Kubrick by Kubrick
by George Wolf
Stanley Kubrick gave so few interviews in his lifetime that an early striking moment in Gregory Monro’s Kubrick by Kubrick comes the first time you hear his voice.
It doesn’t really seem to fit, until you remember Kubrick wasn’t French or British, he was a native New Yorker. And he had a clear penchant for precise, matter-of-fact observations.
Film critic Michel Ciment was lucky enough to get some of those thoughts on tape over the course of several years, and Monro surrounds highlights of those cassette recordings with still photos, movie clips, and interviews with various cast and crew from Kubrick’s 13 movies.
Monro anchors the film with a recreation of the hotel suite from 2001. This one is adorned with mementos from Kubrick’s catalogue, which Monro spotlights as Ciment and Kubrick move their conversations from film to film.
Obviously, film fans will get critical insight into Kubrick’s mindset and interpretations of the stories he told (horror fans may especially take note of his far-from-the-rabbit-hole thoughts on The Shining).
But however much time Ciment spent with Kubrick, it seems Monro only found enough usable material for a heavily padded, barely one-hour running time, which leaves plenty unsaid. It’s certainly great to see all the classic clips from Kubrick’s films, but after actors such as Jack Nicholson, Malcolm McDowell, Sterling Hayden (Dr. Strangleove) and Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon) comment on Kubrick’s legendary perfectionism, you wait for reactions from the man himself that never come.
Maybe beggars like us can’t be choosers, and there are fascinating answers from Kubrick here, chief among them some suddenly prescient thoughts on HAL’s A.I. awareness. Kubrick by Kubrick is the rare chance to get inside the mind of a guarded legend, and even when it leaves you wanting more, that somehow feels like an ending he had planned all along.