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Stanley Kubrick Bibliography

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kubert.jpgBooks about Stanley Kubrick range from the excellent to the incredibly stupid. Following the previous post, this is a brief assessment of the major volumes written on Kubrick currently in print:

Excellent:

  • Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey, by Michel Chion. The single best volume on Kubrick. Chion, a renowned French artist and critic, is brilliant and his analysis manages to shed light in places where others have invariably failed. A particularly fascinating section is the discussion of the use of music in 2001. The close reading of every scene is also very enlightening. Works extremely well a companion piece to Jerome Agel’s The Making of Kubrick’s 2001.
  • A Cinema of Loneliness, by Robert Kolker. A volume about auteur American cinema which has chapters on Kubrick, Arthur Penn, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Steven Spielberg (previous editions had Francis Ford Coppola instead). Contains some of the best and most lucid analyses of Kubrick’s main body of work and places him within a context — something critics forget sometimes.
  • Kubrick, by Michel Ciment. Includes three great interviews with Kubrick (also found here)
  • Kubrick, by Michael Herr. Herr is a fantastic writer, and his insights on Kubrick are remarkable and full of wit. Tells you more about Kubrick the man in a hundred pages than any other book, including LoBrutto’s biography. My favorite anecdote is when Herr, in Kubrick’s computer room in the early 80s, suggested he turn the computers off when not using them. Kubrick just said: “They like to be left on.”

Very good:

  • Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: New Essays, edited by Robert Kolker. As title states, these are new essays on 2001 (the book is dated 2006) by leading scholars about the film from a variety of perspectives, hoping to cover all bases. So there’s an essay about its critical reception, one by a computer scientist about HAL (not the best essay here but some may find interesting), sharp analyses by renowned Kubrick scholars such as Susan White, and even a lyrical appreciation by writer-scholar George Toles.
  • Eyes Wide Shut (BFI Film Classics), by Michel Chion. Chion always finds novel and interesting ways in which he can approach a film (read also his superb analysis of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line) that strike you as logical and simple, but that somehow it managed to elude every viewer and critic. If you have any doubts about Eyes Wide Shut‘s qualities, better read this.
  • Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze, by Thomas Allen Nelson. Intelligent and informed discussions of every film, from Fear and Desire to Eyes Wide Shut. Scholarly, yes, but not difficult and always refreshing. Can be a little obvious sometimes, but good as an introduction.
  • The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, edited by Jerome Agel.

Good:

  • Stanley Kubrick: A Visual Poet (Taschen), by Paul Duncan. Not much in terms of commentary here, but cool for your coffee table if you can’t afford the mammoth-sized Stanley Kubrick Archive (now out of print! with that one you could spend literally DAYS with it). A much better alternative to the Duncan is Michel Ciment’s Kubrick which has excellent analyses, even better photographs, and the endlessly fascinating Kubrick interviews (and some with collaborators and actors).
  • Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis, by Mario Falsetto. This is an expanded doctoral thesis defended at NYU I believe, firmly grounded in narratological theory. If you fancy that kind of approach, go for it, because there is interesting material here. If not, stay away.
  • Stanley Kubrick (Biography) by Vincent Lobrutto. Goes up to the mid-90s and is endorsed by Kubrick’s family, unlike the Baxter biography. I wonder what exactly did Baxter say… If you’re interested in Kubrick’s working process in-between movies, this is a good source of information. There isn’t much about his personal life in later years.
  • The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick, edited by Gene D. Phillips. Only if you want the most specific and obscure details. There are loads of interesting information here.
  • Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, edited by Gene D. Phillips.

Passable:

  • Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis, by Alexander Walker et al. Some of the commentary here is interesting, but mostly it isn’t very deep — and I’m not talking about critical vocabulary. Walker’s analyses can be totally worthless, like his take on Eyes Wide Shut. The visual side of the analysis is not helped by microscopic and blurry film stills.
  • The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, edited by Stephanie Schwam and Jay Cocks. Mainly a reprinting of some of the material of Agel’s The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 and some scattered material. If you already have Agel and access to the Internet, forget about it.

Crap:

  • Kubrick’s 2001: A Triple Allegory, by Leonard F. Wheat. This is definitely the worst thing every written on Kubrick and probably on any filmmaker. Wheat tackles 2001 with all sorts of pseudoscientific and pseudophilosophical apparatuses, from numerology to just plain wrong interpretations of 2001, Homer, and Nietzsche. There’s even one very convoluted section about anagrams (like TMA-1 is an anagram of “NO MEAT”) and how “Frank Poole” is a “95%” anagram of “Walk on Rope,” part of his lame attempt to link 2001 and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A 95% anagram is imperfect because the letter F had to be changed to a W in order to complete it. If you see any copies of this at your local bookstore or library, BURN IT.

There are a couple of volumes missing, which I hope my collaborators will add.

Written by Joe

agosto 3, 2007 às 12:47 am

Publicado em film

4 Respostas

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  1. Well, I don’t really know many other references, and I have to confess having read only two or three of the above. The only one I can think right now is The Lost Worlds of 2001, by Arthur C. Clarke. It is basically made up of a lot of chapters of the book that were eventually dropped out or rewritten by Kubrick’s or Clarke’s insistence. It is more interesting as a companion to the book though, and since the book is not that much interesting, YAWN.

    maclaine

    agosto 3, 2007 at 7:58 am

  2. Boy, you guys sure like Kubrick, huh??

    Betty

    agosto 6, 2007 at 1:22 am

  3. You don’t?!

    Joe

    agosto 6, 2007 at 2:13 am

  4. Two minor comments, if I may…

    One suggested addition to your list, and it would definitely be under “Excellent:” “The Making of Kubrick’s 2001” by Jerome Agel. It’s not an analysis of the movie, but an actual behind-the-scenes look, crammed with hundreds of pre-production, production, and post-production photos (and explanations for the photos) that offer a plethora of trivia and information on the movie. This book is the source for such interesting and amusing bits as: the dead zebra at the beginning was a horse carcass painted to look like a zebra (and the leopard hated its stench), while the glow of the leopard’s eyes was a lucky accident during filming. Lots of looks at the models, scenery, paintings, and equipment (including the centrifuge used for the Discovery flight deck), and even a rare photo of a concept picture of the Aliens themselves — Kubrick considered including this, but abandoned it near the end of production. Plus, excerpts from dozens of media articles, reviews (Pauline Kael hated it), letters from fans and fellow filmmakers, the legendary summary of the film from Margaret Stackhouse that Kubrick called the most accurate synopsis of the film he’d ever seen; and much MUCH more. Priceless, a true Holy Grail for 2001 fans.

    As for the “Crap” entry, “the worst thing every written on Kubrick and probably on any filmmaker” — try reading the book “Alfred Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze” and you’ll see an “allegorical” look at Hitchcock’s filmography that is just as bizarre, illogical, and hypothetical as the one you mention here. In this book, the author compares every single one of Hitchcock’s films to “The Lodger,” as if his first successful sound feature was the epitome of his entire career. Yes, it’s that strange.

    Modemac

    abril 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm


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