Friday, August 1, 2014


Is this a Kubrick Crazy Stare I see before me?

After going back and reading what I wrote in Part 1, I thought it might be a good idea to clear up a couple things. First, as an obsessive-compulsive individual with an addictive personality, I have obsessed over a great many artists and their work over the years. Stanley Kubrick hardly stands alone. This should probably go without saying, but I’m saying it now, anyway. I’m almost as big a Frank Zappa Freak, for instance, as I am a Kubrick Nut. Almost.

Furthermore, I was a great fan of John Carpenter, George Romero and David Cronenberg early on… and it’s probably no coincidence that all three share with Kubrick the distinction of having directed adaptations of novels by Stephen King. Throughout Junior High and High School, I read everything King wrote, along with a steady stream of horror, fantasy and science fiction novels, not to mention a vast array of popular science books, books about the supernatural, the occult and cryptozoology, “true crime” exposés and conspiracy theories, all either borrowed from or read at my local library… God bless that place.

Meanwhile, at school, I was being exposed to ever more interesting “required reading”. George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World both left lasting impressions, as did Frankenstein, Moby Dick, and the short works of Poe, Hawthorne and Mark Twain.

I graduated High School in 1988 and, between then and 1993, I attended Mount Allison University, a small undergraduate school in New Brunswick, Canada, where I earned a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy. This was still back in the prehistoric days before the Internet, so I had to rely on friends, faculty, film club and (again) the library to help broaden my horizons. It was during this time that I developed a taste for the works of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Brian DePalma, David Lynch and Werner Herzog.

It was also during this time that, thanks to my good friend Mark Gibson, I finally got to see A Clockwork Orange, which disturbed me in a way that I’d never been disturbed by a movie before. As a horror fan, I’d seen far greater violence perpetrated on far more sympathetic victims, but I’d never seen anything quite so… would the word be wanton? Let’s check the dictionary…
wan-ton (adj) 1. of a cruel or violent action; deliberate and unprovoked. “sheer wanton vandalism” synonyms: deliberate, willful, malicious, spiteful, wicked, cruel. 2. (archaic) play, frolic.
Yes, “wanton” just about covers it. The “Home” invasion scene in particular left me feeling numb with shock. In subsequent viewings, I’ve come to appreciate Clockwork’s value as jet-black satire, but it has never lost its profoundly subversive undercurrent of social dread. Roger Ebert memorably criticized the film thusly: “An ideological mess, a paranoid right-wing fantasy masquerading as an Orwellian warning.” I think, in his own way, Ebert “got” A Clockwork Orange, but he didn’t much care for its message.

Regardless of my jarring encounter with Clockwork, my university years were a comparative low point for my Kubrick obsession. I was busy with other things, obviously – grappling with the history of world philosophy and the vast richness of the Anglo literary tradition, from its early beginnings to its latest, post-modern manifestations. For the first of what would eventually be many times, I performed the cliched rite of watching 2001: A Space Odyssey while stoned on pot. This (and other, straight viewings) served to rectify my earlier distaste for the film. What once seemed slow and plodding now seemed deliberate, conscious… achieving an icy cold perfection all its own. Also, I don’t think I need waste anyone’s time going over all the ways in which 2001 was a ground-breaker in terms of world cinema.

In 1993, after graduation, I moved to Toronto and almost immediately got onto the Internet, where one of the first places I visited was the alt.movies.kubrick newsgroup. There I found dozens of like-minded Kubrick fanatics and spent countless hours reading their opinions, sharing my own, and generally enjoying their virtual company. This is also around the time I started going to Toronto’s landmark Suspect Video and Culture store, whose owner, Luis Ceriz, is as huge and obsessive a Kubrick nut as yours truly.

It’s thanks to Suspect Video and their director-centric shelving system that I got to watch Paths of Glory and The Killing – unmitigated masterpieces, both – as well as the flawed but still magnificent Lolita and Barry Lyndon, all in short order. I even rented and watched Killer’s Kiss a couple of times, and secured a barely watchable 7th generation copy of the suppressed Fear and Desire via Something Weird Video.

It was during these first, heady alt.movies.kubrick/Suspect Video days that I began having dreams about Stanley Kubrick. I know, I know... but it wasn't all the time or anything. It’s probably happened a dozen times total over the years, with only three of those dreams being worth remembering.

Now, there are few things quite so boring as another person’s dreams, so I won’t torture you with the details. Suffice it to say that, as a veteran lucid dreamer, I collect dreams the way some people collect comic books, and I definitely count those Kubrick dreams among my favorites. Anyway, I think what kicked them off was the welcome news that Kubrick was hard at work on not one, but TWO new films – the mysterious Eyes Wide Shut, and the long-gestating sci-fi epic followup to 2001, A.I.!

Yes, it was very exciting to be a Kubrick fan in Toronto circa 1994-1999.

End of Part 2…

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