1 February 2008

Kubrick Bio - Part the First

It may not be entirely correct to call Kubrick a child prodigy. Nonetheless one can picture the confidence and strength of the young artist when, at 16 years old, he managed to sell an unsolicited picture to the highly influential publication, Look. He’d been experimenting in the family darkroom for several years at the suggestion of his parents, and early home movies (1) reveal the seeds of their encouragement. In these movies the young Kubrick is obviously take-charge, as aware of his high stature in family and in life as his placement within the camera frame. Conscious of it or not, Kubrick is directing the action and, judging by his smile, he’s having a grand old time doing it.
...Kubrick’s first sold photograph led to a career at Look magazine. His numerous photo spreads ranged from profiles of actors like Montgomery Clift to documentations of the New York jazz scene. Comparing the former category with the latter one reveals the opposite extremes of Kubrick’s artistry. The actor profiles show Kubrick’s liking for what I’ll call the ‘pose.’ That’s basically a blanket euphemism for the control Kubrick places on the image. In these photos, setting and subject bend to the artist’s will and the sense of manipulation is readily apparent. This is especially of interest in the Clift profile: the actor was a manipulator in his own right, and there’s a strong sense of a meeting of two very distinct and individual minds that adds a tension to the image. As much as Clift exudes his own sort of confidence, it’s also evident that Kubrick has an equal control. It foreshadows Kubrick’s later, conflicted dealings with high profile actors such as Kirk Douglas and Sterling Hayden, and may partly explain why he cast blander and more easily controlled leading men in many of his later films.
A photo of a trumpet player feels three-dimensional, as if the instrument and its master reach beyond the lens and into the very lives of the viewer. You can hear the music and feel the movement in this still frame, and the sense of life being lived (as opposed to the sense of life having been lived in the ‘pose’ photographs) is extraordinary. This image, and the many others like it, presuppose the musical interludes in Kubrick’s films that recreate these feelings of presence. It is in these moments of musicality, of the physical and psychological dance of characters and setting, where Kubrick’s movies come most alive.

From this My Space fan page on Stanley Kubrick.

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