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review added: 5/22/01



Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures
2001 (2001) - Warner Bros.

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD


Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

Program Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/F

Specs and Features

142 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:10:43, in chapter 16), Snapper case packaging, cast & crew listing, program-themed menus with music, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Closed Captioned



A group of friends and I recently had the pleasure of attending a special studio screening of Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, a new documentary about Kubrick that was directed by longtime associate Jan Harlan and is narrated by actor Tom Cruise. The documentary runs some 142 minutes, and is available ONLY in the new Stanley Kubrick Collection DVD boxed set. And I must say... it's simply amazing.

This documentary covers almost everything you'd ever want to know, about both Kubrick the man and his individual films, in great detail. Featuring a tremendous amount of new interview footage with those who loved him, admired him and collaborated with him, you get an inside look at his youth in New York City and his early influences. It talks about the making of his early documentary films, including Day of the Fight. Then the documentary looks at each of his later films in tremendous detail, from his first feature-length work, Fear and Desire (which Kubrick hated so much he later pulled from release) to his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. It even covers films he wanted to make but never did, including Napoleon, The Aryan Papers and finally A.I., which Kubrick for years was developing as a pet project and later asked Steven Spielberg to direct (Kubrick felt the project was closer to Spielberg's sensibilities).

Best of all, through personal home movies, photos and extensive interviews with his family and friends, you get an amazing picture of a man who, in his later years, became known publicly as a recluse and even a loon. After 1987's Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick retreated from public life for a decade before taking charge of his last film. But what you get to see is a surprising look at a loving and dedicated family man, in addition to an ever-active, ever-creative intellect, who surrounded himself with family and friends in his later years. Featuring new interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Matthew Modine, Jack Nicholson, Sydney Pollack, Tom Cruise, Keir Dullea, Shelley Duvall, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Doug Trumbull, Sir Peter Ustinov, Nicole Kidman and countless other individuals close to him (including his family), Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is a remarkable portrait of one of the cinema's greatest directors. And if you're a fan of his work, it's simply indispensable. Having it on DVD almost justifies purchasing the new Stanley Kubrick Collection all by itself. Almost.

The DVD itself is quite nice. The film is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, and features generally excellent video quality. It's not quite perfect - you'll notice some compression artifacting and a little edge-enhancement here and there. You also have to accept the fact that the documentary is compiled from source material of varying quality. But I think you'll be very pleased with the image overall.

The disc's audio is something of a surprise, presented in full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Don't expect an overly active mix - this piece is very interview heavy, so most of what you get is talking and movie clips. But the music is what really benefits from the 5.1 mix - it's full and atmospheric. Very nice.

You're not going to get much in the way of extras, and that's to be expected. You do get a list of the cast & crew involved in the production, and that's it. But that's okay. I don't think you'll be left wanting more after watching this documentary. Trust me on this.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures is simply an amazing portrait of a man who was perhaps the cinema's greatest auteur. It is also ranks highly among the best documentaries I've seen, and is certainly one of the best looks at a filmmaker you'll ever have the pleasure to enjoy. If you can afford to buy (or upgrade to) the new Stanley Kubrick Collection, you'll feel better about that decision after watching this disc. Very highly recommended.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD

The Stanley Kubrick Collection (new version)

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