almost extinction of the species—and in that revelation, examine 2001: A Space Odyssey.
He died twenty-four years ago this month, quietly in his sleep after shipping a final cut to his distributor. He created only sixteen films for
distribution and there will never be another film by Stanley Kubrick.
As each year goes by, more and more people realize what film artists have
known since the 1960's... he was and remains singular among the handful
of unique filmmakers in the 20th century. As one director mused: "I look at
the history of cinema and I see it divided into 'before Kubrick' and 'after
He transformed the role of music from a mood and emotion heightening
component to the role of a character in a film. He created photography and
its love of lighting beyond the eye of any other filmmaker. He made
production and costume design a signature of each frame. His sense of
editing cannot be taught. He was singular and in that he influenced the
important filmmakers that surrounded him.
So few films? It doesn't matter. It may have taken him four to eight years to
create a work, but each film encompasses more beauty than most directors
could achieve in a lifetime. And each of his films becomes a new film with
each new viewing.
The high mark list begins with:
Paths of Glory
Dr. Strangelove or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2001: A Space Odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
Full Metal Jacket
Eyes Wide Shut
There is much to say about these films. Each was released to a critical uproar. Some were wildly popular and delivered huge returns at the box office. None of them ever lost money. One of them still sits alone as a
cinematic work of art and a popular movie. 2001 is not a science-fiction
film, or a drama, or a documentary... it's in a genre of its own, a vision of
the future and its roots. The design and technical achievements of this film
still stand alone today. It was created without CGI. Douglas Trumball, who
supervised much of the photographic effects, went on to do the same for
the last film pre-CGI, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
Kubrick was also unique in that he had complete control of his films right
down to their distribution, and advertising. He had a remarkable
relationship with one of the hardest-nosed, profit-driven studios in
Hollywood, Warner Bros. Throughout his life and career, he looked to
them as if they were a Renaissance patron and that's how they treated him.
He got whatever he wanted. He was their one Master — for which they
wanted recognition. He was also a profitable one. Like Picasso, he showed
how art and success and money mix – by living and breathing it 24 hours a
It's bad that he's gone. It's good that he lived. His envious critics are
forgotten as all critics are. His imitators are disposible and ignored. In
today's empowered lowest-common denominator where everyone is an
artist, where the art and artifacts of cinema are merchandised and made
matter-of-fact in a maelstrom of technology and voyeurism and
youtubeness... his work remains an irresistible, unmitigated treasure.