Director Stanley Kubrick was one of the most respected and reclusive directors in film history who never repeated himself as a film maker and had unbelievable control over most of his films. He died just after his final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999) was released but Jan Harlan’s documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) is the most comprehensive film on the director.
Harlan (who also produced the film) charts Kubrick’s legacy from his very first short film to his very last film (including a small section on his collaboration with Steven Spielberg and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence). The great achievement of this film is all the interviews with Kubrick and his home movies which are scattered from beginning to end. It is not just a film about a great film maker but his life as a private man with his wife and children and how his life influenced his film life and vice versa.
Kubrick was such a unique talent and a recluse who later in life averaged maybe one film a decade that you would think it hard to get into his inner workings and influences. The amazing thing about Kubrick and which Harlan does a great job on addressing is the fact that he never produced “easy” films. His films were always cutting edge and ahead of their time, so much so that many times they were under appreciated at the time of their release but later became cinematic classics. This is the case with Lolita (1962), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971) or Eyes Wide Shut, to name a few. Even today, audiences marvel at the ambiguity of his films which are open to interpretation and test the endurance of the audience like Barry Lyndon (1975) or Killer’s Kiss (1955). The one consensus from film makers today is that Kubrick is a visionary and auteur.
Kubrick was also a family man. Through his home movies we get a glimpse at the man with his family and his thoughts and fears of people’s reaction to his uncompromising films. We learn that he had to make cuts to his Lolita because the Catholic Church’s demonization of the film. Kubrick pulled A Clockwork Orange from cinemas in the UK after the young related deaths that became associated with the film. The bad publicity and reaction to that film was a threat to his personal welfare and family and he always maintained that his family came first above everything else (which is why he left the United States to raise his children in the UK).
This is not only an informative look at one of cinema’s greatest legends but also a look at the man and the way in which people saw and experienced his films. This is one of the best films of its kind and should not be missed.