Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Films of Stanley Kubrick

We were so pleased with our Coen Brothers retrospective that we decided to embark on another trip down memory lane. The question was: Who? There were a lot of possibilities. Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kurosawa? All great choices, but they each have a lot of movies. It would be a long project. Or, another thing we considered was to watch a lot of movies set in Los Angeles. We lived there for several years, got to know the place better than a lot of native-born Angelenos, and find that it’s nostalgic fun to recognize locations. But that’s an open-ended project. There are literally thousands of movies set, more or less, in LA. Some show a lot of locations, some just have establishing shots. We may do that, but for now I was more inclined to pick another director, someone with a shorter list of credits.

The answer was obvious: Stanley Kubrick. In a 48-year career, he directed only 13 movies and three shorts. Of those, I have already seen 12 of the movies, but would be happy to see them all again. The 13th, actually the first, was Fear and Desire, an orphan, not exactly disowned by Kubrick—he never denied authorship—but dismissed by him as amateurish. He didn’t want it seen. The only known copy is owned by the George Eastman House film preservation company, in Rochester, New York. They agreed to Kubrick’s request that it only be shown in house, which meant you had to go to Rochester and request a viewing. Over the years many people have done so. I understand this, because I have an awful first novel squirreled away at the university library in Philadelphia that keeps my own archives. I thought many times of destroying it, but didn’t have the heart, so I let them have it with the condition that no one is allowed to read it except right there, sitting in the library. Over the years precisely one person has done so, to my knowledge. Poor guy.

I have learned that bootleg copies of Fear and Desire are available, and I found some and thought about buying one. But in the end I decided not to, because A) The very few bootleg movies I have seen have been of awful quality and B) I don’t really approve of bootlegs. So this retrospective will have that gap in it.

Oddly, the ones I thought would be impossible to find turned out to be easy. The three short subjects Kubrick made are all on YouTube, and I watched them all. In the interest of completeness, here they are: