Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Kubrick by Kubrick

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Copyright: Arte

Whilst 2020 may be a flaming wreckage from hell for all of us, it can pride itself on a considerably strong collection of documentary features. Beastie Boys StoryNever Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story and You Cannot Kill David Arquette have all carved an experienced, well-developed cove of engaging topics for any film fan to dive right into. Yet another documentary on the brilliance of influential director Stanley Kubrick, there’s no denying how monumental his work is to both the minds of audience members and contemporary filmmakers. Kubrick by Kubrick, then, looks to document the career of a great director in a fleeting sixty minutes. An extreme feat if pulled off correctly, but this documentary comes nowhere close to living up to its potential. 

On paper, it’s a certainly great idea. Allowing the few interviews Kubrick gave in his time to flesh out the work and theories of the director, film critics, and those he collaborated with. Documentarian Grégory Monro tries his best to put together some strong moments, but without the pacing a documentary needs it all feels truly underwhelming. We dart back and forth, from Fear and Desire to Barry Lyndon, and then leaping toward A Clockwork Orange without a care in the world. With such a short running time, Monro needs to accept that not everything will make the cut. It becomes the jack of all trades, but it doesn’t bring about anything of particular interest. There are flimsy connections made often, and it ruins the pacing of the film.  

There’s no point beating about the bush, Kubrick by Kubrick is boring. A film fit for a late-night documentary on Gold or TCM, one of the channels where you’d only stumble across something whilst channel flicking in the early hours of a Saturday night. It pales in comparison to Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, which crafts a fundamentally essential documentary on the life and work of Kubrick. It’s lengthier, has far more in the way of content, and is amicable in understanding that it cannot bring together everything it wants to. Monro is in a form of admirable denial here, where he believes he can fit everything from talking head interviews, narration, nods to Kubrick’s work, and criticism of his style all into barely one hour.  

Not nearly as strong as other documentaries that look to detail or dissect his work, Kubrick by Kubrick is a weak documentary that tries to understand the mind of a great director, when, in reality, the allure of his work comes from not knowing how or why he made the choices he made. Still, there are pockets of good footage with your usual narration, all the novelties and mundane choices of a typical documentary are made, and nothing more comes of it. Kubrick by Kubrick fails to do anything interesting with such a great array of footage.