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Thursday, December 31, 2015

FEAR AND DESIRE (1953)

Stanley Kubrick disowned his little debut feature, made when he was 25. (Then again, he pretty much disowned SPARTACUS/’60, too.) Shot on a dime, and running about an hour, it’s a poetic/philosophical non-specific war story about a handful of men behind enemy lines after a crash landing. They work up a plan to float their way to safety on a river raft, but one of them first wants to first play the hero card, taking out an enemy General before they head out, even at the cost of his life. Like a student film by some preternatural talent, and not without its awkward moments, there’s showy editing to hide clunky acting & bad dubbing. Plus future director Paul Mazursky losing his marbles after a killing. Blame Howard (GREAT WHITE HOPE/’70) Sackler for some frou-frou monologues: Brawny soldier musing on his uneventful life, ‘Ya try door after door when ya like the voices behind them . . . but the knobs come off in yer hand.’ (Jeepers!) Jejune stuff, but worth a look for Kubrickian themes to come, and for his remarkably expressive sun-dappled natural-light lensing. (Kubrick was already shooting for LOOK magazine.) Long available in questionable dupes, the recent KINO edition, sourced from the Library of Congress, is superb (though mislabeled anamorphic). It comes with a short-subject about the Seafarers International Union, shot in 16mm color. This two-reel ‘documentary’ is really an ‘industrial’ film, made by a hustling Kubrick working ‘Of, By & For’ the SIU. Fascinating stuff, capturing a long gone way of life for a small but powerful union.

DOUBLE-BILL: Did Charles Laughton see FEAR AND DESIRE before going into production on NIGHT OF THE HUNTER/’55? There are striking visual similarities.

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