Sunday, October 19, 2014


Before continuing with this blog post, you should probably read PART ONE and PART TWO. All done? Thanks! - Jerky

Okay, so, where were we? Ah yes… the Internet circa, roughly, 1995. I was spending an inordinate amount of time participating in newsgroup discussion threads on all sorts of topics… but for the most part, I was on alt.movies.kubrick. I made a few friends there, and one or two enemies, but all in all it was an excellent virtual hangout, where the topics ran the gamut from the highest of high culture to the lowliest of current events, all of which we were somehow able to relate to something we’d seen in one or more of Stanley Kubrick’s films.

Some of the more interesting conversations that took place at AMK have been archived for posterity at a number of websites – sites which I have decided to include in their very own section here at KubrickU. You can find them under the heading TOP KUBRICK LINKS. There, you’ll find all of the most useful Kubrick-related websites, including a few obvious ones (IMDB, Wikipedia), and a few more outrĂ© selections (the Overlook Hotel site, the Kubrick-Floyd Synchronicities Site). All are worth spending some time on.

The high traffic levels and high quality of the discussions at AMK were particularly noteworthy when one considers that Kubrick fans had been suffering through nearly a decade’s worth of unbroken silence, with nothing but a few scant crumbs of industry gossip to keep our hopes alive. And then, like a thunderous revelation brought down from the mountaintop by bloody-eyed Zarathustra, himself, it happened… Kubrick finished weighing his options and made a decision, and a new Kubrick film was definitely on its way!

Needless to say, Eyes Wide Shut was the object of some high-octane speculation from the get-go. Every step of the way, every aspect of the production was gleefully picked apart by we (mostly) well-intentioned obsessives. And boy howdy, was there ever a lot to pick apart. Considering who was involved with this film – and considering all the myriad cast shuffles, shooting schedule extensions, script revisions and re-shoots – you could hardly blame us for believing that Eyes Wide Shut was either going to be one of the greatest movies ever made, or a fiasco of epic proportions.

In the middle of all this, Kubrick won the D.W. Griffith award from the Director’s Guild of America (DGA). He couldn't attend the ceremony to accept the award himself – indeed, considering the legends that had risen up around him since he left the United States back in the early 60’s, nobody could have expected him to – but he did send a video acceptance speech that, for a great many of us younger Kubrick fans, was the first time we’d heard the man’s speaking voice*… and its soft, slightly nasal, Bronx-inflected tone was almost as big a shock as the dramatic change in his appearance since the last time he was photographed, a dozen years previous.

And then, on March 7, 1999, over four months before Eyes Wide Shut was set to be released and just days after he’d shown an assembly cut to an assortment of Warner Bros honchos, Stanley Kubrick died of a massive heart attack in his sleep.

I can still remember where I was when I first heard the news. I was sitting in my living room at home when I got a call from my friend and fellow Kubrick fanatic Luis, owner of Suspect Video and Culture. “Did you hear the news?” he asked. “Stanley Kubrick died.”

I went cold, and a sort of denial crept over me. I thanked Luis for telling me, then hung up and turned on CNN. Not that I suspected Luis of pulling a nasty trick on me, but I needed to see the news for myself before I could believe it.

It didn’t take long. News of Kubrick’s death was at the top of the news cycle, where it belonged, so the story was repeating and being updated, every hour on the hour.

Needless to say, this was bad news… very bad news, indeed.

It was a terrible blow, obviously, to his family and loved ones. And it was also a great loss to world cinema, as evinced by the plethora of encomiums that poured from his peers’ word processors, fattening specialty film magazines from every corner of the globe to the point of bursting with special features and “collectors” issues dedicated to the man’s life and work.

But it was particularly bad news for Eyes Wide Shut. Because, as any Kubrick fan worth his salt could tell you, Stanley worked on his films until the last possible moment… and, on more than one occasion, beyond it. With four freaking months of post-production left to go before Eyes Wide Shut’s premiere, no amount of promises from panicking Warner Bros brass could sway me from my belief that Kubrick’s final film was forever, tragically, doomed to being unfinished.

And then – as if the prospect of Stanley Kubrick’s final film being unfinished at the time of his death wasn’t bad enough – The Powers That Be stepped in and began doing their best to turn tragedy into travesty.

First they went after the film’s explicit “orgy” sequence, digitally pasting a bunch of ridiculous, crudely composed figures over sex scenes no more explicit than what you could watch nightly on Cinemax pay cable at the time. Much to my shocked chagrin, there were apologists for this disgusting censorship even among many self-declared Kubrick fanatics. “It doesn't matter!”, I can recall some of them explaining. “Kubrick knew he had to deliver an R-rated movie… so he definitely would have wanted it that way!”

Next, a handful of British Hindus complained about the fact that some of their “religious” music was playing over that same orgy scene. So what did Warner Bros do? They immediately caved and replaced the music. And what did the apologists say? “It doesn't matter! It’s just one piece of music! Surely if Stanley were alive and was told that his musical choice had hurt someone’s feelings, he would have made a similar change!” One repeated refrain heard at AMK was about how other films had suffered far worse fates, so who were Kubrick fans to complain about a few little… um… “tweaks”?

Sad to say, but in those days, I was finding precious little evidence of the “rabid devotion” that Kubrick was alleged to inspire among his fanatical cult of admirers.

Maybe it was denial. Maybe some of them were having a hard time coming to terms with the possibility that a movie they’d waited so long for – five bloody years! – might not be “the real deal”. I don’t know. I’m no psychologist. But I do know that I would rather have an unfinished Kubrick film than a Kubrick film finished by a committee who then try to pass it off as “100 percent Kubrick”. And that’s exactly what I believe we've got with Eyes Wide Shut. I was afraid that might be the case in the weeks leading up to its release, and as I walked out of the theater on opening day I felt as though my worst suspicions had just been confirmed.

Does that mean I believe Eyes Wide Shut to be worthless? Not at all! I’m actually thankful for it. There are things in and about it that I dearly love, and I look forward to sharing some of the intriguing thoughts and theories that I've come across over the years in my quest to try and figure out what really happened behind the scenes – both pre- and posthumously – on Stanley Kubrick’s final film.

And so there you have it… an all-too-wordy breakdown of my life as an unrepentant Kubrick Nut! Sure, there’s more to the Kubrick story beyond Eyes Wide Shut and the aftermath of its release. There’s Steven Spielberg’s unjustly-maligned completion of Kubrick’s long-gestating return to cinematic science-fiction, A.I. There also remains a lot to be said about Kubrick’s ongoing influence on all of the arts, which, if anything, has only increased since his death.

And then, thanks in part to high-gloss documentaries like the surprise hit Room 237 (and a vast array of far less ritzy D.I.Y. videos on Youtube and the like), there’s the sudden, somewhat shocking rise of Kubrick conspiracy theories, which has resulted in his films becoming some of the most important and widely-discussed subjects of paracultural, or esoteric, analysis in recent times. I hope to bring you some interesting reportage on these subjects in the coming days, weeks, months and years.

Keep watching this space!

*not counting, of course, his Hitchcockian voice-over role as Murph, with whom Cowboy attempts to secure armored vehicle support while crossing through the Vietnamese city of Hue, in Full Metal Jacket. Prior to that, the only chance we’d have had to hear Kubrick’s voice was in Vivian Kubrick’s documentary The Making of The Shining (1980), which originally aired on British TV and on pay TV in the USA, and didn’t become commercially available until a special edition DVD release of The Shining in 2006.

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