Tag Archives: stanley kubrick

XL Popcorn – Full Metal Jacket

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 642/1007
Title: Full Metal Jacket
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Year: 1987
Country: UK/USA

Full Metal Jacket. I’m not entirely sure why it took me this long to watch this film, other than wanting to space out the nine Stanley Kubrick entries on the 1001 list, but it is pretty embarrassing. Having now watched it not only have I removed a source of embarrassment, but have also put another director to bed.

Where most cinema-loving people seem to have a hard on for Stanley Kubrick I really have had to look at his films on a case-by-case basis. On the one hand I get why people laud Dr Strangelove, Paths of Glory and The Shining; I am left perplexed by Barry Lyndon and 2001: A Space Odyssey.  So where does Full Metal Jacket fall on this scale?

Well, I think that’s a two part question. As in this is a film that really needs to be rated in two sections: the first 45 minutes and then everything that comes afterwards. The first section, where we watch the marines being trained for war, is exceptional. R. Lee Ermey is amazing as the drill sergeant (even more so when you read that he improvised most of the insults) and I am amazed that there wasn’t an Oscar nomination there. It’s also worth mentioning Vincent D’Onofrio whose transformation over the first 45 minutes is deeply unsettling.

Then there’s the rest of the film which just pales in comparison to what preceded it. Don’t get me wrong it’s still compelling, but it feels more like a series of loosely related Vietnam war stories than a tight piece of film-making. I guess that there is a point to be made about showing how expendable the marines are once they leave the comparative safety of their training camp, but these points have probably been better made in Apocalypse Now or even Platoon.

So what do you think? Is there a film from the 1001 list where it is shameful that I haven’t seen it yet? Let me know in the comments and it’ll be greatly prioritised.

Advertisements

XL Popcorn – Lolita

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 627/1007
Title: Lolita
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Year: 1962
Country: UK/USA

I recently had the delights of updating the 1001 Movie page because of the latest edition of the book. For the first time ever, my numbers have remained static as I had seen as many of the entries that came in as those who went out. I still live in hope that there will be a complete overhaul of the list since years like 2011 are chronically under-represented, but I may have watched everything before that happens.

Anyway. How do you make a movie out of Lolita? I know that’s a bastardised version of the tagline, but it’s a valid question. You’re talking about adapting a novel where a grown man has sexual relations with a 12-year-old.  They couldn’t even do that in the 1997 version let alone in the years of the Hays Code. Still, you have to credit Kubrick for trying… and making the compromise of her being played by a 14-15 year old Sue Lyon.

As someone who has read the book, it was interesting to watch Kubrick’s take on it. The biggest issue with this adaptation, at least for me, was the loss of the unreliable narrator. Humbert Humbert is a charmer and charlatan who spins a web of fiction around his real story that he tells through a series of monologues. That was the true beauty of reading Lolita and is incredibly hard to do in visual media. So, I can’t blame Kubrick for leaving it out.

In it’s place Kubrick is a lot more explicit in showing us the Humbert’s cruel and psychotic side. Rather than him narrating his plans to drown his wife (Shelley Winters did wonders with this role) he laughs at the note she leaves declaring her love for him. Similarly, we now have no history or context for Humbert’s hebephila… it just appears that there is something special about Lolita rather than this being a pattern of his. Again, something is lost.

What I cannot deny is the level of acting on display by the four leads. Of course Peter Sellers steals the entire thing because, you know, it’s Peter freakin’ Sellers. However, I have to give huge props to Sue Lyon who is able to stand her group despite the fact that she is surrounded by seasoned actors. Such a pity that her career stalled within a few years of this being released.

I’ve said things that would make it sounds otherwise, but I did enjoy this take on Lolita. It isn’t completely true to the book, but neither was The Shining. In all of these changes I only have one big gripe that I wish would be edited out since we no longer live in the Hays Code world. As a cheap epilogue it is announced that Humbert dies of heart complications as he is awaiting trial (since in Hays Code world a murderer must be seen to be punished or killed). It’s such a throwaway and I cannot help but wonder if it was the inspiration for this sight gag in The Simpsons:

It’s a small thing that marrs the ending of a good film. I didn’t think this was as great as I have been led to believe, but I guess that’s the issue with reading the book first. So much was lost in the translation from book to screen and Lolita suffers for it.

Ebert’s Greats: Body Heat & Barry Lyndon

List Item: Watch Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies”
Progress: 180/409

Title: Body Heat
Director: Lawrence Kasden
Year: 1981
Country: USA

Body Heat is a curious film since it borrows so much from another film I really like, Double Indemnity, that it is really hard to watch this without drawing comparisons in my head between the two.  Instead of getting bogged down in all that, since there enough original spins to make it a good film in its own right, I have one comparison: Kathleen Turner is far more believable as the head-turning woman than Barbara Stanwyck ever was.

In fact, I’m going to dwell a bit on Kathleen Turner (known to most people as either the voice of Jessica Rabbit or as Chandler’s father in Friends) since this was her début in a feature film and by God does she own the film. She is a highly sexual and powerful tour de force in a pretty much male-only film. The character of Matty is a strange one since Turner needs to use a strange mix of raw sexuality and subtle expressions to allude to her motives. I mean I can only think of one actress at the moment who could take on this role; Scarlett Johansson.

As for the rest of the film it takes its time to establish the relationship between the two main characters, so when you reach the eventual point of them plotting to kill Matty’s husband… it actually feels organic (this is in stark contrast to Double Indemnity where it feels a little bit forced). The issue that this film has is that for all the atmosphere it creates (which is a lot) it get a little bit sleepy in terms of the pacing. Now I am not sure if this is the conscious choice to mirror the soporific effect had during a heat wave or just that it was a little bit slow… but it has a bit of an issue in the second act. A pity since the opening and closing acts are really good.

Title: Barry Lyndon
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Year: 1975
Country: UK/USA

You can never accuse Kubrick of only creating one sort of film. With a back catalogue including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr Strangelove, Lolita, The Shining and Paths of Glory I guess a period drama based on a fictional Irishman who is an absolute wanker.

Where the book would tell the story from the point of view of the main character (as a unreliable, but witty narrator) Kubrick tells the story straight and uses a more conventional narrator to set the scene. The result of this? There is no question as to what sort of man Barry Lyndon is, he is just a horrible human being who gets a just ending in the book but not in the film. It begs the question why Kubrick doesn’t follow that part of the book since Lyndon gets the comeuppance due to him…

I’m not going to dwell on the story or the actions of Barry Lyndon himself since (and this blog is a place of honesty) I actually got very bored in the final hour of this three film. I am all for films taking their time but when you are filling three hours with a thoroughly unlikeable rogue it does pay to quicken the pace at times. To think that when he gets robbed 30 minutes into the film I felt bad for him… they should have just shot him and had done with this odious man.

What you can NOT fault this film is the cinematography and use of music (mostly the cinematography though). This film is beautiful to look at, akin to staring at a painting from the 1700s even. What is even more remarkable is the techniques that were implemented to make sure that only natural light would be used; something that makes all the gambling scenes by candlelight all the richer and more natural. Similar to this is the extensive exterior shots of the Irish countryside (masquerading sometimes as Germany or England) which are beautiful and actually made me wonder if I had already seen these being used during Game of Thrones.

I know that this is a film that is widely loved by many cinephiles but… I’ll just add this to the list of films including Singin In The Rain and Lawrence of Arabia where it pains me to say “I just don’t get it”.