alcott, marking just one of the many contributions he brought to his work with Kubrick. The cinematographer’s later films included Fort Apache the Bronx, Under Fire, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and No Way Out. Despite his brief career, Alcott left us the legacy of a constant search for technical and aesthetic excellence, a keen parallel to Kubrick’s own pursuit of these virtues.

Chest Rockwell

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Reply #5 on: October 10, 2006, 08:15:24 PM
 :shock: Good list!

What's the point of stopping it at 1997? Why not take it to 1999 or 2000?


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Reply #6 on: October 22, 2006, 10:59:22 AM
He never stopped worrying, or learnt to love the bomb
In a rare interview, Christiane Kubrick tells James Christopher about her husband, his work and his epic Cold War satire
Source: timesonline.co.uk
The gravel drive leading up to Christiane Kubrick’s mansion near St Albans in Hertfordshire is protected by three sets of electronic gates and “Strictly Private” signs that must put the fear of God into the paper boy.
Inside the front door of Childwickbury House there are more printed orders to the effect of: “Shut and bolt this door at all costs.” Christiane clings to her privacy like a hot-water bottle.
It’s a rare honour to be invited into her vast, tiled kitchen with its views of white iron fences and lush green pastures. It is even rarer to stroll through the glass-roofed courtyard littered with paintings, past the creepy feathery masks for Eyes Wide Shut, and into a blood-red library crammed with art books, Thackeray, De Sade and the well-thumbed volumes on witchcraft that Stanley Kubrick collected for The Shining.

Unfortunately, his widow can’t stroll anywhere at the moment. In August a collision with one of her dogs shattered the 74-year-old’s right leg in five places. To negotiate the three steps leading from the kitchen she has to clamber off a wheelchair and inch herself across a floor which, when I meet her, has just been washed. The German-born artist refuses to be helped by her wary assistants, and thus leaves a damp mark on the seat of her chic dress.

She married Stanley in 1957, and the couple settled into this quirky house and splendid isolation in 1979. Christiane admits that she doesn’t much enjoy the attention of strangers, particularly journalists, but she feels a duty towards her husband’s extraordinary legacy, if only to spike the popular misconceptions that still haunt his biographies.

It feels strange to grill Christiane about Stanley. But a newly restored print of the American director’s masterpiece, Dr Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is one of the centrepieces of the 50th Times BFI London Film Festival, and the opportunity to discuss the movie at Fort Kubrick with a woman who lived with him for 42 years is not to be dismissed lightly. Christiane will not be drawn on which of Stanley’s films she admires most, but she does acknowledge how “hideously pertinent” Dr Strangelove is now. This terrifying black and white satire, starring Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott, is a cynical vision of weapons technology and human stupidity in which the world comes to an end thanks to an American general’s paranoia about women and communists.

“Dr Strangelove is not only a documentary, but an extremely innocent one given today’s possibilities,” says Christiane. “There are so many more things that can go wrong. Weapons are a hundredfold more dangerous. Giant mistakes are easier to make. We don’t have the mental tools to make critical split-second decisions.

“I remember when Peter George’s book Red Alert came out around the time of the Cuban missile crisis [in 1962]. Stanley said: ‘We’re not anywhere near scared enough.’ He thought we were being as blinkered as the Germans under Hitler. He even bought tickets to Australia.

“Then he called Terry Southern [the screenwriter who was to work with Kubrick on Dr Strangelove, their adaptation of Red Alert] and they rolled around the floor in hysterics reading out loud the things that could happen. Stanley decided he had to shoot it as a comedy because you simply couldn’t swallow it straight.”

What’s interesting is that Kubrick didn’t think that his films might make the slightest bit of difference. “He was never that naive,” says Christiane. “He couldn’t make a film unless he fell in love with the story. Then he couldn’t wait to get it on screen. But it had to be just perfect, which is why he left long gaps between films. If he didn’t have an absolute crush on a story he said: ‘I won’t survive the filming. I’ll get bored.’

“He abandoned many projects — sometimes after one or two years — because he suddenly ran out of excitement. He hated himself for doing so but, like a poker player, you can’t play a bad hand simply because other people are winning.”

As Kubrick grew older, good stories became harder to find. “He did get more self-critical,” says Christiane, “and, as we all do, more jaded. He also had some bad luck. He couldn’t get the finance to do Napoleon, and the film he wanted to make around 1993 about the Holocaust [based on an adaptation of Louis Begley’s novel, Wartime Lies] he gave up because he couldn’t stand it any more.

“It was far too dark. The SS papers were too much to bear. Stanley would lie in bed all day after researching this stuff because he didn’t think it was worth getting up. It’s the only film I persuaded him to leave alone.

“He gave up officially after two years’ work because Steven Spielberg [a good friend] had started shooting Schindler’s List. But I think in truth he would have given up anyway and I was very glad of that.”

This can’t have been easy for a director with legendary stamina. “Even though he died at 70 he probably lived much longer than most people because he only ever slept for four or five hours a night,” says Christiane. “If people were ever exhausted by him it was never intentional. He just didn’t get tired.”

Did she find that difficult? “I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” she admits. “Yes it was. During most of our marriage I fell asleep first and woke up after him. He didn’t like that very much. He would end up talking to people in California in the middle of the night.”

Kubrick is arguably destined to be most keenly remembered for his provocative visions of the future in films such as Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A.I. — a movie he hatched with Spielberg in mind to direct as long ago as 1989. Spielberg eventually shot and filmed the final version after Kubrick’s death on March 7, 1999. “If there is a theme that runs throughout Stanley’s films it involves people making enormous mistakes even though we’re aware that the choices they make are probably wrong. We are betrayed by brains that are too small. Our frustration and wickedness possibly derives from that fact.”

I ask her if she has ever been tempted to make a film herself. “No. My brother, Jan Harlan, made a very good documentary about Stanley called A Life in Pictures (2001). Warner Brothers wanted to make a picture about Stanley after he died, and we were just sitting here crying,” she gestures around the library, “and we realised that if we didn’t respond, some total stranger would do it. So we decided to do it ourselves. We knew at least it would be true.

“You have to realise that the press enjoyed portraying Stanley as a sour, woman-hating hermit, which was semi-funny when he was alive, but incredibly painful after his death. The reason Stanley didn’t give press interviews is that he thought he had absolutely no talent for it — certainly not chat shows or anything scary like that.

“It wasn’t coyness, or ‘I’m too wonderful to speak’ arrogance. Nothing of the kind. One day he was sent an article to correct and he said OK. He sat at his desk and after an hour he said to me: ‘Perhaps I should just cross out the lot and say No, no, in truth I’m good, kind, wonderful, charming, and brilliant.’ ”

She laughs. “You can’t praise yourself, and yet you feel a complete Charlie about how you are going to appear in print.”

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb will be screened on Oct 27 on TCM (3pm). The Shining will be shown by TCM on Oct 27 (9pm).

“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol

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Reply #7 on: October 23, 2006, 03:54:11 PM
:shock: Good list!

What's the point of stopping it at 1997? Why not take it to 1999 or 2000?

Agreed.  Although does anyone else feel that Persona is a strange choice for that list?  It's well-shot for sure but nowhere near Fanny & Alexander or Winter Light. 


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This is an article from Newsweek around the Dr. Strangelove release. There some nice quotes in the 'How Kubrick did it' part.

Direct hit
It is outrageous, of course. The President of the United States of America is named Merkin Muffley. The Premier of Russia is Dimitri Kissof and the ambassador is de Sadesky. The commander of Burpelson Air Force Base is Gen. Jack D. Ripper. There is a Col. "Bat" Guano. But outrageous, excessive, and nearly insane is exactly what Stanley Kubrick wanted to be in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The story is that of the end of the world. Ripper is a maniac, a rightist fanatic who is worried about the Commie plot to put fluoride in our drinking water and debilitate us by interfering with the "purity of our body fluids." This ought to sound impossibly stupid, and it does, but it also has an uncomfortably familiar ring. Ripper takes it upon himself to bomb the Soviet Union, which is something that hardly bears thinking about, but which Kubrick makes perfectly plausible.

Strangelove throughout is all too plausible. As Kubrick says: "The greatest message of the film is in the laughs. You know, it's true! The most realistic things are the funniest."

In a weird way, he is perfectly right. It is hilarious to watch Peter Sellers as President Muffley talking to Kissof on the phone and getting into an argument with Kissof about which one of them is sorrier for what has happened. It is uproarious when the SAC fliers in the B-52 go over their survival kits: money in rubles, dollars, and gold, Benzedrine, cigarettes, nylons, chocolate, chewing gum, prophylactics, tranquilizers, and so on. ("I could have a pretty fine weekend with this in Vegas," one of the fliers remarks a bit ruefully.)

Or there is Sellers again, this time as Ripper's adjutant, Group Captain Mandrake, the only man in the world who knows the code that must be used to recall the bomber. He must call the President. There is a phone booth. But the White House doesn't accept collect calls from unknown group captains. he tells "Bat" Guano to shoot off the lock from a Coke machine for the 55 cents, but Guano, in shock and horror says: "That's private property!"

Dangerous Toys: This is low clowning, of course, but it suggests all too clearly that human society is not yet so well organized as to be able to afford such dangerous toys as hydrogen bombs. Even the discussion about the probable war and the possible end of the world is ridiculous because it is so familiar. George C. Scott, as Gen. "Buck" Turgidson, is in favour of sending the rest of the planes to knock the Reds off the map. Their retaliatory force, he says, will be reduced so that the U.S. will suffer "only acceptable casualties - ten to twenty megadeaths," and he adds with a sporting shrug, "depending on the breaks." It is crazy. It is fantastic and obscene. The idea of 20 million deaths and the word that makes an abstraction out of it are both simply ridiculous.

That Stanley Kubrick has had the nerve to say so, and that he has said it in a comedy, which makes it all the sharper, all the clearer, and that much better a film, is truly fine. Kubrick, and his biting bitter satire, stands as eloquent testimony not only to the possibilities of intelligent comment in film, but to the great freedom which moviemakers have, even if most of them have not dared use it. That thundering "No" is thrilling to see on the screen.

It is also side-splittingly funny. At its very worst, even at the grim moment of truth, Kubrick keeps his nerve and drops the bomb, with Slim Pickens riding it down to doom like a cowboy riding a bronco - with a wild wave of his stupid Stetson and a yell of sheer exaltation that turns imperceptibly, but surely into a cry of pure terror, without the slightest change in timbre, volume, or pitch. The edge of that yell is a razor's edge, and it cuts deep.

How Kubrick did it

Stanley Kubrick does everything in his films except act. He finds a story, shapes the script, chooses all the actors, supervises the lighting and costumes, operates the cameras, directs the cast, edits the film, and then supervises the publicity. On Strangelove, which was filmed without the cooperation of any government agency, he was also the sole military adviser, bringing to bear all his military experience - watching war movies at Loew's in New York.

Naturally, the picture was made without Pentagon help. The instrument-jammed B-52 cockpit was built from a picture in a British magazine. It cost $100,000. And each shot of the B-52 in flight, made with a 10-foot model and a moving matte, cost more than $6,000.

Such painstaking attention to every film-making detail is the natural result of Kubrick's whole approach to his subject. He did not just sit down and decide to make a comedy about the end of the world. Over a six-year period, just for his own edification, and at first with no idea of making a film, he devoured some 70 books on nuclear war, subscribed to Missiles and Rockets, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and a megaton of other magazines and pamphlets. One day he came across Two Hours to Doom (called Red Alert in the U.S.), a suspense novel about an Air Force general triggering off a nuclear holocaust, and decided that had to be his next movie.

Once committed, he never let up. "Kubrick has a fantastic drive," says novelist Terry Southern, who collaborated on the brilliant screenplay of Strangelove. "He's got a weird metabolism; while I'm taking Dexamil, he's taking Seconal."

The book was dead serious, but the 34-year-old Kubrick found that each time he tried to create a scene, it came up funny. "How the hell could the President ever tell the Russian Premier to shoot down American planes?" he asked, with a broad wave of his hand. "Good Lord, it sounds ridiculous."

SRO: Actually Kubrick's chief concern now is fantasy, the sort of "nightmare comedy" that Red Alert came to be. "The real image doesn't cut the mustard, doesn't transcend," he says. "I'm now interested in taking a story, fantastic and improbable, and trying to get to the bottom of it, to make it seem not only real, but inevitable."

Dr. Strangelove, filmed with the backing and the blessing of Columbia Pictures, cost $1,5 million, and, as Southern says, "If anyone submitted the script cold to a major studio, the reaction would be, 'Are you kidding?'"

Kubrick can now call his own shots, but how can you top a movie about total annihilation? He is fascinated by outer space, which he thinks is inhabited, and he is reading and reading and reading about it. Or, "I can always do a story about overpopulation," says Kubrick. "Do you realize that in 2020 there will be no room on earth for all the people to stand? The really sophisticated worriers are worried about that."

Newsweek, February 3, 1964

Link: http://www.archiviokubrick.it/english/words/interviews/1964directhit.html