December 9, 2005

Stanley Kubrick


Finished this last night. I haven’t seen "Eyes Wide Shut" since it came out and I’ve never read Raphael. Raphael paints himself as the most successful and sophisticated man on planet Earth, but who knows, he might be. It kind of reads like a blog--look at me, look at me!--but what’s more interesting than a blog about making a movie with Stanley Kubrick? It’s not every day that I finish a book in five minutes, so I wanted to write something about it.

There are a lot of criticisms on Amazon about Raphael’s self-absorption, and they’re right. It reminds me of a book I read by Elvis Costello’s bass player, Bruce Thomas--I can’t remember the name of the book. He’s an incredibly pompous ass. Throughout the book, he refers to Elvis Costello as "The Singer" as if Bruce Thomas is the focal point of the band, and he’s not just an Attraction. Frederic Raphael writes with a similar condescension. Kubrick is painted as fairly hapless, visionless, and directionless. It might be true to some degree. His major movies have been based on novels: Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, Lolita, Full Metal Jacket. Maybe he didn’t have what it took to make an epic movie out of a shorter piece. Weirdly, it sometimes feels like the Metallica documentary, "Some Kind of Monster"--collaborators trying to make something on the fly, when it really needs to flow naturally, out of inspiration.

There’s name-dropping throughout of both people and his own knowledge. Raphael writes things like "Stanley was Eurystheus to my Herakles…" I will freely admit I have no idea what the hell he’s referring to. He also writes, "Working for all those months with Stanley was like being in solitary confinement without the comfort of being alone" which is a good sentence no matter who he’s writing about. Perhaps he really is hanging out with John Schlesinger and "Marty" Scorsese. Perhaps it’s impossible to display your knowledge about certain things without seeming pretentious. Like, for instance, listing the number of Coltrane albums I own and listen to (last post). Maybe Raphael really does know and love all his Greek references. It gets harder to draw the line between pretension and information when you’re talking about high-brow stuff. Last night, as I finished this book, I was listening to Prokofiev’s piano concertos played by Martha Argerich. Seems pretentious to mention that, but it’s true and I enjoyed it. Raphael, though, goes overboard.

I recommend this to anyone who’s ever written a screenplay or thought about it to get a glimpse into what it might have been like to collaborate with Stanley Kubrick. For that alone, the book is worth it.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with someone who wants to direct OCG/The Golden Calf. See where that goes.


Philofaxer said...

Henry, you're Herotodenes to my Agamemenotus.

(I made those up.)

One of my college friends lives in LA and makes music videos, among other things. (See his site: If you think there is any reason for me to hook you up with him, let me know.

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