Stanley Kubrick's Boxes
August 2, 2008 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes: is it possible to get to understand such a man – and his extraordinary working methods – by looking through the hundreds of boxes he left behind?

Documentarian and author Jon Ronson (previously) has spent the past few years sifting through Kubrick's house and the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of Arts London.
posted by carsonb (18 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Oh wow, Stanley Kubrick and Jon Ronson in a single post. I'm relishing the prospect. Thanks, carsonb.
posted by WPW at 2:44 PM on August 2, 2008

I remember reading about this in the Guardian some while ago. Good stuff, thanks for the links.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:48 PM on August 2, 2008

Speaking of Kubrick and documentaries, here's more good fun for a lazy Saturday:

Day of the Fight (1951) - "Mached pairs of men will get up on a canvas-covered platform and commit legal assault and lawful battery." A documentary short by Stanley Kubrick

The Flying Padre (1951) - "A short documenting two days in the life of Father Stadmueller, a priest/pilot in New Mexico who flys his mono-plane to various regions of the state to help those in need." by Stanley Kubrick

The Seafarers (Part 2) (1952) - "[Extolling] the benefits of membership to the Seafarers International Union." by Stanley Kubrick
posted by carsonb at 3:00 PM on August 2, 2008 [9 favorites]

OK, can I just say how much I frickin' love the TCM website? Yeah? Thanks, now carry on.
posted by carsonb at 3:03 PM on August 2, 2008

Man it would have been a lot easier to make a Kubrik movie if the internet had been around instead of sending his poor assistants out everywhere to research stuff.
posted by empath at 5:30 PM on August 2, 2008

Really enjoyed watching Boxes a few days ago (found somehow thru this post). Thanks for making it stand out and giving it context.

I loved the part where he interviews the "crank" letter writer from years ago. The fact that Kubrick filed all his fan letters away was not too surprising, but neat that he obviously read them all, which I'm guessing a lot of famous filmmakers wouldn't bother with.
posted by wundermint at 6:04 PM on August 2, 2008

Watching this reminds me of how much I miss looking forward to the next Stanley Kubrick picture the way I once did. Honestly I can't help thinking the guy was a little nuts, but if that's what it took for him to make those wonderful films, who am I to judge.
posted by nola at 6:10 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

That was fascinating, thanks carsonb.
posted by rubin at 6:15 PM on August 2, 2008

Watched this the other day. What struck me was the way that Kubrick's preoccupation with order and perfection started out as a valuable asset, enabling him to make some incredible films. And then, as preoccupation edged towards obsession, it began to impair his ability to work.

Did his early success provide him with the resources to push these traits to an extreme, or would it have happened anyway? If Kubrick hadn't made films, would he have ended up with a house filled with shopping bags carefully cross-referenced by date and shop, and cabinets full of thousands of bits of string that might be useful?
posted by xchmp at 7:05 PM on August 2, 2008

The rhythym of genius, indeed.
posted by brain cloud at 9:15 PM on August 2, 2008

A Life In Pictures
posted by hortense at 9:17 PM on August 2, 2008

That was great, but the narrator's voice creeped me out.
posted by mullacc at 10:41 PM on August 2, 2008

i clicked the link in the middle of making my kid breakfast and the next thing you know...

marvelous. I am so lucky that Ronson was the one that was picked and that he decided to go through it all. I remember reading something about the boxes and boxes of material for the Napolean film while Kubrick was alive and wondering about it, thinking that there would never be a way for some Joe like me to take a peek.

It feels odd to me how connected I felt with him while watching. I shed a tear during the montage near the end thinking about how much he gave me, about how much his films meant to me. He served his fellow men by writing his vision large for us to see.
posted by n9 at 5:59 AM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Enjoyable doc, but for 4 years effort, it didn't seem like he ended up with a lot to talk about.
posted by smackfu at 7:34 AM on August 3, 2008

Loved that. Fascinating to think how meticulous Kubrick was. It sounds like he had a touch of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Not bad traits in a brilliant, innovative film maker. Up to a point. Must have made him a difficult parent/spouse/boss though. "By their memos ye shall know them." I feel for the 31 years of service Tony Frewin did, from having to keep the house stocked with no less than 3 melons on any given day to the snugness of the box lids.

But Kubrick's exactitude would have spin off benefits, his archiving methods.

I was a bit annoyed at the occasionally condescending tone of the narrator, Jon Ronson. And he does have an odd voice. But I enjoyed his exploration of Kubrick, of the strangeness of The Boxes and his attempt at finding significance in the impulse to archive, to create a vast visual resource.

Can't help thinking how his life could have been made so much more easy with Google.

I wonder if becoming so famous, so admired after 2001 was a burden on Kubrick, that he had internal pressure to live up to the accolades and thus became more perfectionistic, more cautious before creating a new film?

Amazing visual research he did. What a great archive. It could have all been put on CDs instead of boxes or into cyber storage, a visual encyclopedia of sorts.

Like n9 I feel deeply moved by Kubrick's work and yet knew nothing about him, the man or person and this documentary gave me some satisfying, if mysterious, glimpses.

Excellent post, thanks carsonb.
posted by nickyskye at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2008

And thanks hortense for the lead to two hours well spent.
posted by hal9k at 7:00 PM on August 3, 2008

This MeFi post from 2004 links to Ronson's Guardian article about first being invited to Kubrick's estate to view the boxes.

It's great fun, but my favourite part is that a MeFier contacted G Ryder & Co to find out if it's possible to buy the cardboard boxes that Stanley designed. It is. I'm of half a mind to catch the train up to Milton Keynes to buy some.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:35 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

For those similarly tempted: G Ryder & Co.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:36 AM on August 4, 2008

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