Stanley Kubrick: A Biography

Stanley Kubrick: A Biography – Review

Scott Bradley

Lobrutto, Vincent. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Donald Fine Books, 1997. $29.95. Vincent Lobrutto set a daunting task for himself in scrutinizing the life and career of one of the most enigmatic and secretive of all filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, the director of Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lobrutto’s work isn’t limited to the multi-faceted symbolism of Kubrick’s oeuvre, but also includes the director’s highly regimented and mostly unknown personal life, although his treatment of Kubrick’s early life and pre-filmmaking career is perhaps the least satisfactory section of the book.

Lobrutto’s account of Kubrick’s directorial career, however, is better. Kubrick’s legendary fights to make Spartacus and Lolita, the controversies of Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange, and the obsessive, detailed work that went into 2001, Barry Lyndon, and The Shining are all presented in detail, although mostly through information culled from other sources. This is frustrating for readers who are already familiar with books on Kubrick’s work–the story of 2001, for instance, is much more thoroughly discussed in Jerome Agel’s The Making of Kubrick 2001 and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Lost Worlds of 2001.

Lobrutto, well-known for landmark books on editing, film sound, and cinematography, is more attuned to his technical appraisals of Kubrick than personal ones. With Kubrick’s love of cinematography and his astounding innovations in the use of devices such as the Steadicam, a great deal of nuts-and-bolts emphasis was to be expected. It’s a pity, though, that Lobrutto couldn’t have followed the lead of recent director biographies like Patrick McGilligan’s Robert Altman: Jumping Off the Cliff in getting closer to the heart of Kubrick as a human being. In fairness, it is clear from the start that most other writers have access to their subjects that is flatly denied to anyone tackling the enigma of Kubrick (Lobrutto diplomatically notes in his acknowledgements that “Mr. Kubrick has neither helped nor interfered with my efforts on this project”).

COPYRIGHT 1998 University of California Press

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