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Sunday, March 7, 1999 Published at 20:43 GMT


Kubrick: A film odyssey

2001: Kubrick's movie changed people's views of space and time

Stanley Kubrick, who has died aged 70, was one of the most innovative and talented American film makers of the 20th century.

He made only 13 feature films in a career stretching back to 1953, but each one has its place in screen history. His movies earned nine Oscars but the director only won one award: best visual effects for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Graham Satchell reports: "Directing remained his one true passion"
An early reputation as a meticulous, imaginative, film maker brought him the job of directing the Hollywood epic Spartacus in 1960 - the most expensive epic of its day.

But Kubrick turned his back on the glitz and glamour of Hollywood just one year later.

He moved to Britain to make controversial films like Lolita - the story of a middle-aged man's obsession with a young girl.

Mass hysteria

Kubrick will probably be best remembered for the rows over his adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange.

[ image: Kubrick provoked controversy with some of his films]
Kubrick provoked controversy with some of his films
The saga reinforced Stanley Kubrick's image as an eccentric and recluse. His demand that his work was not interfered with outweighed all other concerns.

A Clockwork Orange's detractors alleged that it glorified violence and the film generated mass hysteria in the British tabloid press.

Kubrick withdrew the film from circulation in the UK, fearing that it was being widely misinterpreted.

His actions shocked the film world - such anti-commercial behaviour was unheard of.

He once said: "The central idea of the film has to do with the question of free will. Do we lose our humanity if we are deprived of the choice between good and evil? Do we become, as the title suggests, A Clockwork Orange?"

Stanley Kubrick was known for being stubborn. It was not uncommon for the director to demand 50 takes from his actors, leading to some angry confrontations.

Depending on who you asked, he was a "recluse", "perfectionist", "tyrant", "genius" or simply "demented".

Jack Nicholson, who starred in The Shining, said: "He gives new meaning to the word meticulous."

Futuristic features

Though he started out as a professional photographer, Stanley Kubrick had made and sold his first film - a documentary called Day of the Fight - at the age of 21.

[ image: The film is still banned in the UK]
The film is still banned in the UK
But his debut as a feature director came three years later with Fear and Desire, which he wrote, photographed and financed with borrowed money.

He formed a production company to make The Killing, a crime drama, which brought him to the notice of the critics, and firmly established himself with his next film, Paths of Glory, an indictment of military hypocrisy.

His nuclear-age black comedy, Dr Strangelove, which he also wrote and produced, was followed by the science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The film's main star - the sophisticated, subtly neurotic computer, HAL - redefined Hollywood's portrayal of thinking machines and artificial intelligence.

"One of the fascinating questions that arises in envisioning computers more intelligent than men is at what point machine intelligence deserves the same consideration as biological intelligence," Kubrick said in a 1971 interview for the book Stanley Kubrick Directs.

His later work included an adaptation of the Thackeray novel Barry Lyndon, the horror film The Shining and, in 1987, Full Metal Jacket.

Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, was made in 1998, and is due to be released in July.

It took 15 months to complete, and has been described as the longest shoot in modern film history.

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