10/26/13: Eyes Wide Shut

EWS

In Eyes Wide Shut, we get to peer voyeuristically – and, make no mistake about it, this movie is very voyeuristic – into a seemingly perfect, upper-middle class marriage: A marriage similar in many ways to your own & that of your parents’ & families’ & friends’. And we’ve all been asked, even if only when being mocked: Is your spouse/significant other faithful? The general response is an indignant, ‘Yes, of course!’. Stanley’s retort: “‘Are you sure of that?’. Can we ever be truly sure of anything? Only that the reality of even one night, let alone that of a whole lifetime, can never be the whole truth. And no dream is ever just a dream!”

EWS - Stanley  

In Eyes Wide Shut, we meet Dr. Bill Harford & his wife, Alice (Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman) for about two & a half days during the Christmas season. They are your prototypical, metropolitan New York upper-middle class family with a busy schedule. Early on, they go to a party at one of the Doctor’s clients, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), where they both flirt: Bill, with a pair of models (Louise Taylor & Stewart Thorndike) who want to take him to “Where the rainbow ends”; and Alice slow-dances with an older Hungarian man (Sky Dumont) who offers to take her upstairs to see Ziegler’s sculpture gallery. Although neither acts on their propositions, the party begins a journey of metaphysical sexual exploration by the couple, particularly Bill, peaking when he crashes a ritualistic orgy by a secret society in a suburban mansion. Entrance to the event is by password only, and all the celebrants are costumed & wear Venetian masks.

EWS - Harfords    EWS - Sydney    EWS - ModelsEWS - Sky      EWS - Orgy 

It’s often rumored that Stanley didn’t truly direct Eyes Wide Shut. That’s false! Its 7/13/99 release came just over 4 months after he screened a final cut for Kidman, Cruise & some Warner executives. He died 5 days after that screening of natural causes. Those 4 months were used to put the finishing touches on, market & distribute the movie. And the final product is pure Kubrick. As with all of Stanley’s films, the music is haunting. It earned Jocelyn Pook a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score; but the theme of the second half of the film, György Ligeti‘s foreboding piano piece, The Second Movement of Musica Ricercata, nearly drove me crazy the first time I saw it, some 14 years ago on HBO in the middle of the night.

EWS - Pook      EWS - Ligeti 

The symbolism in the film is overwhelming: The color scheming is alternatively gold and red. The embedded trailer at the end of the Blog hints at this symbolism, but you’re doing yourself a major disservice if you don’t put this great piece at the top of your Netflix DVD Queue & watch it ASAP. As you screen it, think about what Stanley was trying to convey with it? The Christmas motif – remember, this was released in the summer – represents the Harford’s family & their public lives; while Bill’s Venetian Mask, their fantasies & secret lives. And the Secret Society represents a multitude of opposing ideas: Celebration & Manipulation; Christianity & Satanism; Dreams & Nightmares; Pleasure & Pain; Obedience & Control; Domination & Submission; Inclusion & Exclusion; and Voyeurism & Exhibitionism. But enough talk! It’s just an excuse not to act, isn’t it? And me: I’ve always been a voyeur for some exhibitionism. And so have you, so get right to it! 🙂

EWS - Gold    EWS - Christmas    EWS - Mask EWS - Fidelio      EWS - Voyeur

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10/24/13: The Shining

Shining

As some of you know, I host the Classic Series at Rave Buckland Hills, Manchester CT. Those movies are almost always shown in Auditorium 1. Well, on 10/27/13, I went there to host Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. When I arrived, I headed to Auditorium 1, but our General Manager, Mr. Thompson, told me, ‘Auditorium 1 has been shut down since yesterday.’. So I asked him, “‘What’s going on with Auditorium 1?’, he said, ‘Nothin’! There ain’t nothin’ in Auditorium 1! But you ain’t got no business goin’ in there anyway. So stay out! You understand? STAY OUT!” “But I, of course, could not. I am The Caretaker there. I’ve always been The Caretaker.” 

Shining - Rave

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, The Shining, stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a former teacher who’s reinventing himself as a writer. He’s taken a Winter assignment as Caretaker of The Overlook Hotel, a beautiful, summer-only facility high in the Colorado Rockies built on an ancient Indian burial ground. The hotel is shut down for 6 months a year because keeping it accessible & fully functional during the harsh winters there isn’t economically feasible. Jack plans to get a lot of writing done in the isolation at The Overlook. His wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), are not excited about the venture. Danny has ESP, as does the Hotel’s Head Chef Dick Hallorann, played wonderfully by Scatman Crothers. Dick calls it The Shine.

Shining - Jack        Shining - Overlook                Shining - Wendy & Danny        Shining - Dick & Danny 

The film is somewhat loosely based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name. King hates the movie. Kubrick bought the exclusive rights to adapt the book to film, and when King wanted the rights to produce his,…,er, um,…wonderful…1997 TV miniseries of it, Stanley agreed if King promised to stop his constant dissing of Kubrick’s piece, apparently while the director was alive. I say apparently because King is back to trashing this great motion picture as one of the themes of his current speaking tour. This film was not critically acclaimed when released. It broke string of 6 Kubrick movies to receive at least one Oscar nomination. The Shining has passed the ultimate test – the test of time – and is now considered by many Kubrick scholars to be his finest piece.

Shining - Comparison 

Stanley Kubrick was a terrific director, but not a prolific director. He made just 13 motion pictures between 1953 & ’99. Every word uttered & object seen in every single shot was carefully considered. There’s an fascinating documentary released last year & streamable on Netflix called Room 237 that I recommend to anyone interested in Kubrick. It’s an examination of the subtext of The Shining by 5 off-camera Kubrick scholars. Subtext is the implicit/unspoken meaning or primary theme of a literary work. It’s subsidiary to & found under the text. Great directors like Kubrick use props & others items to hint at the subtexts of their films. Two such important symbols in The Shining are the Hedge Maze and the Native American motif. Both are discussed in Room 237. The maze here is a symbol of the confusion of mental illness. The entire film is a twisted labyrinth: The Maze itself; the interior design of The Overlook; Jack’s perception; the mirror images; the constantly changing items on the set; everything! And Jack Torrance is The Minotaur guarding his Labyrinth. He’s half man & half bull, becoming increasingly less human as the film progresses. As I mentioned earlier, the Overlook was built on an ancient Native American burial site. Much of its motif is of Native American images & symbols. One of the most memorable images in The Shining is of the flood of blood pouring out of the elevators, where we clearly see them framed with Indian symbols. That imagery is the most compelling evidence to justify the theory held by Bill Blakemore in 237 that Stanley is alluding to the annihilation of Native Americans in The Shining.

Shining - 237        Shining - Minotaur                            Shining - Maze        Shining - Elevator

If you have yet to see Kubrick’s The Shining, it is available on DVD through Netflix. It’s required reading for anyone & everyone who loves gothic horror, psychological drama, Stanley Kubrick, film, art…any intellectual endeavor. And for those of you who find Stephen King compelling and are secretly as embarrassed over that obsession as we are for you, this is your ticket out. Just watch the trailer below to begin your release from spoon-fed mental servitude to the King, and enter the a-MAZE-ing world of freedom of thought & interpretation that Stanley Kubrick will bring you! 4-Stars!!!

10/12/13: Full Metal Jacket

FMJ

Full Metal Jacket is Stanley Kubrick’s examination of the Marine Corps: How it takes very different young men from very different walks of life & makes them very much alike in Parris Island (SC) Boot Camp, where they’re readied for combat – in this case, in Vietnam. They become Marines! “The Marine Corps does not want robots. The Marine Corps wants killers. The Marine Corps wants to build indestructible men. Men without fear! Men who make other men dead!” “And the dead know only one thing: It is better to be alive.”

FMJ - Stanley

Stanley asks us to consider if the Marines are brainwashing their draftees & recruits or keeping America safe? As with all of his films, there are no easy answers. We again find ourselves considering the human condition through characters in stressful, complicated situations. As he does in A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick has the main character, Joker (Matthew Modine) provides some introspection through narration. We follow Joker & Cowboy (Arliss Howard) through Parris Island to Vietnam. The bond they form in boot camp is undeniable, adding to the duality of the piece. And in case, when you watch it, you’re wondering if you’re off the mark in thinking so, Joker puts that issue to rest in Vietnam: “Born to Kill” is painted on his helmet; and he wears a Peace Sign Pin on his uniform over his heart. The movie is very much two separate pieces: Boot camp and Vietnam. Some other great performances in this motion picture: Vincent D’Onofrio as the intellectually disabled grunt, Pyle, who we meet in basic training; Adam Baldwin (no relation) as combat master Animal Mother, who we meet in Vietnam; and Lee Ermey, who plays the obsessed, dictatorial Drill Sgt. Hartman & gives all his “ladies” their nicknames.

FMJ - Joker   FMJ - Cowboy   FMJ - Joker & Cowboy FMJ - Joker Duality   FMJ - Animal   FMJ - Pyle & Sgt

Ermey was an ex-Marine Drill Sgt. hired as a technical adviser who wanted to play Hartman, but Stanley wasn’t interested. So Ermey videotaped himself berating some Royal Marines for 15 minutes while being bombarded with oranges & tennis balls from off camera. Kubrick watched the tape and when he saw Ermey’s focus – he never stuttered, tried to avert the projectiles or even squinted – he hired him.

FMJ - Hartman 

The Vietnam War has long been a favorite topic of directors. There have been at least 107 movies, mini-series & documentaries about it and/or its after effects on the troops. produced in 16 different countries. The first, released in 1958, was Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s The Quiet American. The films have a total of 62 Oscar nominations & 25 wins; the wins include 3 for Best Documentary; 13 in the 8 major categories; 3 have won Best Picture – Michael Cimino’s Deer Hunter, Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump, and Oliver Stone’s Platoon. All 3 of those also won Best Director, which Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July also took but Best Picture in 1990 went to Driving Miss Daisy. Stone particularly loves the topic, as he also directed 1993’s Heaven & Earth. A few more great directors who explored the Vietnam War: My all-time favorite movie, Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder; Elia Kazan – The Visitors; Francis Ford Coppola – Apocalypse Now; Milos Forman – Hair; Robert Altman – Streamers; Barry Levinson – Good Morning, Vietnam; Brian De Palma – Casualties of War; John Frankenheimer of The Manchurian Candidate fame – Path to War; and, of course, the great Stanley Kubrick, who not only directed but co-wrote the Oscar-Nominated Adapted Screenplay to FULL…METAL…JACKET!!!

FMJ - TQA  FMJ - Deer  FMJ - Gump  FMJ - Platoon FMJ - 4th FMJ - H&E  FMJ - Jacob  FMJ - Visitors       FMJ - Apocalypse  FMJ - Hair  FMJ - Streamers  FMJ - GMVNFMJ - CoW  FMJ - Path