“If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion
that it has been mastered.” – Stanley Kubrick
American auteur Stanley Kubrick is widely acknowledged for the breadth of his ambitious artistic vision. His projects beautifully condense the universal to fit the big screen but at the same time, they expand and keep growing in the consciousness of the audience. Most of his films, like Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, remain important parts of cinematic tradition because of their compelling conceptualisations of important and familiar issues through the unfamiliar and unsettling perspective with which Kubrick chose to examine things.
It is interesting to note that one of the greatest filmmakers of all time did not start out as one. In his twenties, Kubrick worked as a photojournalist when he met future director Alex Singer who held a junior position in the office of The March of Time newsreels back then. It was Singer who explained to Kubrick that each newsreel cost his company around $40,000 to make. When Kubrick researched more about the price of film and camera rentals, he started wondering whether he could make his own documentary for less money.
Kubrick collaborated with Singer on the 1951 short subject documentary film Day of the Fight which played in theatres but failed to make a profit because no distribution company was willing to offer the money Kubrick expected to get: $40,000. Like countless great artists, the acclaimed filmmaker did not make money on his first film. However, he did go on to have a truly remarkable career in film with one of the most fascinating filmographies in the history of cinema.
On the set of his 1968 sci-fi epic 2001, Kubrick discussed how he got into cinema with physicist-writer Jeremy Bernstein who was doing research for a New Yorker profile. The filmmaker recorded almost 77 minutes of his conversation with Bernstein on his tape recorder but only about half an hour of that conversation has been used by Jim Casey as the narration of the short documentary Stanley Kubrick: The Lost Tapes. It sheds some light on Kubrick’s early influences and helps us effectively trace the evolution of one of the undisputed masters of the art of cinema.
In the interview, Kubrick recalls how he spent his days when his 1955 film noir Killer’s Kiss came out. “At that time, I was playing chess for quarters in the park,” the filmmaker reveals. “I was doing it for fun but I also did make about 2 or 3 dollars a day. It really goes a long way if you’re not buying anything except food.”
Watch the documentary, below.