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Kubrick, Stanley

Entry updated 19 June 2023. Tagged: Film, People.

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(1928-1999) US film-maker, resident in the UK from 1961. Born in New York, the son of a doctor, he early became obsessed with photography; Look magazine hired him as soon as he left school. Motion pictures became his dominant interest, and he left Look after four years to make two short films with his own money and then two feature films, Fear and Desire (1953) and Killer's Kiss (1955), borrowing the production money from relatives. By then he had also become a fully qualified cameraman. In 1956 he made The Killing, which attracted the attention of critics, and his reputation was further enhanced by Paths of Glory (1957); he directed most of Spartacus (1960). In 1961 he moved to the UK and, with Lolita (1962), began the cycle of films that made him internationally famous. In 1963 he made his first sf film, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and at the end of 1965 he started work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he completed in 1968. His next film was also sf – the controversial A Clockwork Orange (1971). Breaking away from sf but remaining true to his concerns, Kubrick continued his slim output with Barry Lyndon (1975), from W M Thackeray's novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon (January-December 1844 Fraser's Magazine as by Fitz-Boodle; 1852), The Shining (1980), from Stephen King's bestselling The Shining (1977); Full Metal Jacket (1987), from The Short-Timers (1979), a Vietnam novel by Gustav Hasford (1947-1993); and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), from Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle (December 1925-March 1926 Die Dame). Having avoided direct involvement in Peter Hyams's 2010 (1984; vt 2010: The Year We Make Contact), the sequel to 2001, Kubrick was at his death planning a return to sf with «A.I.», a long-gestated adaption of Brian W Aldiss's "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" (December 1969 Harper's Bazaar) on which he had worked before Eyes Wide Shut in serial collaboration with Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson and Sara Maitland; on his death the project was taken over and realized by Steven Spielberg as A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001).

Kubrick was one of the few film-makers to succeed in maintaining control over all aspects of his films (Spartacus was the exception), and his personal style is stamped on all his work, its most obvious characteristic being a cool and ironic wit. His films manifest a formidable intelligence, unusual in a maker of high-budget spectaculars. Kubrick's almost obsessive desire for perfection shows itself in a fastidious attention to detail. Critics have emphasized the intellectual authority of Kubrick's work – though in his lifetime some saw him as merely cold-bloodedly stylish – but he is also, and perhaps primarily, a consummate showman. His sf work is notable for distasteful, ultimately impotent protagonists dwarfed or cowed by enigmatic, dehumanizing Technology; but his main theme, older than sf, appears to be Original Sin. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014. [JB/KN/PN/NL]

see also: Cinema; Communications; Origin of Man; Paranoia; SF Music.

Stanley Kubrick

born New York: 26 July 1928

died Harpenden, Hertfordshire: 7 March 1999


about the filmmaker


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