Rightwing Film Geek

My Dinner with Stanley

Responding to Donna (who broke my heart again this year … #1 film only at her #3), she tagged me with the My Dinner With _______ meme. Here are the rules:

1. Pick a single person past or present who works in the film industry you would like to have dinner with. And tell us why you chose this person.

2. Set the table for your dinner. What would you eat? Would it be in a home or at a restaurant? And what would you wear? Feel free to elaborate on the details.

3. List five thoughtful questions you would ask this person during dinner.

4. When all is said and done, select six bloggers to pass this Meme along to.

5. Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre, so people know the mastermind behind this Meme.

kubrickmeme.jpg

I would want dinner with Stanley Kubrick. Not simply because of Kubrick’s unquestionable status as one of the century’s greatest artists. Not only because he’s also a personal favorite and my falling in love with DR. STRANGELOVE and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE happened even before I became a truly obsessive cinephile. But also partly because time with him would have enormous rarity value. Kubrick spent much of the latter part of his life/career as a recluse, so given the God-like-powers the meme presupposes, time with Kubrick would be a unique privilege absent from the same amount of time with such amply-interviewed men as Bergman or Welles or Hitchcock or Keaton (great artists all, obviously).

I’d eat at the nicest, quietest formal restaurant I could manage in the metro area. One with a bar and at least the option of bloody steaks, with Italian being a fallback choice. But ultimately — whatever Stanley wants. I would almost certainly not be paying attention the meal in any event, as the Full Fanboy Slobbering-Worship Mode would likely take over very quickly.

As for the questions:

1. I would try as best I could to sketch my interpretation of my all-time favorite film, his CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which is contrary to how most people take it. (Suffice for here to say that I think ACO critiques more deeply than any film ever made the liberal-Romantic man and his virtues — freedom, authenticity, autonomy, reason, culture, humanity.) And then to try to ask Kubrick whether he sees Alex as a cautionary tale, a road sign we can avoid, or as an eschaton, the logical end-result of what we are.

2. I would try to engage Kubrick on matters of religion and Friedrich Nietzsche, whom I think is Kubrick’s philosophical ancestor. There is an article here about Nietzsche and religion, that outlines what I’d want to ask him about — what does the death of god mean and is there a way back for postmodern man. (You have to be a First Things subscriber to get it online; basically, author R.R. Reno points out that in the Genealogy of Morals, FN starts with contempt for Christianity, but by the end has gone through every possible “alternate god” and found them false, corrupt, corrupted and life-denying. FN also comes to see that “slave morality” is the logical end even of its own denial as it’s the ultimate form of mastery — that of the self. The ultimate flight from God leads one back to Him. The author compares FN’s realizing this to St. Augustine’s restlessness.)

3. I would note that in the 35 years since he wrapped up DR. STRANGELOVE, he made only six films (the same number he’d made in the previous 10). He clearly was trying to make a masterpiece every time out (and mostly succeeded IMHO). But I’d want to know whether he could have maintained even a once-every-two-years pace, what kind of movies would have resulted (any specific projects), would they have had to have been “watered-down,” and if he ever regretted making so few films. (“Every other year” would have given us another dozen films and doubled his ouevre.)

4. I would probably ask the standard question you ask an Old Master — whom do you most like among current film-makers, whom do you see as your heirs/successors, what is new in current work that you admire without imagining that it’s something you could ever do, any you’ve learned from specifically.

5. I would want to know what he thinks about the democratization of movie-making technology. Kubrick himself was known for fanatical preparation and technical fussiness (to the point of getting a new camera special-built for BARRY LYNDON to accommodate a Carl Zeiss 50mm lens developed for NASA’s space photos). But today, festivals are showing films made with hand-held video and even phone cameras. I can’t imagine he’d think it’s a good thing, but he’s an unconventional enough mind that it wouldn’t surprise me if he surprised me.

Now I have to tag six people. Since I’m certain it’s fallow territory for this meme, I’ll tag six other Christianistheocrat film bloggers — Barbara, Peter, Jeffrey, J. Robert, Matt and Scott.

And I blame this whole meme on this guy.

January 29, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

2 Comments »

  1. whom do you most like among current film-makers, whom do you see as your heirs/successors,

    Have you heard a director that you really love answer this question? I ask b/c I remember one time you saying/writing once about how often it is the case that the influences on some of your favorite directors are directors for whom you have no interest. See Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth. I’m curious if you have been equally disappointed about directors looking at other directors who that have come after them.

    Comment by Mark Adams | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Not that I can recall very quickly, Mark.

    I know Ingmar Bergman expressed admiration for Steven Soderbergh, and I said there was something Bergman-like about Soderbergh’s first film, SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE (which was also the first film I ever wrote a review of, in the college paper).

    The best indicator though of whom aging directors love is whom they get as their “insurance director” for their late films (that might have actually been a better way to phrase my question to Kubrick), i.e., the man contracted to finish the job if Aging Auteur should cease to age, and without whose commitment the money man won’t back the film.

    Michelangelo Antonioni got Wim Wenders as his insurance for BEYOND THE CLOUDS, which was released in 1996. Wenders apparently did one bridging sequence and was credited. That affinity doesn’t surprise me — haven’t really warmed to either man, one film (so far) aside each.

    Robert Altman got Paul Thomas Anderson to serve as his backup for PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. The Altman influence on PT is obvious and self-acknowledged, and Anderson was apparently moved enough by Altman’s request to dedicate THERE WILL BE BLOOD to his memory. (It’s the last card after the credits are over.)

    Comment by vjmorton | February 5, 2008 | Reply


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