About kubrick by kubrick
A film by Gregory Monro
Produced by : Temps Noir, Telemark and Arte France
Directed by : Gregory Monro
Based on Michel Ciment’s interviews
Genre : Documentary
Duration : 72’ (for festival screenings only) and 60’ (for TV)
Stanley Kubrick’s mark on the legacy of cinema can never be measured. He was a giant in his field, his great works resembling pristine pieces of art, studied by students and masters alike, all searching for answers their maker was notoriously reticent to give. While he’s among the most scrutinized filmmakers that ever lived, the chance to hear Kubrick’s own words was a rarity—until now.
Through Michel Ciment, film critic internationally known for being expert on Stanley Kubrick, and our advisor for this film, we have access to a series of rare interviews that occurred during their 30 years of relationship.
Combined with extraordinary resources that Kubrick’s family allowed us to use, the film draws an intimate portrait of one of the most recognized, but yet unheard, filmmaker of all times.
watch the trailer
They talked about it
MEET THE ARTISTIC TEAM
From 1999, Gregory Monro has written, produced, performed and directed several professional short films, most of which toured international film festivals such as Toronto, Palm Beach, Bolzano and South Korea. Since 2013, he has directed several documentaries which travelled the world in festivals and were broadcasted in multiples territories. His 2018 documentary Michel Legrand, Let the Music Play earn him his first International Emmy Awards nomination.
2013 : Louis de Funès Forever
2014 : Calamity Jane: Wild West Legend
2016 : Jerry Lewis: The man behind the clown – Telluride, Lumière Film Festival, Haïfa IFF 2017 : James Stewart/Robert Mitchum, the two faces of America
2018 : Pierre Richard, the quiet one
2018 : Michel Legrand, Let the Music Play – International Emmy Award nominated
2019 : Toulouse Lautrec
Film critic and director of the film magazine Positif, Michel Ciment is considered the Kubrick specialist. His book about Kubrick was recently reissued and is seen as a universal reference. Michel Ciment had privileged access to Kubrick with whom he had a 30-year relationship. He is the only one to have extensively interviewed Stanley Kubrick, on four occasions, for the release of his films, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket.
1973 : Kazan on Kazan
1980 : Reedited in 2001 Kubrick
2003 : Petite planète cinématographique, 50 réalisateurs, 40 ans de cinéma, 30 pays
2009 : Film World: The Directors’ Interviews
2017 : Dardenne par Dardenne: conversations with Michel Ciment
2018 : L’Odyssée de 2001
interview with the artistic team
Michel, you are one of the few critics who had the privilege to interview Kubrick several times throughout his career. How did that come about?
Michel Ciment : It all started around the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had gone to London for the film’s premiere and was looking to get additional stills to put in the new issue of Positif. I called Kubrick’s people and they said he would call me back the next day at my hotel. When we finally spoke, he immediately started asking me questions about Napoleon, which was the subject of his next project, and we wound up having a long conversation about French history. A few years later, for the release of A Clockwork Orange, I was one of the few journalists chosen to interview him. So I went to London again and the interview went really well — we didn’t only talk about movies, but about art, literature and again, history. Then for Barry Lyndon, I was actually the only journalist allowed to talk to him about that film, and I interviewed him again for The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. He would also call me at home sometimes, usually to ask me more questions for either his Napoleon movie or about another subject. In fact, the problem with interviewing Kubrick was that he would often spend more time asking you questions than answering whatever you asked him!
There have been a few films made on Kubrick, including Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, by his producer Jan Harlan, and Room 237, about The Shining. What was the impetus behind Kubrick by Kubrick?
Grégory Monro : I’ve always had Kubrick in the back of my mind as a possible subject for a documentary. But I thought that if I did something on him, I would really have to be cautious about it, considering both his work and all’s that been made on him already. When we talked about the idea with my producers, we realized that the best way to make something on Kubrick would be to allow him to speak in his own words. And in that case the best thing to do would be to use Michel’s original audio recordings from all his interviews, which would allow Kubrick to finally speak about his own work. It’s risky, because anything you make about Kubrick is risky, but for me the viewpoint of the documentary is really Stanley Kubrick’s and not my own.
What struck me about Kubrick’s tone in the interviews is his level of pragmatism and frankness. He also seems quite humble at times. It’s far from the image we tend to have of him as a taciturn and reclusive genius.
MC : When we did the interviews, he would speak very candidly about his craft. But he never wanted to analyze himself, which I think is a characteristic he shared with many Central European Jewish directors I’ve met — from Fritz Lang to Otto Preminger to Milos Forman. There’s a refusal to go into self-analysis, even though I’m sure they’ve all read Freud and that Freud influenced their work. They preferred to talk about the films themselves, about actors and screenwriting and editing and photography, and that was certainly Kubrick’s case. What most struck me about him was how he never tried to obfuscate anything. He would always ask if his answers satisfied me, if he’d fully responded to my questions.
GM : Before making the movie, I had listened to Michel’s interviews on the radio, and so I knew that Kubrick could sound very casual in person. In photos he looks kind of tough, but his voice is actually soft and gentle. I really wanted to convey that in the documentary — to humanize Kubrick for people who didn’t know him.
Because he lived far away from Hollywood, and because he rarely gave interviews, for many of us Kubrick had become the J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon of film directors. He was more of a myth than a man.
MC : I think that goes back to fact that Kubrick did not want to analyze or explain his work too much. One day he said to me: “I’m not comparing myself to Leonardo da Vinci, but if beneath the Mona Lisa da Vinci had written: ‘I smiled because I cheated on my husband this afternoon,’ the painting would have lost a lot of its mystery.” It’s an absolutely striking sentence, but it’s also true, because the fact that we don’t know why the Mona Lisa smiling is what’s so enigmatic about her — just as movies like The Shining and 20 01 are so enigmatic. They are films that never give you a final answer.
Alongside the audio recordings, archive footage and clips from Kubrick’s different movies, you chose to recreate the set from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the documentary. What was the idea behind that?
GM : As a director, I was trying to find a way to tell the story of Kubrick’s interviews by using images For me, and for many other people, the room at 3 – KUBRICK BY KUBRICK the end of 20 01 remains a real mystery. People have been speculating about it for decades, and even Kubrick never really explained it. And he didn’t want to explain it. I felt that the room was the right place to set the documentary, because that mystery is also the mystery of Kubrick himself. The room from 20 01 was a way to symbolize the complexity of Kubrick’s mind, to create his mental space — in space — on screen.
A big section of the documentary is devoted to A Clockwork Orange, which remains one of the more misunderstood movies in Kubrick’s filmography. It’s nice to hear him defending what many people thought was a movie condoning the kind of violence that was depicted on screen.
MC : Even if there’s an extraordinary diversity among Kubrick’s films, the one thing that unifies them is that he’s always on the side of the victims. The best example of that is A Clockwork Orange. During the first half of the film, we are on the side of the beggars, the writer and all the women that Alex and his droogs violently attack. And then in the second half we are on Alex’s side because he becomes a victim as well. In Full Metal Jacket, we are on the side of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character, who commits suicide. In Barry Lyndon, we’re on the side of Lady Lyndon, who gets smoke blown in her face and constantly suffers humiliation. And in The Shining, we have pity for Jack Nicholson’s character even if he tried to kill his wife and son. When he freezes to death, it’s like something out of a Greek tragedy.