08 Aug 2005
The Stanley Kubrick Archives
I rarely buy books, let alone ludicrously-priced coffee-table ones, but was immediately tempted by The Stanley Kubrick Archives. After resisting for a few weeks, Jeffrey Wells’ review made me cave in a few months back.
The 544 pages consist of Part 1’s chronologically-ordered stills from the films, followed by Part 2’s behind-the-scenes material, articles and interviews. There’s also an audio CD containing a 1966 interview, and a strip of film cut from a 2001: A Space Odyssey print owned by Kubrick (a few frames of mine show Dave in a pod, the rest the spaceship Discovery; not bad I suppose).
Part 1’s just great to leaf through, with the big glossy pages showing off Kubrick’s progression as a visual film-maker, the highlights being amazingly sharp, colourful images from 2001 (surely the most staggeringly beautiful film ever made?) and the stylised black and white of his first movie, Killer’s Kiss.
I haven’t finished Part 2, and have mixed impressions of what I’ve read so far. Step-by-step descriptions of films’ plots and visuals are included, which is just tedious padding, particularly when Part 1 has covered the visuals and films are readily-available on DVD. Some of the writing could be more conversational in tone, it doesn’t always flow well and in places seems tiresomely formal.
But it’s still good stuff. Seeing Kubrick’s early work as a staff photographer, and how it led almost seamlessly into movies, is fascinating, and I’m looking forward to the sketches and stories behind the later films. An ‘approved’ book like this isn’t going to come right out with anything negative, but there’ll no doubt be signs of how his control-freakery and detachment from the world led to the surprisingly naive (and rather late) Full Metal Jacket and ultimately the appalling, cringe-making, stodgy morality tale (can you tell I’m not keen on it?) that is Eyes Wide Shut.
If you’re into Kubrick’s work then persuade someone to buy you this book for your birthday. Or sell bodily fluids to pay for it. Or, er, convince your girlfriend that the film strip alone will be worth the cash if you flog it on eBay one day, then cross your fingers and hope that you don’t get twelve frames of complete darkness…