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Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut, etc.
June 6, 2006 11:47 AM   Subscribe

A Review of Eyes Wide Shut (Introducing Sociology) by Tim Kreider. Also: A thorough Kubrick FAQ.
posted by geoff. (108 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the FAQ: By the time I got there the pod had been taken, the space wheel damaged & taken out its wooden case. I took pictures of it, its surface had been covered with bits of old plastic construction kits to make it look more technical when filmed. I desperately wanted to take it home, but I only had a motor bike & a room 8 feet by 10 so it was not really workable. It was smashed up by kids a few days later.

I found Eyes Wide Shut derided as perverted eroticism, boring and slow -- but I always found it thick in expressionism, symbolism and pretty much everything that makes a piece of art good. Finally I found I'm not alone in thinking that it's not really at all about see Nicole Kidman's dimpled ass.
posted by geoff. at 11:49 AM on June 6, 2006


oh yea that's a good review.
i had even written the author to thank him for helping me comprehend a lil bit EWS.
posted by zenzizi at 11:50 AM on June 6, 2006


Wow I really muddled my last statement:

I found friends often derided Eyes Wide Shut as perverted eroticism, boring and slow -- but I always found it thick in expressionism, symbolism and pretty much everything that makes a piece of art good. Finally I found I'm not alone in thinking that it's not really at all about seeing Nicole Kidman's dimpled ass.
posted by geoff. at 11:53 AM on June 6, 2006


Your Eyes Wide Shut
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2006


Eyes Wide Shut is one of my favorite Kubrick movies, and that article made me want to watch it again.
posted by Prospero at 12:00 PM on June 6, 2006


hear, hear.
posted by aether1 at 12:06 PM on June 6, 2006


That's an excellent review of the movie and a great take down of the myopic reviews. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 12:06 PM on June 6, 2006


I liked EWS. Every time I want to start a campaign to have Tom Cruise launched into space forever, I have to bite my lip and remind myself that he's capable of being a pretty good actor.

The editing of the American theatrical release was ridiculous though. Not Kubrick's fault.
posted by bardic at 12:12 PM on June 6, 2006


Nice catch geoff, I've always loved this film and Krieder's assessment is firing me up to go and watch it again.
posted by undule at 12:14 PM on June 6, 2006


Prostitution as the defining transaction of our society...got me thinking.
Oh great, my interest is piqued. Now I have to go see the damn movie again.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:17 PM on June 6, 2006


@bardic--I'm in a hurry and so I don't have time to dig up the link, but Eyes Wide Shut is due to be rereleased in the US on DVD this year in its proper, uncensored cut--it'll also be framed at an aspect ratio of 16:9. (The Shining is due to get a 16:9 rerelease as well, if I recall correctly.)
posted by Prospero at 12:18 PM on June 6, 2006


Oh my goodness, it really is that Tim Kreider.

One of my favorite movies ever reviewed by one of my favorite cartoonists ever. Twofer!
posted by fleetmouse at 12:29 PM on June 6, 2006


Fidelio.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2006


I thought Eyes Wide Shut was bloody amazing - I read it as a weird meta-commentary on the Kidman-Cruise financial/bearding transaction, expressed through the medium of their absolute lack of onscreen chemistry, a gesture so clumsy it was clearly meant to as a nod to the public's tongue-in-cheek acceptance of their 'marriage' as genuine.

The Kidman piss scene is key here, obviously - we are the willing bog roll dabbed against that magnified, magnificent cunt we call celebrity.
posted by jack_mo at 12:33 PM on June 6, 2006


While I enjoyed EWS, I don't feel that I "got anything" from it. I didn't feel a moral, a cohesive narrative, or any involvement with the characters. It was fun to watch though (and I don't mean "Boobies!", more like an interesting day in the life), and I really love the 'chanting' at the ceremony. I don't know if it was backwards masked, or Tuvan throat singing or what; can anyone help me out?
posted by Eideteker at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2006


Metafilter: The willing bog roll dabbed against the magnified, magnificent cunt we call celebrity.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2006


I saw EWS at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood and ended up missing a lot of subtext, apparently, because I was sitting two rows behind Matthew Perry. My wife and friends kept commenting on how he was getting along with his date and what they were doing. That was an odd evening.

I appreciate that movies can be as dense as literature, but the poor reviews should be expected when the film demands more than can be given in your standard local cinema.

On the other hand, I'll probably rent this now that I've read this amazing review. Thanks.
posted by stevis at 12:42 PM on June 6, 2006


Just to be a stickler--I wouldn't call this a review. I know Kreider has the word in the subtitle, but that's your hint right there: reviews generally don't have subtitles and footnotes. It's an essay, it's analysis, and it's interesting, but it's not really a review.
posted by muckster at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2006


According to Wikipedia: In the scene with the strange ritual, the incantations heard in the background are actually Christian prayers sung in Romanian, played in reverse. The piece, named "Masked Ball", is an adaptation by Jocelyn Pook of her earlier work "Backwards Priests". When first contacting Pook in regard to providing music for the film, Kubrick asked her if she had anything else like Backwards Priests - "you know, weird".

I was so happy when my brother taught me to play that creepy piano bit (it's actually really easy).

Derail: Without wanting any incriminating 'evidence' such as names and places, has anyone here ever been to or heard of a party (even vaguely) like the one in the film? It's this weird obsession of mine: whenever I drive past a big place out in the country, I think, mmm, I wonder what they get up to in there? I'd love to go to such a secret soiree at least once before I die.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:48 PM on June 6, 2006


this has long been my favorite review of 'eyes wide shut'...and i too now have to go home tonight and read it again and watch the film (this just days after someone posted something about twin peaks, and i spent 4+ hours reading interpretations and criticism of that and mulholland drive...thanks metafilter!)...

i love slow movies! this and 'dogville' and 'solaris' and a lot of merchant-ivoryish stuff...there's something cool about a film that gives you space to think as opposed to throwing a bunch of stuff at you as if quanitity=quality...with kubrick ('barry lyndon' among my very favorites) it's like every little element can captivate you along the way, so each time watching it is a different path...
posted by troybob at 12:48 PM on June 6, 2006


The creepy piano bit is actually by Ligeti, isn't it?
posted by uosuaq at 12:50 PM on June 6, 2006


Yes, he used Ligeti in 2001 without Ligeti's permisison and Legiti was angry. I assume everything was resolved by EWS.
posted by geoff. at 12:52 PM on June 6, 2006


Start of "review":

Critical disappointment with Eyes Wide Shut was almost unanimous, and the complaint was always the same: not sexy.

I quit reading right there. When you start off with a lie, you're not going anywhere I want to follow. I love Kubrick, but I hated this movie, like the vast majority of reviewers, and trust me, it wasn't because it "wasn't sexy."
posted by languagehat at 12:56 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


My favorite line in the review, "He mocks any prurient suspense in the very fist shot of this movie..."
posted by punkfloyd at 12:56 PM on June 6, 2006


If you ever heard about such a party, that's cool too.

I want to believe!
posted by stinkycheese at 1:00 PM on June 6, 2006


Eideteker, IMO the moral of the film is quite basic, bordering on reactionary--indulge your fantasy life (like Kidman's character does) or suffer the consequences of overly literal/male/Catholic desire, the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality (Cruise's character, and all the trouble it gets him and others into).

The orgies and masks and pricks and boobies are a magnificent red herring.

Then again, it's been a few years. I also really want to see EWS again.
posted by bardic at 1:03 PM on June 6, 2006


i wondered myself if the ad campaign the film was given was what kubrick intended, as the film itself (to me, at least) chides this kind of prurient interest...it's kind of like targeting the audience that needs that particular part of the message...

...i thought the orgy scene (which the reviewer discusses in terms of condemning elite society), was made much more interesting by sidney pollack's discussion later in the film...i mean, at that point you had already seen how pathetic pollack's character was (with the overdose scene), but the later conversation really drives home how sad the whole orgy thing was...this heightened sense of danger and intrigue and ritual and secrecy, elaborate preparations for the sake of a bunch of old men getting it up...(again, paralleling the silly notion that someone like kubrick would go through his painstaking moviemaking process--people knew this film took years to make--just to toss out a bit of softcore porn)
posted by troybob at 1:16 PM on June 6, 2006


Interesting analysis.

I love EWS but I toss back and forth at its meaning(s), which I suppose is a good thing. Back when AskMe started and I posted a lengthy interpretation of Mulholland Drive, about 10 people emailed me asking if I had theories about EWS. Nope, can't do it in any way that convinces me I know what I'm talking about. :)

Perhaps my memory fails me but...

Note that when Ziegler first sees Bill enter the ceremonial hall, even though they are both masked, he gives him a knowing nod.

I don't recall Ziegler ever tipping his hand as to which masked man he was. Yes, Harford is nodded at, but it's not clear who (or why) the nodding is taking place. He does nod back, which led me to believe it was supposed to be as one nods at an unknown person when you walk down the street: an unexplainable comraderie stemming from a shared location or situation.

Also, I have a cute story about the making of EWS. I met Sidney Pollack in 2003 and we spoke briefly about it. He said he didn't know why "Stanley" wanted him in the role but it was a no brainer to want to watch him work. On the set one day, Kubrick told him he had to have his shirt off. Pollack looked at me and said, very convincingly, "There was no way in hell I was going to appear on film with my shirt off. Doesn't matter who asks.... and the next thing I know the cameras are rolling and I've got my shirt off. I still don't know how he did that."
posted by dobbs at 1:18 PM on June 6, 2006


The bit about Kubrik as a feminist filmmaker is revelatory. Very sharp; very insightful.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:23 PM on June 6, 2006


I love Kubrick, but I hated this movie, like the vast majority of reviewers, and trust me, it wasn't because it "wasn't sexy."

Did you hate it in the same way many hate A Clockwork Orange? My impression of Kubrick is that as a filmmaker, he's remarkably adept at turning peoples' sympathies against them and inspiring deep loathing for his work.

I love him too, and one of the reasons I do is because he has shown me things I was not prepared to see, and made me feel what I was not prepared to feel.
posted by rocketman at 1:23 PM on June 6, 2006


I'm just waiting for consensus on "AI" to swing back around.
posted by ghastlyfop at 1:26 PM on June 6, 2006


Metafilter: The next thing I know the cameras are rolling and I've got my shirt off
posted by Mr. Six at 1:36 PM on June 6, 2006


I'm just waiting for consensus on "AI" to swing back around.

Any movie that contains the line "I'm sorry I never told you about the world," uttered without a trace of irony, cannot be anything other than purest, deepest dreck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:39 PM on June 6, 2006


Prospero writes "(The Shining is due to get a 16:9 rerelease as well, if I recall correctly.)"

One of the editors of The Shining seems to suggest that this would be wrong (in a different context).
posted by OmieWise at 1:43 PM on June 6, 2006


The amount of detail in this review is amazing. But I doubt the author watched the movie only once before writing this up.

So can you really hold movie critics at fault when they only see the movie once (and perhaps some time before finally writing a review) and miss so much?
posted by ruthsarian at 2:03 PM on June 6, 2006


"The scene has Tony Curtis' Antoninus, washing Lawrence Olivier's Crassus."

Great line!
posted by mischief at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2006


Did anyone else read that as "Introducing Scientology"?

Maybe my Tom Cruise intolerance meter needs recalibrated.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:22 PM on June 6, 2006


ruthsarian: The amount of detail in this review is amazing.

Again, this is not a review. A review is usually written when a film is released, under a deadline, at best with a screener but usually after seeing a movie only once, and it's aimed at people who haven't seen the film yet, so you have to make your argument without too many spoilers. A review is also supposed to make a recommendation whether or not the movie is worth seeing.

This essay is an entirely different beast: it's film criticism, published a year after the movie was released, aimed at an audience that has seen the movie, arguing a specific point with the help of repeated viewings, footnotes, quotes from actual reviews, and "seven hundred hours of conversation" about Eyes Wide Shut. Both reviews and criticism have their place, but we shouldn't confuse the two.
posted by muckster at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


The bit about Kubrick as a feminist filmmaker is revelatory.

I can't see him as feminist as much as just really anti-male. Most, if not all, of his movies are about men behaving very, very badly. The men in his films are liars, cheaters, killers, pedophiles, madmen, etc. No one you'd really want to know in real life.
posted by octothorpe at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2006


the more i consider it, i think this is the best film revue i have ever read
posted by troybob at 3:06 PM on June 6, 2006


I give up.
posted by muckster at 3:22 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I recently rewatched EWS after it gathered dust for a while. Somehow, it keeps getting more complex, twisted and funnier every time (the first scene in the costume shop - hilarious!). I also noticed the sets of increasing domestic opulence, and a kind of cryptic over-staged acting from supporting characters that seemed as if they were all in on the conspiracy... Maybe simply working on this film made Tom Cruise go insane.
posted by sharkitect at 3:27 PM on June 6, 2006


Clearly the best film review ever written. How can Ebert and The Other Guy sleep at night much less keep their jobs in the face of such obvious superiority?

AI: A barely adequate movie that trying too hard followed by aliens in floating outhouses.

Aliens.
In floating outhouses.

Its like Spielberg made a scat porno after a wet dream involving E.T. and it got cut into AI by mistake then censored like mad to keep the PG-13 rating.
posted by Skorgu at 3:46 PM on June 6, 2006


posted by Skorgu It's like Spielberg made a scat porno after a wet dream involving E.T. and it got cut into AI by mistake then censored like mad to keep the PG-13 rating.

That sounds a lot like Howard The Duck.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:58 PM on June 6, 2006


No Metafilter secret orgy stories? Very disappointing, people.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:01 PM on June 6, 2006


I remember listening to a woman tell her friend "It's the dumbest movie I ever seen" when I was renting EWS.

It's a big flick, and fitting that it was one of Kubric's last.

Personally, I can't help but see the movie as a sort of expose. Packed with symbolism, true, but perhaps more literal than most of us would guess.

I read one review that made something pop out at me, like when Cruise found that Harlequin mask on his wife's pillow when he got home from the orgy:

His wife used to be one of those women.
posted by rougy at 4:02 PM on June 6, 2006


This...article...was............more interesting......than...........the.......actual.......movie.

/ EWS-speak
posted by you just lost the game at 4:06 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


The editing of the American theatrical release was ridiculous though. Not Kubrick's fault.

it was atrocious and unwatchable. so who's fault was it?
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:11 PM on June 6, 2006


AI: A barely adequate movie that trying too hard followed by aliens in floating outhouses.

Assuming that wasn't a joke, uh, those weren't aliens. They were, you know, robots.
posted by mrbula at 4:19 PM on June 6, 2006


AI was the same way...near the end you can see in the corner of the frame an alien's head bobbing up and down for some strange reason, but the rest is obscured by some computer-generated shadow...

sorry not have any secret orgies to talk about...
posted by troybob at 4:20 PM on June 6, 2006


fantango_matt: To describe Howard the Duck, simply leave every word out of my sentene except 'scat.'

I recommend reading the 10/10 reviews for AI on IMDB. I quote: "Not perfect, no but 10/10."

...

I mean I'm barely interested in films/movies/cinema/whatever but I'm sure I've never seen a movie that I'd call a 10/10. Nine maybe depending on my mood and context.
posted by Skorgu at 4:22 PM on June 6, 2006


mrbula: The narrator can say they're levitating robots until he's blue in the face but the visual is aliens in floating outhouses.

If it were a book I wouldn't be complaining about a description of a robot that sounds like an alien but film is a visual medium, if you as a filmmaker design robots that look like the popular conception of aliens and then add a narrator to tell me that they're actually robots, you had better have a damn good reason. AI didn't have a reason, it had an ET fetish.

Now Alien Robot Orgies....that would be a film
posted by Skorgu at 4:34 PM on June 6, 2006


stinkycheese: Yours is an excellent question for AskMeat.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:51 PM on June 6, 2006


AskMeta.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:51 PM on June 6, 2006


has anyone here ever been to or heard of a party (even vaguely) like the one in the film?

Er, yeah. If you mean a big invitation-only party in a stately home or similar big house where people have sex with people they don't know while wearing silly clothes, I don't really see how you could avoid such a thing if you used to go out rather a lot when you were young.

Less ritual, less sinister, more drugs, obviously, but certainly I went to a good few parties along those lines in the mid-1990s.
posted by Pock Suppet at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2006


Even "The Shining" is not just about a family, as Bill Blakemore showed in his article "The Family of Man", but about the massacre of the American Indians and the recurrent murderousness of Western Civilization.

Well, totally didn't get that. Somebody explain please? As far as EWS goes, good essay. Made me want to see the film again as I rather dismissed it the first time around. Probably because I found it so dang tedious.

And no one has been to a secret orgy? Well, I'd tell you all about it, except it's, you know, a secret orgy.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 4:53 PM on June 6, 2006


...he could tell you, but then he would have to drill you...
posted by troybob at 5:04 PM on June 6, 2006


The first rule of Fuck Club is we don't talk about Fuck Club.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:15 PM on June 6, 2006


The guy nodding to Bill in the masked orgy is the costume shop guy. He is the only one who can, of course, recognise Bill's mask.

Furthermore, it could be the case that the missing prostitute doesn't have HIV at all, but told her housemate that because she has been taken away in secret by the guys who run the masked get-togethers.

The Fidelio theme obviously raises the issue of fidelity. Seen in this light, Bill's unmasking can be seen as allegorical, particularly noting what is said to him. If you take the central theme of the film as understanding - deep emotional understanding of relationships and what is at stake within them, then this section seems to bear out what would happen in real life were he to confess that he has been there and seen what he has seen / done what he has done, while married:

(paraphrase): "If you say anything about what you have seen, it will have the most dire consequences for you, and your family.

Do you *understand*?"

And the note he's handed at the gate the following day simply bears out yet more of the same thing. As long as he's poking around ignorantly in the dark, emotionally speaking, he'll realise nothing about what that night really meant.
posted by paperpete at 5:17 PM on June 6, 2006


I thought EWS was GREAT - until someone told me it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. Same thing happened with Dances with Wolves.

And yes, I just grouped those two films together. If you watch them back to back - and view them both as silly comedies - they are hilarious.

And no one has been to a secret orgy? Well, I'd tell you all about it, except it's, you know, a secret orgy.

I was invited to a "party" once at a bar. A cute "innocent looking" redhead came up and handed me a card with an address on it - and nothing else.

I ended up being curious, and drove out the address listed - to a little hotel in the middle of nowhere - and there were a bunch of naked people running around in the parking lot. Seems some crazy sex maniacs had rented every room of a small motel in the middle of nowhere. Craziness happened.

Ah yes, the days of wine and roses....
posted by bradth27 at 5:17 PM on June 6, 2006


Oh, bradth27; that was you?
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 5:25 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


bradth27: A cute "innocent looking" redhead came up and handed me a card with an address on it - and nothing else.

*green with envy*

Speaking of green, maybe I will take this to AskMeFi fandango_matt.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:28 PM on June 6, 2006


has anyone here ever been to or heard of a party (even vaguely) like the one in the film?

Well since you used the word "vaguely" sure, Bohemian Grove.

While there are no orgies on the video, there is a live orchestra playing during the ceremony, hence vaguely.
posted by chowder at 5:36 PM on June 6, 2006


Thanks geoff. that was an interesting but not totally a great read. Like Ulysees, I don't give a fuck if anyone else likes the movie and have given up trying to proselytize. I loved Eyes Wide Shut from the first moment I saw it and it has intermittently, profoundly and disturbingly been in my thoughts since. It moves and challenges me and there is much to be plumbed from re-viewings. Like Ulysees. It/they are my art and I really don't care that other people don't get it that way.
posted by peacay at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2006


Feel free to take any further orgy and/or Satanic Giant Owl ceremony stories to here. Secret or otherwise.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2006


“I give up.”- posted by muckster

I dunno, muckster, it IS a pretty good review...revue? Moovie?

/I suppose if you really want a wild orgy with masks and costumes you could THROW one.
//I’d do it ,but I’m not an orgy guy. Vans eat up too much gas and shag carpet is a real hassle to clean.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2006


metafilter: interesting but not totally a great read
posted by troybob at 5:49 PM on June 6, 2006


GayBoy and the beard.
posted by HTuttle at 6:17 PM on June 6, 2006


Well, since people are mentioning AI,"aliens", and Spielberg, it's time to spread this bit of info around some more:
Kubrick, however, wanted a coda in which the new race of robots, because of a technological limitation, cannot keep the the mother alive after reviving her. The movie would end with David in his mother's bedroom, watching her slowly disappear.
From a NYTimes article written before AI was made.
posted by Potsy at 6:58 PM on June 6, 2006


EWS had a lot of people shook before it came out. In its original version, it revealed a little too much for some folks' comfort about certain secret societies and the darker aspects of their ritualistic behavior. Plus, there was speculation that Kubrick was thinking of going public about his work with NASA and the "moon landings" he helped put together.

Somebody made the call to have him taken care of before too much could be said, and EWS was released posthumously in a form so drastically edited as to almost make no sense at all (knowing it would nevertheless be praised by the "it's art, you just don't get it" type of critics), removing most of the obvious references to said shadowy organizations and their practicings.
posted by First Post at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


@bardic--I'm in a hurry and so I don't have time to dig up the link, but Eyes Wide Shut is due to be rereleased in the US on DVD this year in its proper, uncensored cut--it'll also be framed at an aspect ratio of 16:9. (The Shining is due to get a 16:9 rerelease as well, if I recall correctly.)


Someone else alluded to this above, but a 16:9 rendering if these films would be revisionism, not restoration. A couple months ago I rented Kubrick's last three films on DVD (throwing in "Full Metal Jacket" along with the two mentioned here) and all mentioned that each film was originally shot in an aspect ratio more akin to a television screen than a movie theatre screen. Looking up EWS on Amazon, I found this which, matches what I recall from the rentals:

Regarding the full-screen format of Eyes Wide Shut on DVD, the official wording on the DVD packaging is as follows: "This feature is presented in the full aspect ratio of the original camera negative, as Stanley Kubrick intended." As with the DVD formatting of The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut was matted in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for theatrical presentation, but the director composed his films in camera to accommodate television broadcast and home video viewing. The official aspect ratio of Eyes Wide Shut on DVD is 1.37:1.

So 16:9 may be more like what you may have experienced if you saw these in the movie theatre, but they aren't what the director intended.
posted by hwestiii at 7:47 PM on June 6, 2006


Your Favorite Orgy Movie Sucks.

I wouldn't have expected it, but reading a few insightful essays on EWS completely transformed how I saw the movie. I went from "meh" to "oh man!" YMMV
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 8:37 PM on June 6, 2006


Potsy: Thanks for that link. I've never been able to watch AI without being angry by the way it was Spielfucked. Maybe now I can give him some credit for at least trying.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:58 PM on June 6, 2006


hwestiii writes "So 16:9 may be more like what you may have experienced if you saw these in the movie theatre, but they aren't what the director intended."

Yeah, Kubrik shot for a 4:3 (or, really, 1.37:1) aspect ratio. It wasn't so much about TV as a residue of his roots as a photographer, shooting 35mm film. Very old-fashioned, actually, as it was the standard aspect ratio for films in the olden days: the so-called "Academy Aperture". The very fucked-up history of movie aspect ratios is delivered, with plenty of bias and prejudice, here.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:46 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Screw all the haters, AI is a great film; selfishness and cruelty with a sweet candy coating. Having Spielberg direct actually makes it work better because it starts the audience in a place where they expect the sort of Hollywood fluff the film subverts. Kubrick, in fact, knew this and collaborated extensively with Spielberg even asking him to direct the film several times, something He never agreed to until after Kubrick’s death. I for one am convinced that Kubrick would be pleased with the result.

The whole key to the film is that a character called “the Director,” who floats out of the sky in an Amblin Entertainment logo wearing an Indiana Jones hat, says in a later scene, that you should not believe the emotional artifice constructed to tug at your emotions, that you should see through the lie, and destroy it. The fact that this avatar, of Spielberg himself, is portrayed as a villain only emphasizes the point.

Subsequently we discover that it is not a heartwarming film about a robot boy who loves his mother. Rather it is about an obsessed robot stalker whose selfish needs override all other considerations. The oft derided ‘second ending’ is therefore essential as it illustrates the extent of the boy’s unstoppable selfishness when he is given a choice. He is told that his mother has joined with the universe and will remain in that state for ever, or if he wants these highly evolved robots can pluck her from that heaven and give her to the boy for one day. After which she will irrevocably lose even trace existence. The boy, without even a pause of consideration, chooses his own fulfillment over her eternity and has her brought back. The final shot of the film is the boy going to bed with the corpse of she who he has so long desired.

Remember that this end was set in motion by the mother’s selfish acts to fulfill her own desire to be loved. The film is a cautionary tale about the repercussions of manipulating the emotions of others to fulfill our own needs. Or, perhaps its just an indictment of this human tendency.
posted by subtle_squid at 10:57 PM on June 6, 2006 [2 favorites]


See also "Something About Nicole". Although the FAQ does claim to debunk this story, Zeldman's take on this is too funny not to share.
posted by e-man at 11:02 PM on June 6, 2006


This was great.
posted by grouse at 12:14 AM on June 7, 2006


"He is told that his mother has joined with the universe and will remain in that state for ever, or if he wants these highly evolved robots can pluck her from that heaven and give her to the boy for one day. After which she will irrevocably lose even trace existence."

I guess I'm going to have to watch that again, because that's not what I saw. I don't think the aliens ever said anything about her revival doing that - removing her from heaven - just that it would last for only one day.

I liked AI, too. It had a "Blade Runner" appeal, in that consciousness itself is a precious thing, be it "orga" or "mecha."

AI wasn't a movie about selfishness - it was a film about undying love.
posted by rougy at 12:44 AM on June 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


p.s. - that link from sonofsamiam is pretty kick ass.

I can't help but think Kubric was wearing his cryptographer hat when he made this film.
posted by rougy at 1:06 AM on June 7, 2006


Someone else alluded to this above, but a 16:9 rendering [of The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut) would be revisionism, not restoration.

I think the reasoning behind this is so that the image will fill the screen on high-definition TVs. Kubrick Myth #2,368 is that he didn't care about aspect ratios as much as he did that the image should fill whatever screen it was being shown on--if this is true, then the best course of action for purists would be to watch the 4:3 version on standard definition TVs, and the 16:9 version on widescreen TVs.
posted by Prospero at 5:02 AM on June 7, 2006


reading a few insightful essays on EWS completely transformed how I saw the movie.

This actually helps me understand better the mindset of those who like this tedious, pretentious movie: reading about movies is more important than actually watching movies in terms of influencing how you think about them.
posted by languagehat at 5:14 AM on June 7, 2006


I'm sorry rougy but "undying love" is the artifice the director outright tells you to see through. Undying love is a selfless thing. There isn't a selfless character in AI. The closest you get is the father's devotion to the mother. Even he brings the mecha boy in to their lives in hopes that she will stop moping and give up on their son as he already has.
posted by subtle_squid at 5:56 AM on June 7, 2006


Many characters in AI, do however, profess undying love.
posted by subtle_squid at 5:58 AM on June 7, 2006


When Stanley Kubrick died, I mourned. This isn't like me. I don't generally form attachments to people I don't know. Yet without ever meeting him, I lived with Kubrick all my life. He -- his films and the rare interviews in which he discussed his artistic process -- shaped me as a person, as a viewer and as an artist.

I was born in 1965. One of my earliest memories is seeing "2001" when it first came out in 1968. Actually, I think I saw it in '69 or 70, in an early re-release. But I was very young, five or six. It didn't puzzle me the way it puzzled many adults. Not because I understood it -- I didn't. But I was at that age when not understanding was natural. The universe was full of mystery and I hadn't yet swallowed the lie that mysteries are always explained. I was used to embracing awe. But I'd never seen awe on the scale of "2001." Nor have I since. I've heard it in Beethoven symphonies; I've felt it when I've felt love; but "2001" is -- to me -- a uniquely oceanic experience.

Younger people have a hard time grasping the impact it had in the 60s and 70s. No one had ever made a "space movie" like that. It's "competition" was "Star Trek" and "Forbidden Planet" -- both fun, but you never for a moment really believed in them. They were cartoons. But while watching "2001", you WERE in outer space. (Later, I saw this effect in other Kubrick films. For instance, "Full Metal Jack" dropped my right in the middle of a war zone. The first time I saw it, after the movie, I walked out of the theatre and into a busy parking lot. It was night, and car were zigzagging around me. There were bars nearby, and drunken people were on the street, yelling. There was broken glass. Half my mind was still in Kubrick's war. I felt feral. I felt exposed. I felt I needed to find shelter. Sniper fire could, at any moment, fly from one of the car windows or from inside one of the bar doors.)

"2001" has since been technically surpassed -- though it's shameful how often sci-fi films made 30 years later look fake compared to it -- but only "2001" gets the stillness of space, the loneliness, the poetry.

The movie followed me all my life. My mother, who was once a film historian, wrote a short book about it. And then, years later, I got a job at Sothebys, the auction house. My office was right down the hall from the Collectibles Department. I loved Collectibles, and used to drop in there during coffee breaks to see what treasures they'd received: a Ring Starr drumstick, a Marilyn Monroe dress, a Superman #1 comic book...

One day I noticed something familiar. Could it be? Yes, it was an original spacesuit from "2001." I was stunned! I'd always heard Kubrick had destroyed all the props from the film. But somehow this one suit had escaped. One of the collectible guys told me that it wound up in the possession of some crazy guy in The Village. He used to walk around the streets of "New York" wearing it.

In a box, on the the floor next to the suit, I found the helmet. I picked it up. I'd somehow expected something flimsy and plastic. But it was heavy and very REAL. And extremely detailed. I'd always wondered about the purpose of those little "bugeyes" on the helmets in the film. Close up, I could see they were logos of the fictitious space agency. I snapped a couple of pictures of the suit(1 and 2). Alas, the helmet pic didn't come out.

(I was so mesmerized by the suit, I didn't pay attention to the dress behind it. Later, I learned this is an original Scarlett outfit from "Gone With The Wind" -- a film I also love and one that is oceanic in its own way.)

I wound up getting a theatre degree and becoming a director. But I learned more from Kubrick than I did in college, even though he directed films and I direct stage plays. Kubrick spent years in pre-production for a Napoleon film, which he never made. Studios feared it would be too expensive, because Kubrick would -- of course -- insist on filming huge battle scenes with hundreds of extras (in the days before CGI). Kubrick solved this problem by calling armies all over the world and asking how much it would cost to rent a regiment. Eventually, he found a got a really good deal (I think it was from Bulgaria.) Then there was the question of costumes. Putting hundreds of extras in period costumes? Too expensive! So Kubrick found a printer who would make costumes out of paper. He figured he'd have real costumes made for the foreground actors and use the paper ones for the ones far away from the camera. This devotion to problem solving -- to finding a way -- taught me a lot about the role of the director.

More important, I learned from Kubrick that a director could -- maybe should -- use all his resources to express a deeply personal vision.

I'm fascinated by the bi-polar reactions to his films. In my experience, people are more divided by Kubrick than any other filmmaker. Some people, like me, were scared witless by "The Shining." Others find it silly. Some are awed into a trance by "2001." Others find it boring (as the also find "Barry Lyndon," which is my favorite Kubrick film.") Some people think "Eyes Wide Shut" is sexy, profound or troubling; Others find it silly. Some people love "A Clockwork Orange." Others find it deeply offensive.

I think all these people are right. They are right in the sense that it's both right to like a steak and hate it, depending on ones taste. What's NOT right is to try to cook a steak in a way that will please steak-haters. Sure, you can smother it in sauces to the point where it's original taste is unrecognizable, but what's the point. THIS is what I learned form Kubrick.

By relentlessly following a personal vision, he made movies that some people will never relate to. Presumably, these people are fundamentally different from him and would probably be turned off by him if they met him at a dinner party. But because his films are so pure -- so undaunted by "sauces" -- when the click with a like mind, they REALLY click.

Few artists work this way. Most try to please everyone and wind up pleasing no one as fully as they could. They put a little sauce on the steak -- not enough to totally offend the steak purists, but not enough to really thrill them, either. And the steak haters enjoy the meal somewhat -- but they always detect a faint taste of steak.

To me, this is the chief difference between a Kubrick and a Spielberg. Spielberg reaches out to the audience and says, "Please love me! I promise that I'll throw in something for everyone!" And he does: the cute robot for the kiddies, the mild sexual innuendo for the parents, the rebellious teenager for the rebellious teenager. Spielberg can't possibly be all these things himself, but instead of relentlessly following his own inner truth, be panders. It's a shame, because technically, I think he has the brilliance of a Kubrick or a Hitchcock. Very occasionally, he WILL make something personal ("Schindler's List" / "Jaws") and it's like a totally different filmmaker has taken over his body.

By a strange coincidence, I started a theatre company in "2001." We produce only classics: Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, etc. When we produce Shakespeare, we do it on a bare stage without using sets or lighting changes (lights up the whole time). No costume changes, either -- just the actors in their street clothes. We use very few props. It's just the actors in an empty room and Shakespeare's text, which we usually do uncut. This means our plays often run over three hours.

When we first started this work, I knew some people -- maybe most people -- wouldn't like it: no sauce on the steak. But I like it, and I'd learned from Kubrick that if I was going to be the director, I had to share MY vision -- not something I thought or hoped the audience would like. And so I did. I was scared, but I was relentless.

And yes, some people don't like it. Occasionally someone walks out during intermission. But to my great surprise and joy, most people love it. One common reaction is, "You know, I don't usually like Shakespeare, and when I heard how long your production was, I thought 'Oh boy...,' But I LOVED it. I understood everything, and it just flew by. I can't believe that was three hours long!"

Thank you Stanley. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
posted by grumblebee at 7:02 AM on June 7, 2006 [15 favorites]


Ulysses Ulysses Ulysses. I can't believe after all this time I retain a focal dyslexia for that word that I see in my inbox every freakin' day. Shiiiiit. Sorry JJ.
Well said grumblebee.
posted by peacay at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2006


well said grumblebee. you've summed up nicely why Kubrick is such an excellent director.

While I generally have little respect for Spielberg’s work, on anything but a technical level, I wonder if it is unfair to say that he is less true to himself. I think he may well be a panderer at heart.
posted by subtle_squid at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2006


Grumblebee, fantastic. Kubrick is one of my creative heros, warts and all. I can and have fallen deeply into Barry Lyndon on many occasions. It draws me into a whole other universe in a way that I fundimentally appreciate as the ultimate goal of cinema. I didn't react well to Eyes Wide Shut, but I'm always game to try, try again.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:44 AM on June 7, 2006


Given my feelings about Spielberg (and at times I've come close to hating him, not so much for is own work, but for the effect he's had on movie making and the influence he's had over young directors), it's surprising that I like "A.I."

Granted, the film is a mess. As has been noted, it contains some signature wince-inducing, treacly Spielberg moments. Worse, it's chock full of errors in story logic. Which makes it all the more amazing that I like it, since I don't have much ability to "suspend my disbelief." For me, if the plot doesn't make sense, I generally can't connect with a movie, no matter its other merits. (Example problem: when the young hero is underwater, he gets whisked from midtown Manhattan to Coney Island in no time, as if the two locations were a block apart. This is one of a zillion such problems.) Either I'm deluded -- which is certainly possible -- or there is something stupendous going on in "A.I": something great enough to trump my normal reaction to a poorly constructed movie.

My guess is that I'm partly responding to the mythic quality of the movie. It has the structure of a fairy tale. So does "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings," but I find those movies so cluttered with incidental tangents that the mythic quality gets buried and thus loses its power. A.I. is simpler: boy gets lost in the forest, boy searches for home, boy finds home.

Also, though it has its lapses, the movie is MUCH less full of cheap sentiment than most other Spielberg films. I don't think the mother's actions (leaving the kid in the woods) and the brother's actions (intense cruelty) come from the Spielberg psyche. They are too painful, raw and truthful. I think they come from Kubrick. To Spielberg's credit, he honored these aspects of the story.

I also find "A.I" beautiful visually (except for maybe the outhouse/robots at the end). It's seems inspired by Kubrick's and Spielberg's sensibilities, somehow warmer than Kubrick but colder than Spielberg. Just right for the film. I suspect Kubrick knew it would turn out this way, which is why he wanted Spielberg to direct.

I wish Kubrick had lived to produce it. He would have been a very hands-on producer. And I suspect he would have been a great check on Spielberg, allowing Spielberg's talents to shine and pulling Spielberg back when his faults intruded.
posted by grumblebee at 9:02 AM on June 7, 2006


*reading a few insightful essays on EWS completely transformed how I saw the movie.*

This actually helps me understand better the mindset of those who like this tedious, pretentious movie: reading about movies is more important than actually watching movies in terms of influencing how you think about them.


when i first saw eyes wide shut i loved it...not because i could interpret everything about it...but i liked the look and feel, for one...and i had a gut reaction to it...and i generally like something that feels larger than i can comprehend...for films like that, i'll go back and watch them over and over...

after seeing the film, when i read this essay way back when, it opened up new stuff about it for me...stuff i never would have seen on my own or thought to pay attention to...

so i'm not quite sure what it is you're saying about this mindset...do you mean the kind of mindset that cannot comprehend every symbolic, cultural, or literary reference embedded in a complex work?...the kind of mindset that would deign to learn something from someone of different experience or knowledge and then, accepting or denying such, give a shot at reinterpreting the film through that lens?...is there something wrong with a person who might dislike something and then, exposed to a different viewpoint, could reconsider and then appreciate the work?

maybe i'm totally misunderstanding you here...
posted by troybob at 9:57 AM on June 7, 2006


reading about movies is more important than actually watching movies in terms of influencing how you think about them.

True for some, not for others. True for too many. Don't get me wrong, I love a good essay, but I'm deeply saddened by people who either can't have a genuine personal reaction or who do have them but discount them.

I blame school. School teaches that your gut response is superficial. What COUNTS is knowing what a piece of art "MEANS." I say, fuck what it means. Art is more like a meal than a term paper. I care less about its thesis than how it tastes. And no one can say how it tastes except the person eating it.

School teaches us to view art as a trove of hidden messages -- morals, socio-political tracts, biographical facts about the author's life, historical contexts and themes. School belittles art's emotional content. This baffles me, because evoking emotion is what art does best. Sure, it can dish out a theme, but a non-fiction essay does that more easily. Why does school view emotional response as superficial?

Yes, I know that one's emotions and intellect are interconnected and, sure, knowing a story's historical context or whatever can change -- and sometimes enhance (and sometimes detract from) -- one's emotional response. But that doesn't change the fact that in school, we're told to think a work before we feel a work. And it doesn't stop people from claiming that "reading about a movie is more important than actually watching a movie."

So many people, when I asked them how they liked a movie, say, "I'm not sure how I feel about it yet," and then they go off to read a bunch of criticism, looking for someone to TELL them how to feel. But they DO know how they feel about it -- or at least I hope they do. Surely the movie evoked SOME response: it scared them, it tickled their funny bone, it irritated them, it make them laugh, it bored them -- maybe it baffled them. But some insulting force (I think it's school) has taught them to discount this feeling and run to an "expert" for help. And this art loses the ability to communicate DIRECTLY to people. It must be filtered through criticism.

Falloff from this even informs MetaFilter discussions/arguments about spoilers. Inevitably, when someone asks people not to post spoilers, someone else says, "Spoilers don't bother me. I don't see a movie to be surprised by the ending." God, this makes me want to weep. Surprise is such a wonderful part of the human experience. And stories are such great vehicles for surprise. Why would anyone want to shut oneself off from this? Isn't it because school teaches that thematic components trump emotional components. Doesn't school also teach that those of us who care more for surprised endings, and those of us who want to laugh and cry, are naive beings who view art is children, not as adults?
posted by grumblebee at 10:17 AM on June 7, 2006 [3 favorites]


is there something wrong with a person who might dislike something and then, exposed to a different viewpoint, could reconsider and then appreciate the work?
maybe i'm totally misunderstanding you here...


No, there's nothing wrong with that, but I don't think it's nearly as common as what grumblebee's talking about:

So many people... say, "I'm not sure how I feel about it yet," and then they go off to read a bunch of criticism, looking for someone to TELL them how to feel.


I put it a little too snarkily, but that's what I was trying to say. And may I add that grumblebee's contributions to this thread have been fantastic.
posted by languagehat at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2006


I liked a lot of things about AI...i don't know that i would buy the whole 'emotional manipulation' angle...the title, to me, seemed always to focus it more on the basic questions...the idea that the boy was the point at which technical expertise could accomplish a degree of complexity thought to be uniquely human...that given physical realities (long-term sustainability of life on earth) perhaps human-created/-inspired robots are the next logical step in evolution...

what i didn't like, and maybe it could have been explained in a different way to get me to buy into it...is the whole motivation of replacing children for grief-stricken parents...the child remains a child--how could this be healthy or even desirable for the parents? would any parents want their children to stay young forever, to not grow and mature into adulthood?...the fantasy of that would seem to collapse rather early in the development phase...and the robot child would learn, but then wouldn't he rather soon be an adult in a child's body? maybe the point is that the push for technology can tend to ignore such repercussions, but these things seem more obvious (i mean, did we learn nothing from 'pet sematary' and 'interview with the vampire?')

on preview: ok, i get what you're saying about people seeking some external justification or determination (as opposed to evolution) of their personal feelings on a work...but i would tend to argue that such a person (1) still goes deeper than someone who wouldn't bother to explore it, and (2) might use this as a step toward having a more personal interaction with the work, or a different work...kind of like a practice run or training wheels--this time someone might adapt others' views, but it might make them more willing/bold to do it for themselves the next time...

...it's kind of like that growing up, right? our emotional reactions themselves (speaking amateurishly here--i'm sure some psychologist here would nail me) are learned from others--as kids we look to others to see how to act/react, and even when those reactions become our own, they are in part still learned...

...and also, there are times when i don't know how i feel about something because i don't know what the hell it is i'm seeing...if i find something that spells it out for me and gives some kind of emotional interpretation, well sure, i might buy into that--it might make the work mean something to me on some level, where it would have meant nothing to me before...and who knows, down the line some kind of knowledge or experience will kick in and open it up to something more my own...

...and yeah, i guess at some level you're talking about someone who does this in a rather superficial way, for whatever reason...but there's only so much you can mourn for the quality of another person's subjective experience...
posted by troybob at 10:48 AM on June 7, 2006


Thanks for the link to Your Eyes Wide Shut, sonofsamiam. After going there, I posted about it and this thread. Fantastic.
posted by Grand Wahzoo at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2006


there are times when i don't know how i feel about something because i don't know what the hell it is i'm seeing...

I think you do know how you feel. You feel confused. Or you feel angry that film is so opaque. But again, school has taught us that those aren't valid feeling. If we're confused by a film, then WE are stupid. Sure, you can quell that "shameful" feeling by reading an essay about the film, but you're then taking someone else's word for film's worth or meaning.

As you suggest, that's not always a bad thing. Someone else might lead me to the truth -- or to some beautiful experience. But if I'm honest, the other person usually leads me to a feeling of, "Whew! Now I can say something intelligent about the film if it ever comes up in conversation." My experience still isn't really about the film, it's about social relations and self-esteem.

That was my common relationship with complex (sometimes in a good way, sometimes muddled) films when I was younger -- when I was just out of school. As I got older and more comfortable with myself, I was finally able to reach a point where I had an emotional connection with ALL films, even if sometimes time connection was, "I'm totally puzzled!"

That itself is a powerful feeling, and when I stopped being ashamed of it, owned it, and proclaimed it, I then started to examine it, and as a result, I often learned something new about myself. Sometimes I even figured out my point of confusion and eliminated it.

And sure, sometimes I read someone else's take and wound up understanding better -- even appreciating better. But that new appreciation is a separate animal from my original gut reaction, which was powerful and valid.
posted by grumblebee at 12:51 PM on June 7, 2006


troybob, despite all the valid problems you bring up -- including how obvious they are -- I'd bet all my money that if cute, loving robot children were available, MANY people would buy them. I'd be tempted.

The urge to have kids is stronger than rationality for many people. And many people can't have kids.
posted by grumblebee at 12:55 PM on June 7, 2006


i think we see it much the same, grumblebee...i was happy with how i felt about eyes wide shut without seeking out the different interpretations, but once i encountered them it opened up quite a bit...i don't tend to see it as a negative that something is above my head...again, i do like it when there's enough complexity to something that i never quite feel i can figure it all out...but also i accept that i don't have the intellectual background to call upon all the literary/filmic/psychological/sociological references and implications that someone like kubrick would use in his work (or that even simple works can call upon)

ai: yeah, as i think of it more, the one scene that got me was all the geniuses sitting around discussing the ethics of what they were doing, and i wanted them to be asking questions like (1) whether grief is a 'problem' that needs a technological solution, (2) whether that kind of emotional despair should be determining technology's course, and (3) what kind of person would want a child who doesn't mature, and whether that should be encouraged...
posted by troybob at 1:30 PM on June 7, 2006


I saw Barry Lyndon several years ago. Although I had liked many of Kubrick's other films, I thought it was only OK. I haven't watched it again since.

However, it's been weighing on my mind the past couple of months--triggered by hearing Handel's Sarabande in something otherwise unrelated to Barry Lyndon--and I think I need to give it another shot. I can't say why, but I have a nagging feeling I'll like it more than I did the first time I saw it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:36 PM on June 7, 2006


...that actually reminds me of what got me to see barry lyndon again last year (having last seen it when it was 8 years old or so, as my father had a habit of taking me out to inappropriately adult movies when i was a kid--i've long been tempted to tell him i turned out gay because my first exposure to sex on film was the opening scene of 'death wish')

...scorsese did a documentary about film in which he discussed barry lyndon, and the appreciation he had for it really sent me looking for it (and luckily, it soon came around to one a nice big screen)...the film also pushed me to listen to classical music a whole lot more...
posted by troybob at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2006


Thanks for articulating that, subtle_squid, far better than I could have.
To those who think those were aliens in the end of the movie...you are dumb. Seriously.
posted by ghastlyfop at 2:46 PM on June 7, 2006


Grumblebee I’m not sure what art teacher or school was so cruel as to teach you such things. I was never taught to discount the emotional first impact of art. Confusion is certainly not an invalid emotional first read to a piece, but if the work is compelling in that way it will motivate the viewer to look deeper, to re-watch and research the work. This more informed second read is also quite valid. I find that my favorite works often require and always support quite a number of viewings. What school should teach is not that the first read is invalid but that it is only the beginning.

The point is well taken, however, that to sublimate one’s own experience to that of some other critic is tragic folly and all too common in discussions of art. If the audience can not be honest about their experience of the art how can they expect honesty from the artist?
posted by subtle_squid at 2:57 PM on June 7, 2006


subtle_squid, all my schooling took place in America (1970s through 1990s). I went to three public schools in Indiana, one public school in Maryland and one in California. Then I went to college at Indiana University; New College in Sarasota, Florida; and the Ohio University School of Theatre.

Maybe I got unlucky, but ALL of these schools treated art and literature as theme-based. Classes were always about mining what a work "means" in the simplest sense of that word -- "means" as in a sentence/proposition (or the thesis statement of a term paper).

Or we talked about the supposed political/social impact of a work -- usually how it was racist, sexist, or anti-racist/sexist.

Or we talked about the author's biography and armchair psychoanalyzed him.

Discussing the fact that a book made you cry or that you fell in love with the hero was BAD. It was a sign that you were reading/viewing in a superficial way. A couple of teachers ever flat out said that To Think is Better Than to Feel.

Usually when I discuss this with people, they excuse the school on the grounds that feelings are subjective. As if someone's claim re: a theme was come by rigorous logic or the Scientific Method.

In fact, one can have objective discussions of the emotive in art -- or at least they can be AS objective as thematic discussions. Such discussions start by poling the group re: their emotional responses and seeing if there's any consensus. Then, the work can be examined in light of this. It made you cry? How did it achieve this affect. In fact, REAL science can enter the game at this point -- at least tangentially. Cognitive psychologists study art's emotion-producing ability. They don't study theme.
posted by grumblebee at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2006


very interesting post, thanks

EWS is indeed underrated, at least in the US. and i feel like watching it again, but maybe that's why I just came home from watching the Omen remake
posted by matteo at 6:33 PM on June 7, 2006


To be clear, I don't care if they were aliens, robots or well camouflaged dinosaurs. The narrator/Kubric/you say they were robots, fine but that scene turned a mediocre movie into an awful one for me. Its not the fact that robots reanimated his 'mother,' but the idiotic way in which the events were depicted. To me, that visual screamed "aliens in outhouses" and that's my point. The concept of that scene could have been (and it sounds like it was) brilliant in Kubric's mind, but I'm not evaluating the screenplay I'm evaluating the movie. As a completed, finished product, AI the movie sucked.

Its like cooking. You can start with the freshest ingredients, the best recipe and all the finest equipment but you can still end up with trash. The concept of a story of human selfishness and loss in the context of a robot child is excellent. The imagery of Jude Law and a baloon that looks like the moon is fantastic. The mystique and haze of a great fairy tale is a great addition. Even with those potentially great ingredients, the final product sucked. You can give me Heston Blumenthal's recipe book but that doesn't mean my kitchen is now the Fat Duck.

Part of the problem for me was that by that point in the movie I was so sick of every single character that I wanted the damn kid to drown. Reading about what Kubric had in mind just makes it more disappointing in my mind that the movie didn't live up to its potential, it doesn't somehow make the movie better. I think a movie should stand alone as a work. Critiques, essays, insight into the creative process can enhance and deepen one's appreciation of a film but just saying "the original screenplay for Starship Troopers II is a deep and meaningful piece that shows a true understanding of the human condition" is going to change the fact that the movie sucked.
posted by Skorgu at 7:38 AM on June 8, 2006


Well said, Skorgu. I agree with every word.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on June 8, 2006


A funny thing about AI: Kubrick wanted to make the movie for years, but didn't feel the tech was up to it yet. They apparently even tried once to build a puppet for the robot child protagonist but it fell right into the uncanny valley, I think he described it as 'gruesome'.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:12 AM on June 8, 2006


Thanks languagehat. The sad part is that underneath all that madness there is the potential for a fantastic movie.

Also, I can spell 'balloon' properly.

Honest.
posted by Skorgu at 8:32 AM on June 8, 2006


Hm. I hated the movie, and I didn't really care whether it was sexy. But having read most of the rest of the analysis, I guess I'll see it again and see if I agree, or if I think that the author just read a bunch of stuff into it.

I have a feeling that I'll end up accepting that most or all of the described symbolism is there, but I'll still hate the movie, or at the very least, be bored to tears by it.

The movie contains the line "The pot has made you belligerent." Um, okee....
posted by bingo at 7:29 PM on June 8, 2006


Am I wrong in thinking that Mefi discussions of Kubrick are among the most respectful, informative and peacefully reasoned of all topics discussed here? Is it a false memory? Is Kubrick the only thing we can talk about properly? Please only confirm this fragmentary hypothesis, I don't care to be wrong.


posted by Divine_Wino at 8:32 PM on June 8, 2006 [2 favorites]


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