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Book Review and Analysis of Vincent LoBrutto’s Stanley Kubrick: A Biography

Stanley Kubrick has been the subject of many biographies and studies, and his legendary films will go down in history as some of the most influential of all time. This sample paper from Ultius custom writing services explores the background of Kubrick and the ways in which his character gave him the skills to produce such excellent films.

Vincent LoBrutto’s translation on Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick has acquired a reputation among moviegoers as a film director who is all business. While many of his movies have been extremely profitable, such as The Shining, the reason Kubrick is so revered and respected is because his films show a certain amount of quality, and, in many cases cross the line into controversy, such as A Clockwork Orange.

However, there is more to Kubrick than a simple great filmmaker. In order to understand just how Kubrick became such a successful director, it is necessary to examine one of the most well-known biographies about him, simply titled Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, by Vincent LoBrutto, to gain a retrospective perspective of him.

Biography of Kubrick’s life

The book itself, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography naturally focuses on many of the events that led up to Kubrick becoming such a successful director, but much of the biography also focuses on specific movies that Kubrick created that helped to make him famous and establish his reputation as a superior director and filmmaker.

For example, LoBrutto discusses one of Kubrick’s earlier movies, The Killing and how this movie gained the attention of Dore Schary, head of production at MGM, who attempted to have the movie published by MGM, unsuccessfully, but it did lead to Kubrick finally gaining recognition (LoBrutto 129).

This specific event, LoBrutto seems to indicate, is the largest singular event that led to Kubrick becoming well-known. Stylistically and thematically, the book is rather dry, almost boring. This is due mainly to LoBrutto’s overreliance on things like dates, inconsequential events, and side-stories that have no practical relevance to Kubrick or his work.

Of course, it is difficult to fault LoBrutto for this, as the biography was written with no direct input from Kubrick himself, and he likely acquired all of his information via secondhand sources, which makes staying on topic difficult for an entire biography.

Understanding the director’s career and passion for movies

The book certainly casts a positive light on Kubrick and his career, and it is clear from the writing that LoBrutto himself is a fan of Kubrick. LoBrutto cites things like Kubrick’s introduction to the world of video and photography while he was still a teenager, as well as how this drive carries over to virtually all of Kubrick’s work. Indeed, LoBrutto makes an effort to paint Kubrick as an excellent director and role model.

For example, LoBrutto cites Kubrick’s rather lighthearted dialogue between actor Kirk Douglas, who played in many of Kubrick’s films and tended to be hotheaded, especially when script changes were involved (LoBrutto 135). Yet Kubrick prevailed as he always did LoBrutto claims. However, the biography does focus largely on Kubrick as a director, not Kubrick as a human being. This means that, for better or worse, LoBrutto discusses at length the accomplishments and various works of Kubrick without going into detail about what Kubrick’s motivations were for many of these accomplishments.

Because of this, it is difficult for the biography to change anyone’s view of Kubrick, since it reveals so little about his emotions, although the book does discuss the odd personal quirk that Kubrick had, such as a bizarre obsession with Big Macs during filming of The Shining (LoBrutto 430). These little tidbits help to reveal smaller details about Kubrick’s eccentric personality, yet LoBrutto fails to give any real focus to the man behind the camera, which is slightly disappointing, although understandable given what LoBrutto had to work with.

Avoiding Kubrick’s personal life

In a way, the lack of information about Kubrick’s personal life is a part of the biography unto itself, as Kubrick was well-known for being secretive and rarely revealing personal feelings and motivations during interviews and the like, instead preferring the efficient communication of his visual art, which was, of course, movies. In that respect, LoBrutto does manage to discuss Kubrick’s movies and such, as well as many of the emotions and motivations that went into these movies, in a manner that helps to reveal more about Kubrick himself.

For example, LoBrutto mentions the filming process of A Clockwork Orange, one of Kubrick’s most famous movies. Kubrick, LoBrutto mentions, would take extreme measures while filming, regardless of possible consequences, such as intentionally dropping an expensive camera from a third story window in order to simulate a first-person suicide jump (LoBrutto 354). Examples such as this help to paint a picture of Kubrick as a quiet yet slightly eccentric man, who is also unconventional and, some might say, reckless in his movie-making methods.

Misconceptions about Kubrick’s directing style

This clashes with the prevailing notion that many have about Kubrick, which is that he is an extremely professional director who plays things by the book, and his movies are only so successful because of other elements such as leading actors, excellent writing, or other factors. This is, of course, not the case, and LoBrutto proves it by citing specific elements of Kubrick’s most famous movies that Kubrick himself had a direct impact on during filming of the movie.

One interesting example is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Kubrick, along with Arthur C. Clarke, rewrote the content in The Sentinel (LoBrutto 309). Kubrick, even though he was not the original author of the book, had a great deal to do with the writing in 2001: A Space Odyssey or, perhaps more appropriately, what was not written, since much of the genius of the movie is attributed to the efficiency of the dialogue and visual effects.

The movie was originally panned by critics because it broke so many established concepts and boundaries that it was difficult to understand the movie initially. However, the more audiences watched it, the more they were able to observe Kubrick’s genius, and many attributed the success of the movie solely to him.

The filmmaker side of Kubrick

The book does focus largely on the filmmaker part of Kubrick, although, since that makes up the majority of his claim to fame, perhaps that is for the best. In that respect, LoBrutto goes into excruciating detail regarding some of the measures that Kubrick took to ensure that a particular effect in a movie would be able to be felt by the widest audience possible, such as the overwhelming sense of revulsion at the flood of blood in The Shining.

Through this, LoBrutto manages to go in-depth about how many of these groundbreaking movies were made, and many fans of Kubrick’s films will find these factoids interesting in and of themselves. One big criticism about this book is that LoBrutto seems to make connections where none exist as if grasping for straws.

For example, LoBrutto discusses an incident Kubrick had while filming 2001: A Space Odyssey regarding a pickle, and seems to imply that this misunderstanding had a huge hand in the infamous “bone scene” from 2001 (LoBrutto 14-15). This is mere conjecture on LoBrutto’s part, though, and making these connections, which are already a stretch, as if they are set in stone feels a bit desperate on LoBrutto’s part.]

Conclusion

LoBrutto makes an attempt to put forth the prevailing message of the biography: that Kubrick, while not the most conventional filmmaker out there, managed to succeed in a world that has been traditionally flooded by copycat works by putting a spin on the norm. Oftentimes this is done via new and different interpretations of pre-existing material from famous authors.

Other times, LoBrutto goes into technical details about the methods that Kubrick used (often involving unconventional camera placement or instructions to the actors) that helped to distinguish him in the eyes of his audience as a superior filmmaker.

Ironically, it is through LoBrutto’s cut-and-dry analyses of the objective methods Kubrick utilized that his emotional, personal side of filmmaking manages to shine through, as there are a number of prevailing themes and emotions that Kubrick, intentionally or otherwise, manages to have leak into the movie itself.

Looking for your next book? Check out our book review on The Massacre at El Mozote by Mark Danner.

Works Cited

LoBrutto, Vincent. Stanley Kubrick: a biography. Da Capo Pr, 1999. Print.

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