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There will never be another Stanley — cinema's greatest loner-demigod, the hermit CEO of hip public culture for decades running, the filmmaker-artiste everyone could obsess about even if they didn't know any other working director by name. His reign over the imagination of serious and semi-serious filmgoers was unchallenged; everyone has at least one memory of where they were, how old they were, and what perverse and youthful ideas about art they held dear when they first saw a Kubrick movie.

But if you have gaps in your Kubrickalogue, then those will be your priority in the retrospective at the MFA: the amateur-night war indie Fear and Desire (1953), the uneasy noir chasm between the primitive Killer's Kiss (1955) and the masterful nastiness of The Killing (1956). But mostly we'll be re-seeing lifelong favorites, hunting down the fearsome buzz we got when first confronting 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a trance film about the evolution of loneliness that is still hard to look away from, or A Clockwork Orange (1971), at once his most thematically problematic film and his most unforgettably sensational, the first punk tragicomedy, an unprecedented mutant chockablock with studied compositions, anti-Christian buffoonery, roadshow-Oliver!-on-Percodans performances and Moog-y musical interludes.

Of course, Dr. Strangelove (1964) was Kubrick's turning point, an apocalyptic comedy entirely contingent on dick jokes, which were a good deal funnier than the turgid exquisiteness of the ostensibly satiric Barry Lyndon (1975). The discomfitures of The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), on the other hand, have aged beautifully because finally Kubrick was open to the idea of an imperfect Kubrick film. Unfortunately, that idea crossed into banality with Eyes Wide Shut (1999), which should still be regarded as an unfinished symphony. But maybe I should see it again.

THE FILMS OF STANLEY KUBRICK:: Museum of Fine Arts :: February 1-24

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  Topics: Features , Movies, Stanley Kubrick, film
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