Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kubrick's "missing" debut Fear and Desire up on YouTube

Now explain this one to me. Stanley Kubrick spent the better part of his life burying his first feature, the perfectly fine fledgling effort Fear and Desire (1953). I remember he was rather furious when it played at the Film Forum sometime in the 1990s, as he was loathe to have it seen in public.

After his death, the story I heard was that his family permitted the film to be seen once on a European TV channel (can’t confirm or deny this). In any case, it’s noted online that a print of it is held by the Eastman House in Rochester, and it’s obvious that it has done the rep circuit. A few years back, bootlegs of it started appearing for sale, although most were grainy, bleary-looking, and most bounced. Now, it has been pointed out to me by illustrator and fellow blogger Stephen Kroninger that the whole damned thing is up on YouTube in its bleary, crappy-lookin’ state, and has been for, oh, ten months!

The odd part about this is that this must have been brought to the attention of the Kubrick estate, which is looking the other way. A very cool and wonderful maneuver, but wouldn’t it make sense to just make the film publicly available in a pristine print from dad’s own archives? (You just know that Stan had a copy sitting around somewhere in his British archive.) Perhaps Kubrick put some provision in his legal papers to keep the thing from ever coming out, but it’s strange that it has surfaced so readily, when we all still are waitin’ to see those goofy pie-fight scenes from Dr. Strangelove that reportedly exist in British archives but are, natch, legally barred from being shown in public.

I haven’t seen the film since it played Film Forum, but my take on it was that it’s a very competent first effort, plagued by only some corny narration and a pat screenplay. It plays like a “student film” (though made at a time when there were no film schools), and shows Kubrick’s debt to the Soviet masters and other “noble peasant” pictures. It’s actually not that bad at all — but you’d be hard pressed to know that from this print.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should check out this film out.

Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes

Stanley Kubrick’s films were landmark events – majestic, memorable and richly researched. But, as the years went by, the time between films grew longer and longer, and less and less was seen of the director. What on earth was he doing?

Two years after Kubrick’s death, Jon Ronson was invited to the director’s estate to explore the hundreds of boxes the legendary film director had collected during his decades at Childwick Manor in Hertfordshire. He’s been returning ever since, and the story of Kubrick and the archive, now housed at University of the Arts London, is revealed in this fascinating documentary.

Ronson asks: is it possible to get to understand such a man – and his extraordinary working methods – by looking through the hundreds of boxes he left behind?

Watch it here