Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)

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Released 3-Sep-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 136:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jan Harlan
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Tom Cruise
Nicole Kidman
Peter Ustinov
Steven Spielberg
Arthur C. Clarke
Brian W. Aldiss
Sydney Pollack
Christiane Kubrick
Jack Nicholson
Malcolm McDowell
Woody Allen
Martin Scorsese
Shelley Duvall
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
German
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    STANLEY KUBRICK - A Life in Pictures - you could think of it as a "making of" featurette for eight movies, fourteen if you count the earlier films that don't count as real Kubricks.

    Stanley Kubrick grew interested in photography as a child, and had the advantage of a dark room at home; his parents owned their own home, and his father was also interested in photography. He sold his first photo to Look magazine when he was 16. He became a staff photographer for Look after graduation. After shooting many boxers for Look, he made a documentary called Day of the Fight, about a boxer preparing for a big boxing match, and including footage of the fight. After the release of the movie, Kubrick quit his job at Look - he didn't work at anything but filmmaking from then on.

    His next few films: Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss, and The Killing, served to bring him to attention. It was Paths of Glory that really made his name. Kirk Douglas worked with Kubrick on Paths of Glory, and demanded that Kubrick replace the director on Spartacus. This was quite an opportunity for the then 30 year old Kubrick - working with Olivier, Charles Laughton, Kirk Douglas, even Peter Ustinov. But Kubrick hated the fact that he did not have control - Kirk Douglas was producer as well as star. Kubrick would not accept that again.

    The next film he made was Lolita - acknowledged by many as the first "true" Kubrick film. The other Kubrick films are:

    Mention is made of three projects which Kubrick did not complete. One, Napoleon, was abandoned with its financial backing evaporated after the disastrous showing of a film called Waterloo. The Aryan Papers was never shot because Spielberg's Schindler's List was released, and dealt with the same material. The last, AI, he handed over to Spielberg, because he thought Spielberg could do a better job with it.

    This documentary covers Kubrick's life from his birth (26 July 1928) to his death (2 March 1999). It concentrates on his films, but then so did he. It does not shy away from criticism of Kubrick and his work; indeed, it explores the criticism, and in the largest part answers it. It discusses the controversy around the release of each film, and the condemnation that accompanied many of the films. It takes an extremely effective chronological approach. It feels like an accelerated trip through time (not quite like a trip through the Star Gate).

    This documentary uses clips from all of his films, and numerous behind-the-scenes still photos and film. It interviews a great many well-known actors and directors, plus people like Arthur C Clarke and Brian Aldiss, and Wendy Carlos. It also interviews most of his family, especially his wife, who he met as an actress in Paths of Glory.

    A number of directors have been described as perfectionist. The only true perfectionist was Kubrick - a man who would happily spend three weeks getting a single scene right. He took a long time to produce a movie, but that was because he put so much work into each film. Martin Scorsese says that one of his films is worth ten of anyone else's.

    You may already have an opinion of Stanley Kubrick. I did. This documentary provides a great deal of information about him, and his films. My opinion has changed. I have rather more respect for his work now.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This documentary uses a wide range of materials, including still photos, home movies, movie clips, a recorded radio interview, and modern interview footage. It is not 16x9 enhanced, which is a pity. Most of it is presented in 1.78:1, but there are a range of other aspect ratios used, including 2.35:1 (you had to expect some clips from 2001, right?).

    The picture is considerably sharper than I would have expected. Sure, the modern footage is sharp and clear, but so is some of the home movie footage shot by Kubrick's father in 1938. Some of the movie clips are poorer quality, and the newspaper clips are understandably grainy. Shadow detail varies considerably, from excellent to negligible. Even in the poorer quality segments, the video displays no low level noise. It looks like this documentary was a work of love, and it has been transferred with respect and care.

    Colour varies - black-and-white through to modern colour footage. The best is excellent, with solidly saturated, vibrant colours. There is no trace of colour bleed.

    There are no film artefacts in the modern footage, and few in the movie clips. The worst came in some home movie footage of Kubrick's home life and children. There is quite a bit of aliasing, but I couldn't summon the usual annoyance, because I found the content so fascinating. There was not a single MPEG artefact to be seen.

    The subtitles are available in many languages, and include both standard English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. The subtitles are clear and easy to read, in white with a black border. They are not completely accurate - there is quite a bit of abbreviation, which is understandable given the rate at which some of the participants speak.

    The disc is single sided and dual layered. The RSDL layer change is at 69:15, while we're looking at a still photo. I didn't notice it either time I watched the documentary, and had to locate it using a DVD player that displays the current layer..



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is exactly one soundtrack. Makes for a simple choice. The soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand - vital in a documentary like this.

    This documentary uses scores from every Kubrick film, so we cannot attribute it to any one person, except Kubrick himself - he was deeply involved in the choice and use of music. It is quite effective to hear parts of the soundtrack of a movie underneath interviews about that movie. Some of Kubrick's movies have esoteric soundtracks, including, for example, the screeching sounds from Gyorgy Ligeti used in 2001 - enormously effective, if a bit unpleasant to hear.

    This is a 5.1 soundtrack. For the greatest part of the film it sounds just like a mono soundtrack, as you might expect on a documentary. My subwoofer woke up with a shock when a clip from 2001 started. The surrounds were shaken from their torpor during the same sequence. Not a huge surround or subwoofer experience, but there are moments.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    One could say that there are few extras to this disc, but the fact is that this disc, in itself, constitutes one of the largest extras I've ever seen.

Menu

    The menus are static, with a little music.

Cast and Crew

    This is a single page list.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc is described as identical to this one. It is only available in the Kubrick Collection box set, as is our version. The one big difference between the two is that we need not suffer the snapper case that is still in use in Region 1.

Summary

    This is a long and detailed documentary, covering Kubrick's life and work. It is presented very well on DVD.

    The video quality is superb.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The cast and crew extra is minimal, but this whole disc is an extra...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, September 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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