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The unlikely film Stanley Kubrick considered a classic

Remembered as one of cinema’s most influential and idiosyncratic voices, director Stanley Kubrick is a creative enigma who often spent vast periods of time researching each of his projects. When it comes to history’s greatest cinematic viewpoints, it is the obscure and experimental films that capture the most interest, with Kubrick citing Italy’s Federico Fellini and Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman as two of his most inspirational filmmakers, though there is also one other unlikely film that the director was particularly fond of.

Of course, his comprehensive list of favourite films includes a wide range of directors and creatives, listing David Lynch’s surrealist horror film Eraserhead, Michael Moore’s documentary Roger & Me, and John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, among many others. Although Stanley Kubrick was regarded as a visionary and cinematic master, he was certainly no elitist. According to his daughter Katharina Kubrick-Hobbs he “liked movies on their own terms”.  

Such an ethos might explain Stanley Kubrick’s fondness for Ron Shelton upbeat comedy, White Men Can’t Jump starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as two hustlers who join forces to double their chances of winning money in a basketball tournament. After all, Kubrick’s own love of comedy was well-known co-writing 1964’s nuclear war satire Dr. Strangelove which ingeniously poked fun at the flippant decisions of war generals when it came to the horrors of war. 

White Men Can’t Jump wasn’t the only comedy on Kubrick’s mind either, noting Albert Brooks’ 1981 Modern Romance as another of his favourites, with Brook’s revealing that Kubrick enjoyed the film so much that he even received a phone call from the iconic director about the making of it. As Modern Romance had failed to make a considerable impression at the box office, Kubrick’s phone call had a massive impact on Brooks, with the director commenting, “He saved my life…I was so depressed; I didn’t understand the movie business, I didn’t know what was happening”.

In reply to Brooks’ worries, Kubrick lovingly responded: “This is a brilliant movie—the movie I’ve always wanted to make about jealousy. You will not understand what I’m saying, but you must believe me: The studio decides before the movie is ever released how it’s going to do. It has nothing to do with you”.

Stanley Kubrick often appears in conversations regarding cinema’s greatest ever directors; he may also have to feature as one of the most genuine and humble too, showing that to be the very best, you have to appreciate all forms of art. 

As Werner Herzog once said: “The poet must not avert his eyes”.

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