Archive for December 21st, 2012


By Roderick Heath

More than 20 years since the end of the Cold War, and nearly a half-century since the film was released, why is Stanley Kubrick’s seventh feature, a modish fantasia dealing with the perverse id and assailed mentality of its specific era, still so lauded, so beloved, so vital? How can a film with such subject matter still be considered a titanic work of cinematic comedy? Why does it stand tall when attempts to update it or reproduce its unstable blend of elements usually fall very, very short? Some answers: a great filmmaker at the height of his craft. A great comic actor also at his height, backed up by other superlative talents. A screenplay possessed of a pitiless intelligence and ornery wit. A time when taking risks in cinema was rapidly becoming more permissible, even necessary. Over and above all this, Dr. Strangelove helped to define something about the modern world that has survived even as the Cold War has faded. The apocalyptic anxiety it diagnosed and treated with mockery and gallows humour has hardly vanished, but has rather faded to the background static in our daily lives. Dr. Strangelove is a purgative rather than a wallow, however, a work of fatalistic fervour that is nonetheless perversely cheering precisely because it considers the worst the world had to offer and yet still finds the joie de vivre in it.

Dr. Strangelove began evolving when Kubrick, interested in dealing with the threat of nuclear war, had a book recommended to him credited to the pseudonym of former RAF officer Peter Bryan George. George’s novel, variously titled Two Hours to Doom or Red Alert, was a sober thriller depicting Armageddon almost brought about by a combination of human frailty and technological estrangement. Kubrick had been pushed close to the summit of Hollywood success in helming Kirk Douglas’ earnest projects Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960) only a few years after the precocious former photographer had broken into the industry with self-financed films. But frustrating experiences making Spartacus and One-Eyed Jacks (1961), from which he was fired, soured him on Hollywood. Kubrick had recently made what proved a permanent move to Britain to shoot Lolita (1962), a movie that established him as a more eccentric and individualistic director than anyone had realised, gifted at tackling taboo subjects whilst maintaining an ironic but fervent empathy for tragically human protagonists. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2004 180m) not on DVD

We will defeat what doesn’t exist

p/d/w  Adam Curtis  narrated by  Adam Curtis

We live in an age of conspiracy theories, of shadows in light and evil lurking around the corner.  On film we already have a skewerer in the shape of Michael Moore, and if his films are more cinematic than those of Adam Curtis, they are more heavily biased, more bombastic and self-dating.  Will anyone watch Fahrenheit 9/11 twenty years from now?  I don’t think so, but I think that Adam Curtis’ three part TV series (later edited down for film) will be seen and is far more intriguing as a piece of investigative journalism than Michael Moore’s.  There’s nothing technically innovative about Curtis’ film, as formulaic in its making as any one of a hundred Panorama or 60 Minutes investigations.  And yet the satirical wit and the sense of what could only be described as the ridiculous will I think prevent it from dating as much as it may otherwise have done. (more…)

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