For at least fifty years, the work of Stanley Kubrick has constituted an ideal object of study for serious cinephiles. Now that the technological democratization of the past decade has allowed some of the most serious cinephiles to become video essayists, that study has flowered into a host of mini-documentaries closely examining the techniques of all of film history’s most scrutinizable auteurs. The subfield of Kubrick-themed video essayism recently reached a new high watermark with filmmaker Cameron Beyl’s five-part, three-hour Directors Series study of the man’s life and work.
“Every living filmmaker today works under the shadow of Stanley Kubrick,” says Beyl in his narration toward the end of the series. “His roller-coaster ride of a career lasted 45 years and spanned two continents, leaving fourteen features and countless innovations in its wake. In making his films, Kubrick ultimately wanted to change the form of cinema itself. His exploration of alternative story structures and new forms of expression resulted in several groundbreaking contributions to the development of the craft itself.”
If you want to find out much more about the nature of those groundbreaking contributions, block out the time and watch Beyl’s analyses of each period of Kubrick’s career: the time of his early independent features (Fear & Desire, Killer’s Kiss, The Killing), the Kirk Douglas years (Paths of Glory and Spartacus), the Peter Sellers comedies (Lolita and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), the masterworks (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, and The Shining), and the final features (Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.)
The project leaves no aspect of Kubrick’s mastery unmentioned: his painstaking research habits, his much-discussed take-after-take-after-take shooting method on set, his careful method of discovering each film’s form in the editing room, his eagerness to incorporate new technology into his productions, and his finished pictures’ simultaneous embodiment and subversion of genre. It makes us ask the obvious but seemingly unanswerable question: who’s the next Stanley Kubrick? But Beyl actually has an answer, and one that has become the subject of his next series, already in progress: David Fincher. The director of The Game, Fight Club, and The Social Network has big shoes to fill — or so he’ll realize even more clearly if he watches the Kubrick series himself.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.