AGE OF REASON: THE FILMS OF STANLEY KUBRICK, from Friday (October 20) to October 29, at Cinematheque Ontario, Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West). 968-FILM. For times and prices, see Rep Cinemas, page 85.
There's one early, low-budget film in Cinematheque's Stanley Kubrick retrospective that anticipates all of Kubrick's vices and virtues. Don't miss Killer's Kiss (Friday, October 20, 6:30 pm), a noir exercise about a boxer, a taxi dancer and a mobbed-up older guy.
The dark paranoia of late film noir was an ideal mode for Kubrick, who loved to reduce his characters to remote figures in gargantuan urban landscapes, and his amazing compositional sense is instantly apparent here.
You can tell, too, that he had little talent for or interest in directing actors. Frank Silvera, as the older man who comes between the young lovers, is a veteran of the New York stage and gives a good performance. Jamie Smith, whose film career is basically this film, is just good-looking.
The Cinematheque actually offers Kubrick minus one. 2001: A Space Odyssey will be re-released in a newly restored print at the end of the year.
After looking at the rest of the works, I find that my doubts about Kubrick remain.
There are, no question, two masterpieces: Dr. Strangelove (Tuesday, October 24, 8:15 pm) and The Shining (Thursday, October 26, 8:30 pm). In the former, Kubrick's compositional purity and dead-on timing perfectly balance the woolly satire of Terry Southern's script. And because Kubrick was still worried about acting at this point, Peter Sellers (in three roles) and especially Sterling Hayden give two of the cinema's greatest performances, period.
Anti-horror movie The Shining, almost an anti-horror movie, benefits immensely from Shelley Duvall's unexpected great performance as Wendy, a woman at the end of her rope and completely uncomprehending of everything going on around her.
For once, latter-day Kubrick's technique -- take after take after take without any comment or instruction to the actors -- actually works. Duvall's exhaustion is the most real thing in the movie. That and the endless corridors of the Overlook Hotel.
There are a couple of near-great films in Lolita (Monday, October 23, 6:30 pm), which is harmed by the fact that Kubrick's Lolita (Sue Lyon) and Humbert (James Mason) are both too old, and the first half of Full Metal Jacket (Friday, October 27, 8:45 pm), a totalitarian nightmare centred on the sadistic confrontations between Lee Ermey's drill sergeant and Vincent D'Onofrio's tortured recruit.
The Killing (Friday, October 20, 8 pm) has a silly time-scheme trick, but the dialogue is pure Jim Thompson, the rawest sort of pulp, and Lucien Ballard's cinematography is worthy of a better film -- say, Sam Fuller's Pickup On South Street.
Misanthropic film On the other hand, there's the relentlessly schematic Paths Of Glory (Saturday, October 21, 6:30 pm), which, despite its reputation, hasn't nearly the topographical clarity of Anthony Mann's Men In War.
And A Clockwork Orange (Wednesday, October 25, 8:15 pm) may be the most misanthropic film ever made, forcing its audience into a position of cheery identification with a rapist and murderer played far too cutely by Malcolm MacDowell.
You can read thousands of words on the subject of the technological challenges behind Barry Lyndon (Sunday, October 29, 1 pm) -- including special lenses and film stocks created so Kubrick could shoot by candlelight -- but damned few about what he actually found interesting in the characters. Ryan O'Neal, adrift in breeches and powdered wigs, wears a single hurt-puppy pout on his face for almost three hours.
Eyes Wide Shut (Saturday, October 28, 8:30 pm) offers the clearest evidence that Kubrick definitely needed to get out more often, and of Nicole Kidman's talents.
Anyone who could give a great performance in this film deserves our respect.