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Terry Malloy Would Only Recommend Stanley Kubrick’s FEAR AND DESIRE To Completeists Or Preservationists

 

 

 

What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.

 

I’ve been plotting to finally see the entire filmography of Stanley Kubrick in recent months. (I know, I know: it is a full on tragedy that I haven’t seen them all!) And while I’m at it I am hoping to revisit the films I have seen as well. After all, Kubrick really didn’t direct all that many films over the course of his career.

 

And as it turns out, there is more than one film that the contentious director created only to then actively seek to suppress. I’ve always heard that he disavowed SPARTACUS, but until recently I had never even heard of an early work of his entitled FEAR AND DESIRE, which he also distanced himself from. Unlike SPARTACUS, in this instance I can see why the filmmaker discouraged viewings of FEAR AND DESIRE.

 

While this certainly isn’t a major embarrassment, it really isn’t the kind of lost filmic masterpiece that I had hoped to stumble across when Kino Classics released the film on Blu-ray this week.

 

 

Kino is releasing the film as a result of a recent restoration of the film by the Library of Congress. The Blu-ray is also packaged with THE SEAFARERS, which is essentially an internal union recruitment video for the Seafarers International Union (or the SIU) which Kubrick happened to both shoot and direct.

 

As the headline suggests, I think this release might be fascinating to film preservationists who are actively and heroically bringing many older films back from the brink of extinction and lovingly restoring them and digitizing them one frame at a time. To all film lovers, this work should be considered a hallowed profession. And the creation of a wide release for an early Stanley Kubrick film that was extremely rare is important and note-worthy. 

 

But there are many reasons why Kubrick himself probably wanted to see this film disappear. 

 

FEAR AND DESIRE is a young and intelligent director’s attempt at a metaphysical war story. It is set in a non-descript forest where four soldiers have just crash-landed behind enemy lines. A narrator tells us right away that what we are about to see isn’t really historical, but that the film will be an exploration of metaphor. And so the soldiers we meet aren’t from a particular country. Nor are the enemy soldiers that they encounter. This is actually one of the most mature and interesting aspects of the tale.

 

As the soldiers wrestle with what to do, complications arise and the soldiers deal with them in fairly cliché ways. First our heroes decide to build a raft in order to float out of enemy territory. But then they fear that a plane overhead has spotted them. After that they explore where the plane was headed and discover an enemy general is staying in a house nearby. And when a seemingly mute woman discovers them, our protagonists must bind her up and interrogate her in order to figure out what she knows. This confrontation results in one soldier going completely insane. The three soldiers who maintain their sanity then hatch a plan to assassinate the general, and the movie takes an even larger step into the surreal at that point.

 

 

 

Surreal I can appreciate. But the problem here is how broad FEAR AND DESIRE feels. The action regularly stops for our characters to have internal monologues that sound much more like a screenwriter trying to make a point than they do actual thoughts, the way that you and I think. And many of the plot elements I mentioned above feel like they are happening more to make some kind of statement on the insanity of war than they feel like an actual story that has consequence and where the outcome is meaningful to the viewer.

 

Look, there is some insight into the human condition that can be found in this film. There are some good points about the insanity of war or the sometimes futile concept of picking sides. FEAR AND DESIRE suggests that we may be our own worst enemies. But all of those points are made with the subtlety of a claw hammer. And a filmmaking technique that borrows heavily from other influential directors while not necessarily having a style of its own. 

 

I’m shocked that I just wrote the above paragraph about a Stanley Kubrick film, but there it is. It is pretty clear why Kubrick discouraged screenings of this film.

 

There are flourishes of profundity scattered throughout FEAR AND DESIRE, most notably the way Kubrick shoots and lingers on the dead bodies in the film. The corpses here are discomforting and silent. They are effective imagery from a future master of motion pictures. But I believe I only see that profundity retroactively, because I know I am watching a future master at work. If FEAR AND DESIRE had been made by someone who had retired and gone on to sell life insurance, it would most likely have remained a forgotten film and the world wouldn’t be all that much worse for it.

 

All of that said, I think it IS important that this film exists and is accessible to a wide audience today. I think FEAR AND DESIRE can be a major encouragement to burgeoning filmmakers around the world. Look, we all have to learn at some point. Why not learn by doing? If Stanley Kubrick cut his teeth on documentaries for unions and with a fairly preachy debut feature, but went on to uncontested artistic greatness, so can many of you out there!

 

 

 

And I’m Out.

 

 

 

Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis

 

 

 

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  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:14 a.m. CST

    ?????????

    by Kevin

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:14 a.m. CST

    ?????????

    by Kevin

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:20 a.m. CST

    Huh?

    by Knuckleduster

    How do you unpublish something?

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:22 a.m. CST

    Well done, a fabulously well written piece..

    by LeonardsBellbottoms

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:23 a.m. CST

    I would not recommend this article to completists!

    by LeonardsBellbottoms

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:24 a.m. CST

    NICE FUCKIN ARTICLE!

    by James

    honk honk!

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:27 a.m. CST

    Intriguing article

    by robertdee

    Then again, Kubrick was always inscrutable.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:28 a.m. CST

    Far and Desire is a good movie too watch by anyone.

    by Proman1984

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:31 a.m. CST

    Kubrick's Ghost

    by Pwesents

    Rose from the depths and ate this story

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:41 a.m. CST

    Full Iron Man 3 Trailer...

    by Cagliostro

    http://tinyurl.com/8wwonyt

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:43 a.m. CST

    ... and it's not even April Fool's Day.

    by Denty420

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:49 a.m. CST

    Neither Complete Nor Preserved

    by BartReviews

    Well played, AICN. Well played.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:54 a.m. CST

    Terry Malloy has the right idea...

    by FannyPad

    You don't even need an article anymore to get a talkback kickstarted. Watch and learn, John Ary.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:54 a.m. CST

    This comment does not exist

    by Kelleytoons

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 7:17 a.m. CST

    Talkback

    by Kevin

    about this talkback! ;-)

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 7:20 a.m. CST

    Wahey! It's back. Nice one, Terry

    by Denty420

    Can understand. I've hit publish before edits need to be made too.

  • "Bad movie" obviously is more a universal thing, but "bad Kubrick movie" (well, once you get past the does-not-compute factor of that phrase) is kind of like "bad Scorsese movie" or "bad pizza" and should imply that it's better than most directors on their best days. I'm leaning towards the latter to some degree, though the curiosity factor is so high I'm going to have to see it no matter what...

  • Molloy is completely missing the point of why we watch movies like this, Amblin or THX - we do it to see early filmmakers at work and how they progressed since then. Expecting them to make masterpieces the first time they pick up a camera is silly.

  • He was completly ashamed of it, he considered it an embaracing failure. But unlike certain "directors" like Michael Bay, John Moore, Uwe Boll, the Scary Movies Guys, JJ Abrams, Brett Ratner or McG (to name a few) he actually learned from his mistakes. That's why be became the magnificent director he was, that's why he's legend.

  • And it IS NOT a bad movie- I've seen bad movies, oh my god, have I seen bad, infinitely worse movies...

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 9:15 a.m. CST

    It's been common knowledge for years that this movie sucks

    by Samuel Fulmer

    When the director wants all prints of the film destroyed, that's usually not a sign that the movie is good. This was basically Kubrick's version of a student film, much like what Tarantino did with My Best Friend's Birthday.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 9:16 a.m. CST

    Kane wasn't Welle's first film

    by Samuel Fulmer

    The first film he directed was a short called Too Much Johnson.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 9:18 a.m. CST

    There aint nothin wrong......

    by Micah

    with a little old Stanley K.... just take your acids and watch Space Odyssey 2011, THX 1138, and Dark Crystal. Everything is going to be all right, this train is bound for glory. if your still going. tripping the balls... watch Naked Lunch, Brazil, and Koyanaskatsi if you want to go soft on me, Pirates of the Caribbean 1 Spider Man 3 and Speed Racer will get you there.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Jesus F C

    by Ditko

    but until recently I had never even heard of an early work of his entitled FEAR AND DESIRE

  • ... and yet I "missed the point"? My final paragraph: All of that said, I think it IS important that this film exists and is accessible to a wide audience today. I think FEAR AND DESIRE can be a major encouragement to burgeoning filmmakers around the world. Look, we all have to learn at some point. Why not learn by doing? If Stanley Kubrick cut his teeth on documentaries for unions and with a fairly preachy debut feature, but went on to uncontested artistic greatness, so can many of you out there! I kinda think we are actually making the exact same point, which is to say that this film is worth seeing in order to see the evolution of a great filmmaker. But that doesn't mean it is inherently a good movie. Please, feel free to totally disagree with me, but I don't see it.

  • I consider both genius filmmakers, and of course, their first efforts were not showcases for that genius. But interesting for fans nonetheless, others beware.... Concerning Too Much Johnson I read the following: Welles told me that he and the Mercury Theatre players had intended to stage a production of Gillette's play, directed by Welles. (I'm not certain if this production ever actually took place.) I did not know this: As an innovation, Welles and his cast filmed some bridging material, which would have been projected onstage during the scene changes. Welles cheerfully admitted that he had shot these sequences as an entree to Hollywood, in order to persuade the movie-studio executives that he could handle the disciplines of film direction. Bearing in mind that this footage was never meant to be a complete film, it consists of several brief unlinked scenes. We see Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford and the very funny Mary Wickes boarding a gangway at a wharf. (There's supposed to be a large ocean liner berthed just out of frame, but there obviously isn't; the quay is clearly too small -- and in water too shallow -- to harbour an ocean liner.) We also see the Frenchman and his wife (Edgar Barrier, Arlene Francis) in an unconvincing 'shipboard' sequence. We see some shaky hand-held footage of Joseph Cotten rushing about in the 'Cuban jungle', but the local flora don't look remotely tropical ... and Cotten's clothing, as well as his lack of perspiration, indicate that this footage was shot well north of the Tropic of Cancer. Welles told me that these scenes were filmed in Connecticut, but he didn't recall precisely where and I'm not even certain that he was being truthful. None of the distinctive traits of 'Citizen Kane', such as Gregg Toland's depth-of-focus shots, or Welles's ceiling compositions, are in evidence here.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Fair enough Molloy.....

    by john

    I admittedly must have glossed over that last part but up until then, it seemed like you were holding this film to standards it couldn't meet. This isn't comparable to Kane because it was self-financed basically like a student or independent film, and wasn't necessarily made to be seen (at least to my knowledge). Well it seems you have the right idea then.

  • TCM is an incredible resource for little seen or *lost* films!!!!! THIS GOES FOR ALL TRUE FILM FANS!!!!!!!

  • What I REALLY want to see before I die are the cut scenes from the original release of 2001 before Kubrick trimmed it!!!!

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Saw this on a rare TCM broadcast earlier this year...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...it's certainly worth a view for Kubrick obsessives. For casual movie fans? It's little more than a curio, but at least it's fun to spot early examples of trademark Kubrick techniques.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 10:39 a.m. CST

    @Mr mcgootoo

    by albert comin

    I'm not too sure they exist anymore. And even if they did, we don't have Kubrick to edit them back to the movie. Anybody else putting those scenes back in the movie would still be, at best, an educated guess, thus, destined to failure. Only Kubrick could make a movie like Kubrick. From what i have heard, it makes sense that Kubrick cut them out, because they were mostly redundanct, they told the same story told before. Cutting those scenes also made the movie be more a movie instead of the half-documentary it was inicially supposed to be (full of interviews with the major egg-heads from science and politics of the time).

  • Not that the odds on either are GREAT, but still...

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    scirocco - here ya go...

    by Michael Lunney

    http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/brown3.html

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    scirocco - here ya go...more

    by Michael Lunney

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/seventeen-minutes-of-lost-footage-from-2001-a-spac,49219/

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    This movie has been available to watch online for years

    by Turd_Is_Floating_Underneath_The_Gravy

    In short: it's full of great ideas, but bad dramatization of those ideas.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    The footage for the pie fight does NOT exist

    by Ricardo

    The extra 40 mins of footage for 2001, however, DO exist and are well preserved at WB vaults. However, Kubrick's family refuses to release it ain any form. Someone needs to get in there and still that motherfucker!

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:09 a.m. CST

    Plus I think fear and desire is on Youtube

    by Ricardo

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:10 a.m. CST

    still = meant STEAL

    by Ricardo

    Damn

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:13 a.m. CST

    I think the cut scnees of 2001 that are being referred to are not the interviews with scientists

    by Turd_Is_Floating_Underneath_The_Gravy

    but the footage that comprised the longer 165 minute cut of the film that Kubrick initially previewed.This footage contained extended cuts of several scenes (for instance, Bowman jogs around the centrifuge eleven times), as well as extra footage on the floating space station Hilton hotel, where we see a plaza and gift shops with chunks of moon rock for sale. Kubrick supposedly destroyed all the cut footage from his films, but I don't buy it. At least, I would like to believe otherwise, since it's such a waste if true. I think maybe his family and estate have possession of this material, but don't want anyone knowing about it. I can hardly see the family releasing deleted scenes but I hope they still kept them for posterity. There's lots of interesting ones: the custard pie fight at the end of Strangelove; the alternate ending of Full Metal Jacket where Animal Mother cuts off the sniper's head and they play football with it; the original ending of the Shining where Ullman visits Wendy and Danny in the hospital.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:33 a.m. CST

    good conversation going on here

    by Michael Lunney

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:36 a.m. CST

    It's cool that this is out there

    by Samuel Fulmer

    But to me it's nothing more then watching what Kubrick would've done if he was a film student. Interesting to see from a historical perspective, but it doesn't work as good entertainment or art.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Fear and Desire is available to watch on LoveFilm in the UK

    by supertoyslast

    It's a pretty poor transfer since it looks like it's been taken from a VHS recording. But, at less than an hour long, it's worth a look for Kubrick completists.

  • I quite agree

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 12:45 p.m. CST

    on a side note, EYES WIDE SHUT is wholly underrated

    by la_sith

    Glad to see people finally seeing the greatness.

  • As if there would be any validity to saying otherwise.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 1:53 p.m. CST

    @Mr turd_is_floating_underneath_the_gravy

    by albert comin

    I think those extra scenes and SFX shots were destroyed because Kubrick wanted to prevent other cheapper movies and TV shows to reuse them, as was a common practice at the time (sanctioned by the studios, as a cost saving practice). That's what i learned, anyway.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST

    @Mr mcgootoo

    by albert comin

    Cool stuff, thanks. But i still say, if Kubrick cut them out of the movie, i trust his judgement on that, he musthad very good reasons for doing so. He was Kubrick, after all.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 1:59 p.m. CST

    scirocco

    by la_sith

    I agree. I'm simply stating that it's underrated by the masses. I've loved that movie since it was released.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 3:21 p.m. CST

    @Mr mcgootoo

    by albert comin

    Outside the movie, yeah i would.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 3:26 p.m. CST

    @Mr la_sith

    by albert comin

    Me too and everybody i knew. I only learned of negative opinions about the movie when i went to such internet sites like IMDB. My mind was stupified by the reactions. But in retrospect, it shouldn't had come as a suprise, because all of Kubrick's movies had such responses at the time they were released. All of his classics (i might as well call it his whole filmmograpjhy) were movies that got divided reactions at the time of release.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 5:33 p.m. CST

    Scenes cut from 2001 after preview

    by micbenxyy

    The cut material was repetitions or extensions of existing scenes. They were cut for a good reason - they were unnecessary.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:38 p.m. CST

    James Cameron did The Terminator at a similar age

    by Rtobert

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 6:40 p.m. CST

    @Mr rtambree, i think you mean Piranha 2.

    by albert comin

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Re turd_is_floating

    by Ricardo

    It is confirmed that the 2001 are preserved at a WB film vault, but they are owned by the Kubrick family, and his instructions were to never, ever release alternate takes. The black and white scientist interviews were cut before the previews, and is presumed lost.

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 7:03 p.m. CST

    * the 2001 TRIMS, I mean

    by Ricardo

  • Oct. 23, 2012, 7:59 p.m. CST

    B-Roll

    by Glenn

    The only time Kubrick allowed his footage in another movie, was Blade Runner. He admired Ridley's work and so allowed him to use stock footage from The Shining.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 12:38 a.m. CST

    Very Unfair Review

    by misterk360

    Knowing that Kubrick, shot,edited, produced this film( on 35mm no less) entirely on his own in the Santa Monica Mountains with a crew of his wife, a few friends and some mexican day laborers deserves to be respected on it's own terms. People have complained about the canned sound and dialogue, of course not knowing recording devices made for the motion picture industry back then were huge pieces of equipment and entirely WAY out of Kubrick's budget, which ment he didn't have any way to record sound on set and had to dub it entirely in post production( which raised the pictures measly budget of $10k to $20k). But besides the limitations against Kubrick, he made a more then adequate B-level picture that easily holds its own with similar films made in the early 50's within the Studio System with MUCH higher budgets. The cinematography alone is worth viewing just to see how Kubrick composed some eloquent shots with nothing more then a single light. A very unfair review by another "critic" with zero knowledge on filmmaking or asthstics.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 2:11 a.m. CST

    nice article

    by WeakThirdAct

    it helped me out a LOT! buy cheap indonesian rattan furniture here: http://bit.ly/hcoyKE

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 3:20 a.m. CST

    I liked this article...

    by Neil Harrison

    ...annoying that some feel the need to be so snooty.

  • The visual treat (and sound as well - what music! And a pretty damn good yarn too) the movie offers to the senses the first time one watches it is just beyond description. A truly mind boggling movie if ever there was one. The movie still beats me to submission whenever i rewatch it, but to impact it had on first viewing was just.... i have no words to describe.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 3:54 a.m. CST

    Eh...

    by WeakThirdAct

    Waz only kiddin. I'd never even heard of this one. And that's why I keep coming back to this place - because sometimes I learn stuff, see.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 4:05 a.m. CST

    scirocco

    by kwisatzhaderach

    Barry Lyndon might be Kubrick's greatest masterpiece. It's an unbelievable piece of filmmaking. Anybody that thinks Christopher Nolan is a master filmmaker needs to see Barry Lyndon pretty damn quick.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 4:43 a.m. CST

    @Mr kwisatzhaderach

    by albert comin

    I believe two rights do not make a wrong. Kubrick being a master filmmaker (and in my view most probably one of the very few best filmmaker that ever lived together with Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles) in no way diminish Nolan's accomplishments so far. Nolan is not Kubrick, nor should he be. Nolan should be Nolan, and so far he has suceeded in that. No small task that. My opinion might sound cliché, but i do think "2001" is Kubrick's masterpiece because it's such a revolutionary work not just as a piece of cinema on it's own right but as science fiction on film as well. You can truly divide film SF in pre-"2001:ASO" and post-"2001:ASO". Barry Lyndon is a masterpiece of cinema. It's one of Kubrick's masterpieces in a career made of those. But 2001 is his magnum opus. And i have to use the expression magnum opus to that movie because all his other movies since and including "Paths Of Glory" are masterpieces. In any other filmmaker's career this would be their best movie, in Kubrick's it was another day on the job. Soem years ago i had an interesting discussion on IMDB about Kubrick, and there was this one individual who made a bold claim that Michael Bay was a muich better director then Kubrick. And i had no reason to beleive he was trolling, he was being genuine in his opinion. some fools like that fella think that if you piss on a great filmmaker who reaches the level of artist like Kubrick and supporting and raise to great heights a totally commercially oriented dumb movies maker like Bay is being radical and rebelious. The funny thing is that Kubrick was the real rebelious and iconoclastic filmmaker, while clagtrap like Bay are nothing but glamorized office boys. But now even the hacks get a fandom. I just don't get it. How hard can it be for anybody to see how great Kubrick and his movies are?

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 4:41 p.m. CST

    @symbioticfunction

    by misterk360

    And I find it even more annoying when someone who thinks their a film critic doesn't when they really aren't. Same goes for clueless talkbackers.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 9:17 p.m. CST

    Clueless eh?

    by Neil Harrison

    Go fuck yourself you arrogant twat

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 9:19 p.m. CST

    Glass house.

    by Neil Harrison

    btw It's there not their you complete retard. Can't even spell for shit.

  • Oct. 24, 2012, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Bollocks

    by Neil Harrison

    Damn my bad, should have put spelled it as they're.

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