Friday, February 06, 2015

FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) - Stanley Kubrick

Seeing Stanley Kubrick's first feature, Fear and Desire, for the first time makes me feel better about some of my only wanting 16mm efforts around the same age. To watch it is to realize that the master definitely did not spring from the cinematic womb (i.e., the offices of Look Magazine) in anything resembling a fully formed state. Few of his perfectionist directorial hallmarks are present. It's not even photographed in an especially compelling manner. The self-important screenplay written by an old high school chum is pretty terrible, full of clunky, cliched "war and the soul of man" voiceover narration and dialogue more wooden than the San Gabriel forest in which he filmed. Fellow director Paul Mazursky as one of the crash-landed soldiers who goes "cuckoo" is worse. It's hard to believe this is the same genius who gave us other "horrors of war" classic like Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket. It's hard to believe it's the same guy who gave us his next quickie feature, Killer's Kiss.

Obviously, Fear and Desire was a learn-on-the-job effort, and it's easy to see why an obsessive like Kubrick would want to forget it ever existed. He scraped it together on a $10,000 budget at age 24 and later tried to bury all prints of due to embarrassment, There's an OK scene with a friendly Doberman in the woods, then one where a captive lady (above) drinks water from Mazursky's palm. I could go on, but why not let the master excoriate himself? Just listen to his thoughts on Fear and Desire in this pre-film five minute clip. Stanley had a cold, unrelenting vision about everything else, and he definitely pulls no punches in dressing down this, the least favorite of his own films.

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