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Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures

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:: Published in 2002, the coffee-table book, Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, is a collection of photographs assembled by his wife, Christiane Kubrick, and chronicles his life from the time of his birth, through to beyond his death, in March of 1999, to include some of the storyboards designed for what Kubrick hoped would be his production (and Steven Spielberg’s direction) of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Christiane Kubrick provides notes and commentary for over 230 photographs.

Since Kubrick’s untimely death, a movie about his life was produced and directed by his brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, and a number of books have been written about him, and in some cases, about working with him on some of his projects. Such books include Moonwatcher’s Memoir by Dan Richter, and Kubrick’s 2001: A Triple Allegory by Leonard F Wheat. Collectively, these works are serving to help us get to know him as not only a filmmaker, but among other things, also as a husband, father and friend. In effect, in death he has become more accessible and visible to those of us who followed his career, and wondered what he was doing during the long years between The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, and the even longer time between FMJ and Eyes Wide Shut.

The book opens with a foreward by Spielberg and a introduction by Christiane that is at times, stinging. She uses her words to admonish those who believe SK lived the life of a hermit because he didn’t appear on talk shows or invite glossy magazine reporters into their home in St Albans, UK. It is her wish that the pictures in this book will put to rest this image, revealing instead a man who was in love with his work, and surrounded by people who shared that feeling:

    “This is essentially a family album of photographs, ‘lightly and slightly’ added to, which I hope will present Stanley as I knew him, as my children and other members of the family knew him, and as those who worked with him knew him. The photographs will also, I pray, correct the mistaken view of Stanley as some sort of isolationist misanthrope out of Dr Mabuse by way of Howard Hughes.”

The book begins with four-page chronology of Kubrick’s life, from his birth in 1928 in Manhattan, to the rerelease of 2001: A Space Odyssey in, of course, 2001. Christiane divided the book into two parts: Part One covers 1928-1964, and Part Two covers 1965-1999. Sandwiched in between the halves of the book is an “Intermission”, in which Christiane features five of her paintings of Kubrick, and three very special photographs, including one of Kubrick holding the newborn Anya, with his daughter Katharina looking on. The inclusion of the intermission was a brilliant stroke by Christiane, offering the reader some time away from the detailed photographs to study Christiane’s detailed paintings, and catch a glimpse of Kubrick as a proud new papa.

The first 20 photographs in the book include shots of Jack and Gert, Kubrick’s parents, and a number of photos of him from the age of three months through to his early teenage years. It is evident from pictures of his mother, that Stanley Kubrick inherited her eyes.

Christiane includes more that just photographs in this marvelous book. For example, Kubrick’s high school yearbook picture is present, annotated with additional notes about his activities with the school band and newspaper. While in high school, Kubrick sold a photograph to Look magazine, and became their youngest ever staff photographer. The table of contents from the May 11, 1948, v12 n10, issue of Look features a photo and bio of Kubrick, with the line, “In his spare time, Stanley experiments with cinematography and dreams of the day when he can make documentary films.”

Also featured is a handful of contact sheets of some of Kubrick’s photos, the subjects of which included actor Montgomery Clift, jazz musicians Pee Wee Russell, Errol Garner, and others, and boxer Rocky Graziano.

Following this, we begin the series of photos that follow Kubrick from his first film, Day of the Fight in 1950, through to his final work, Eyes Wide Shut, in 1999. In addition to some wonderful family shots are many photographs that take us truly behind the scenes of all his films. One of my favorite shots features Kubrick and George C Scott, cigarettes in hand, both concentrating intensely over a game of chess on the set of Dr Strangelove. Still another is one of his daughter, Vivian, her little arm around her father, cheek to cheek, their faces lit from the display of a small Movieola viewing screen as they watch the scene to be edited.

Christiane ends the book with a complete, exhaustive cast and credit list for all of SK’s movies, including credits which were not given on screen. She notes: “This appendix, it is hoped, will serve as a definitive source.”

I finished the book, and wanted to look at it again and again; there is so much to study and absorb in this amazing selection of photographs and artwork. I would look at a picture, and wonder what it was like to be there at that moment. Christiane Kubrick has done something wonderful for the fans and afficionados of her late husband by compiling this book, and as such, we are in her debt.

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About Randy Reichardt

  • Excellent! Now I have something to add to my Xmas wishlist (after finally tracking down a copy of the documentary on DVD without having to buy the whole box set)…