What better way to cool off in the summer than sitting in a dark room, watching the chilly masterpieces of Stanley Kubrick? The nice people at Kino Scala are screening four of his greatest hits this week.
The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal JacketDirected by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Keir Dullea, Malcolm MacDowell, Matthew Modine
Begin with a stay at the Overlook in The Shining (Osvícení, July 8 at 6pm), Kubrick’s masterful rethink of Stephen King’s haunted hotel novel. Jack Nicholson chews scenery as the struggling writer turned axe murderer, and Shelley Duvall snivels and shrieks as his terrified wife.
King famously hated the film, producing his own version years later. Kubrick made key changes to the book, dispensing with much of the silly stuff, such as switching living topiary animals for a hedge maze, which is critical to the film’s dream-logic.
Kubrick’s Shining is a more ambiguous vision than the novel. It is never clear whether the Overlook is really haunted, or if it’s the kind of party where people bring their own spirits.
Star of the show is the hotel itself, an ominous, Escher-like labyrinth. Kubrick’s steadicam prowls the corridors, implying the hotel is stalking its prey. Once the Overlook sinks its claws into you, you’ll want to stay forever…and ever…and ever…
Next up is a cinematic landmark, 2001: A Space Odyssey (2001: Vesmírná odysea, July 9 at 6pm). Ever wonder why mankind is so advanced compared to every other species on the planet? Why do we have electric tin openers and Boardwalk Empire, while our closest relatives, the chimps, are still figuring out how to use a stick, and are only on season two of The Sopranos?
2001 speculates that benign aliens kick along our development, via mysterious monoliths at key points in our evolution.
The ideas are big, the visuals awe-inspiring, the music majestic. Few films have depicted humankind’s evolution against the vast backdrop of the universe with such wondrous clarity of vision. The effect is humbling, and everything else seems a bit trivial by comparison. Some viewers find the film ponderous – if you are watching 2001 for the first time, it is best approached as if sitting down to watch an orchestra perform a symphony.
Classical music also plays a major role in A Clockwork Orange (Mechanický pomeranč, July 10 at 6pm). Our “humble narrator” is Alex, a charmingly malevolent teen whose hobbies include rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.
Adapted from Anthony Burgess’s novel, there is a whiff of brimstone about this devilish ode to free will. Through a series of stylised set pieces, Kubrick invites the viewer to tag along with Alex and his gang on their nocturnal rampages. Some viewers experience an uncomfortable moral reaction to the film, which clouds the central philosophical MacGuffin – is it worse for a person to indulge in evil acts, or for society to deny them the free will to commit the crimes in the first place?
Full Metal Jacket (Olověná vesta, July 11 at 6pm) is the weakest film of the four, merely very good instead of exceptional like the other three. It follows a group of new recruits through brutal basic training in the US Marine Corps to action in Vietnam.
The first part is the strongest, as a bumbling recruit attracts the full wrath of the drill instructor, played with astonishing fury by R. Lee Ermey. After dehumanizing tactics and inventively cruel verbal abuse, the dangers of Vietnam seem tame by comparison.
Full Metal Jacket is arguably Kubrick’s bleakest film, a straightforward examination of man’s inhumanity to man. It doesn’t have the visionary quality of the other three films, and the Vietnam fighting scenes are formulaic compared to Apocalypse Now or Platoon.
Even if you’ve seen Kubrick’s films before on TV, it is worth seeing them again on the big screen, where you can fully appreciate the scope of his meticulous vision. Booking tickets is recommended.
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