Director Spotlight V: Stanley Kubrick

Director Spotlight is our self-indulgent way to watch movies after movies, do minimal work, and call it productive. We are two great friends who both often enjoy the 90-minute long worlds created by these directors more than the one we are in. We spend most of our time together watching movies, talking about movies, or one-upping each other in our strange encyclopedic knowledge of independent film. We hope that our enthusiasm and love of movies can help encourage readers to perhaps step out of their (Avenger-heavy) comfort zone and join us in the world of pseudo-intellectuals and cinema.

Director Background:
Stanley Kubrick, born in 1928, was a defining director of the 20th century. In 1961, he moved to the U.K. despite Hollywood success in order to gain more creative control over his films. There, he went on to direct his most iconic films, like “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “The Shining” (1980). Kubrick was known for his cruelly demanding perfectionism, shooting dozens of takes for even a small scene. He became renowned, though, for his innovation, including his experimentation with special effects and Steadicam shots, as well as his distinct visual style.

Lou and Emi’s Picks:

“Lolita” (1962)
Now we know what you’re thinking— isn’t this what Madison Beer was cancelled for? But we promise, it’s a surreal satire making fun of a strange old man and his sad, unrequited affection for his young stepdaughter. It’s filled with hilarious situations and dialogues as well as Kubrick’s essential perfectionistic and painfully unsettling filmmaking style. Although it will make you cringe for multiple days at least, this movie is a fantastically well-made satire with many of Kubrick’s trademarks.

“A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
“Clockwork” is one of Kubrick’s most controversial and well known works, delivering a terrifying dystopian vision that has since become a cult classic. He plays with music, violence, and language to tell the story of the leader of a young gang of criminals, his arrest for murder, and his punishment and reform.

“The Shining” (1980)
“The Shining” is one of the essential horror movies of the 20th century and Kubrick’s most accessible film. It tells the eerie story of a family who is hired to look after a deserted hotel for the winter. Over the course of the movie, the entire family devolves into insanity as increasingly surreal events occur and the line between reality and hysteria is blurred. It is a must watch for any moviegoer.

Reasons We Love Kubrick:

All work and no play makes Loulou and Emiliano dull boys.
All work and no play makes Loulou and Emiliano dull boys.
All work and no play makes Loulou and Emiliano dull boys.
All work and no play makes Loulou and Emiliano dull boys.

Haha. Jk.

Kubrick is known for his distinct visual style and how he employs visuals to tell his story. In “The Shining,” Kubrick’s hovering camera movements help create the sense of another presence in the scene; when Danny gets chased down the hallway of the Overlook Hotel, for example, the camera becomes its own character. Steadicam shots during fight scenes in “A Clockwork Orange” help create the sense that the camera—and thus, the viewer—are active participants in the action.

Kubrick’s use of color, too, immerses the viewer in the heightened world of the film. The vivid reds and oranges in “The Shining” serve to build a sense of danger and to add to the drama of climactic moments. Details like the bloody elevator show Kubrick deploying every detail of the film for maximum emotional impact. Perhaps his most notable filmmaking technique is the “Kubrick Stare.” The stare is usually accompanied with a slight camera zoom and a downward head tilt, creating a pause in the tempo of the scene that sets an off putting mood and allows for a view into the minds of his characters.

Kubrick’s stories are as intricate as his visuals; he wrote all three mentioned above. “Lolita” was a sensation of a book and when he turned it into a movie, Kubrick truly understood its intended absurdity. This movie uses Peter Sellers’ acting ability and Kubrick’s attention to detail to create an intricate and captivating storyline. The use of the first scene as a no-context version of the last one forces the audience to attempt to figure out the mystery of the movie before knowing the story.

Kubrick also has a knack for creating worlds around his storylines that put the viewer’s emotional state in his command. “A Clockwork Orange” uses a cockney-adjacent vernacular and various reoccurring oddities to create an atmosphere of slight discomfort. The viewer is supposed to accept the characters reference to sex as “the old in-out” without any initial explanation, creating a strange but still believable world.

In conjunction with worldbuilding, Kubrick creates uneasiness through his scores, a staple of all of his movies. Even before it is introduced as a horror film, the score in “The Shining” gives it away. With the lingering notes and off putting intervals, the score of this film prepares the viewer for the insanity that ensues. Classical music plays a major role in the plot of “A Clockwork Orange”; the score takes note of this and contrasts it by playing lingering sounds along intricate classical rhythms. All together, Kubrick’s balance of uncomfortable moods and satisfying characters and storylines make him one of the most unique and reliable filmmakers of all time.