AsperKubrick: What Life in Pictures?

In this dissertation I will analyse the films of Stanley Kubrick to see how these may display stylistic, aesthetic and narrative features which in my opinion reveal Asperger’s-like traits.
The research is conducted within an Auteurist framework with the intention of revealing a non coincidental pattern throughout Kubrick’s career and it can serve as basis for a future analysis of his own possible Asperger’s-like personality traits.

“Why Stanley Kubrick consciously decided to produce a series of films so particular, so artistically courageous and so unrelatable for a certain section of the audience?
Sadly, the intent of this dissertation is not to reply to this question because it would deserve a much deeper and long research into Kubrick’s persona, his life and his psyche.
What we can (and should) do is to approach the problem from the bottom up: start looking at these films, deconstruct them to isolate specific useful elements and recombine those same elementary pieces in macro categories which then could serve for a future audience study or a treatment on Kubrick’s psyche.
It will be a research through his brief (and thus poignant) filmography done using a specific lens and a particular scale, the lens of psychology and the scale of Aspergerism”.

Doppelnovelle: symmetry in Eyes Wide Shut and its ultimate meaning

The purpose of this paper is to analyse Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut under a specific and restrictive lens to prove that this film is about symmetry, doubles and (ultimately) his “missing” daughter Vivian.

“The society described […] is one of moral corruption and pyramidal power, phallocentric and merciless; a restricted elite of powerful men use women the way they use the “silent majority”: for their volatile and voluptuous pleasure.
In a famelic bulimia of sexual desire, those men seem to be more interested in collecting intercourses rather than enjoying them…”

L’udibile di Takeshi Kitano

(tesi di laurea – 2008)

Il cinema orientale è per sua natura votato alla parsimonia sonora; possiamo facilmente scovare decine e decine di registi che usano il silenzio come una voce, le musiche come dialogo e il rumore di uno sparo come un addio. Quest’ultimo è il caso di Takeshi Kitano, un regista-autore giapponese che, oltre alla suddetta attività, si presta a quasi tutta l’arte contemporanea: è scrittore, pittore, presentatore e autore televisivo, attore comico ed editorialista/commentatore per periodici. Ovviamente non tutti i suoi sforzi sono premiati da risultati eccelsi, ma gia solo per la sua poliedricità è da considerarsi un personaggio degno d’interesse.
Tornando ai suoi film, Kitano è molto famoso per l’abbondanza di violenza nelle sue pellicole; non tutti invece si soffermano sulla scarsezza di parlato. Lui è solito inserire pochi dialoghi: la fanno da padrone brevi frasi, non necessariamente articolate e/o pregnanti semanticamente, che però nascondono e allo stesso tempo schiudono una prospettiva di significati. Un esempio su tutti è il film Il silenzio sul mare (Ano natsu ichiban shizukana, 1991), un film con due protagonisti sordomuti che, ovviamente, non sono soliti parlare molto. Tutta l’azione è concentrata quindi sui gesti in primo piano e l’ambiente sullo sfondo: i primi sono rarefatti, quasi singole scenette montate con una consecutio logica più che artistica; il secondo invece è ben presente, è dietro ma è spesso a fuoco: una città grigiastra, sporca e apparentemente senza amore.
Ecco che però è la coppia ad irradiare tutto con il loro silenzio loquace, piano piano, partendo in sordina, ma giungendo ad una insperata coralità finale.
Questo ed altro è il cinema silenzioso di Takeshi Kitano, l’autore che tratto in questa sede.

Garbo, Christina and Asperger

This paper wants to explore the possible neurological similarities between Greta Garbo and Queen Christina taking a cue from the homonymous movie.

“Any retrospective judgment upon Greta Garbo, Queen Christina and their neurological condition should be done only after a medical examination and, since they both are long dead, this entire essay should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.
But the barrier of space and time can’t be an excuse for not trying to find different and more intriguing explanations to their unusual lives.
If one looks at the Queen Christina depicted in Garbo’s film, it’s easy to find historical discrepancies and inaccuracies, but Queen Christina was never intended as a historiographical product; in fact it was (and is) a piece of art, a message conveyed through the wise use of light.
And in the same way this essay was never intended as a medical paper about two dead Swedish women, but it was (and is) more a stimulus to a deeper and diverse way of seeing Cinema”.

About time too: from Interstellar to Following

A report on
“About time too: from Interstellar to Following, Christopher Nolan’s continuing preoccupation with time-travel” by Jacqueline Furby.

Drawing inspiration from a personal obsession with time travelling, Dr. Jacqueline Furby has decided to research and study Christopher Nolan’s work with the clear intention of finding a recognisable pattern throughout his movies which could lead her to the conclusion that this particular English director continuously expresses a not-so-veiled preoccupation with time, time travel and how to make sense of it.
Probably recreating the feeling of time travelling, Furby begins analysing Nolan’s last movie Interstellar and then proceeds backward making comparisons with Inception, The Dark Knight trilogy, Prestige, Insomnia, Memento and Following; for each one of these films she describes how time manifests itself, how it’s entangled with the story and, to better convey her message, she finds a practical visual representation of it.

To summarize: in Following Furby declares that time is fragmented and scattered without a clear order; in Memento there are two intertwined timelines, one proceeding forward in a linear way and the other backward, fragmented in a reversed order; Insomnia simply goes chronologically; in Prestige time is a matryoshka with at its core a tragic loss; in Dark Knight there is a spiral of events which engulfs the protagonist; Inception could be represented with The Persistence of Memory, a Salvador Dalí’s painting; and finally for Interstellar she displays an image of the Tesserac, a multidimensional cube present in the movie which tries to visually recreate four dimensions: the three spacial ones plus time.

Moving to an analysis of Furby’s work, a possible reaction to her thesis could be one of indifference due to the banality of the statements and the incorrectness of her claims.
It’s pretty understandable that most of the movies of any given director could be explained and/or represented with a time comparison if one takes into accounts that Cinema itself deals principally and heavily with time and the manipulation of time: compared to Theatre, its sister art, Cinema has the unique feature of “editing”, a tool which permits the audience to instantaneously travel through time and space with the simple use of juxtaposition; therefore it doesn’t come with a surprise that Nolan’s movies can be easily described through a time perspective.
In fact one could argue that Nolan’s obsession with time is not the only one deductible from his body of work, other themes are predominant in his stories, more present throughout his movies and more easily supported with a textual analysis; one of these in fact has been pointed out by Furby herself during the presentation: the continuous presence of weak women who are doomed to die.
Now, if one pairs this unfortunate gender recurrence with Nolan’s strong male protagonists, lonely heroes with a taste for violence and unconventional social rules, we may even argue that Christopher Nolan’s main obsession (or personal taste) could be Fascism and Patriarchy.

But maybe the best way to approach Nolan’s movies is with the intention of watching something entertaining and well shot and leave all the possible psychological-scientific-political analysis to better and more complex directors.

Male rape in comedy: Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps

“Male rape in comedy: representation in the family film”
by Isaac Gustafsson-Wood.

Analysing a particular scene in the movie Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, Isaac Gustafsson Wood tries to make sense out of “male raping” used in comedies, specifically American/Hollywood comedies.

Nutty Professor 2 is a 2000 American movie starring Eddie Murphy, the versatile and often “vulgar” Afro-American comedian; the movie’s central focus is the conflict between the good, calm and rationale Sherman Klump and the subversive, sexually active and uncontrollable Buddy Love.
This narrative clash between two personality aspects of the same person (Buddy Love is actually Sherman Klump after he has taken a miraculous medicine similar to the one Doctor Jekyll takes in Stevenson’s book) this narrative, I was saying, is a symbolic clash between the abiding citizen and the instinct driven “savage” residing in all of us, a conflict which, for the preservation of society, must end with the annihilation of the latter one.

Gustafsson argues that representing this extreme and instinctual sexuality through the framework of comedy has the “advantage” of defusing it: having a laugh out of something possibly dangerous for a community of individuals reinforces interpersonal bonds and allows the expression of dangerous instinctual drives within the confinements of a particular time and space, in this case the duration of a movie and the four walls of the cinema hall.

The absurdity of the scene analysed here, a man raped by a gigantic mutated sex maniac male hamster, makes it even easier to be accepted by a large mainstream audience whom won’t feel threatened by concepts such as homosexuality and sexual violence if depicted in a funny and absurd way, even if they are actually central to the narrative.

Related to this concept of “comedy as transgression from normality”, Umberto Eco’s piece “The frames of comic freedom” is a good read to better understand how a society resists to its own destruction releasing instinct in small doses, for example during Carnival, a Christian festival when the people are allowed to deeply indulge in food, sex and other “bestial wishes” for a particular period of time. Releasing these animal instincts in such small controlled doses makes a society stronger: the steam of anger, dissatisfaction and revolt is let escape through a “safe valve” and the dangerous waves of this ocean of people called society will be broken and controlled.

What makes Nutty Professor 2 an excellent example of how society rules are actually reinforced through the use of controlled transgression is the incredible amount of sexual innuendo and blatant vulgarity present throughout the movie, something that a censorship board would (and probably should) take into consideration when appointing a censor rating to a certain movie; Nutty Professor 2 got a PG-13, a considerably sympathetic rating for a vulgar movie like this; as a comparison Brokeback Mountain, a struggling love story between two homosexual men, got an R.
This example makes it clear, if it was ever needed, that censorship is too often used as a tool to control society rather than protecting children from sex and profanities.To conclude, Gustafsson Wood has taken an interesting and unconventional approach when it comes to analyse behavioural restrictions in our society, one that may surprise and shock his readers, in the same way a man might be terribly surprised when he is approached by a gigantic mutated sex maniac male hamster.

The Thing (1982) – Poster Analysis

John Carpenter is considered one of the most important horror director of all time.

After the enormous success off Halloween in 1978 and Escape from New York in 1981, there was a certain hype around his new project, The Thing (1982), but unfortunately his fascinating sci-fi/horror movie had the misfortune to compete with ET by Steven Spielberg, a war impossible to win.
The Thing was a big budget movie and its box office failure meant also the failure for Carpenter to affirm himself as a first class director in Hollywood: from that point on he embraced his (sort of) B-movie’s director status and never had another chance to embark in a similar production.

Based on the John W. Campbell novel Who goes there? (1939), this gruesome and thrilling masterpiece is also a quasi-remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks’ film The Thing from Another World to which it differs for its strict adherence to the original written material. The main difference relies in the depiction of the alien creature which is spreading panic and fear among members of a scientific expedition in Antarctica: like in the original novel, the frozen alien creature found by this group of people, once relived by the artificial heating of the base camp, starts killing the members of the expedition one by one, transforming in any living creature it comes in contact with. This means that anybody in the group could be an alien in disguise, waiting the right moment to strike again, and the real humans left alive, as well as the audience, are forced to use clues and reasoning to decide who is trustworthy and who is not, finding the solution to the horrific puzzle.

The Thing (1982) - movie poster analysis

The image I am analysing is the movie poster and it’s part of the promotional material that Universal released to the press when The Thing was distributed. The first thing that strikes the viewer is the colour palette; the poster is clearly dominated by three colours: black, white and blue.
Black could be defined as the symbol of darkness, the unknown, black as the space from where the alien came from; black is actually the absence of any colours like dark could be the absence of any hope, almost as if the characters are left with no hope of survival in this horror story. White and blue is what ice and snow look like; Antarctica looks like an infinite white-bluish desert where our heroes are stranded fighting against an alien which, if not contained, will infect the entire human population in a few days, therefore it seems logical that the very same colours should be used in the movie poster.

Significantly, all around the human figure we see bluish crystals and ice formations, geometric figures which surround and entrap this unknown man who seems to be under some sort of attack. The white divine light coming out of the man’s hood forbid the viewer any identification, it’s literally impossible to identify which one of the main character is depicted in the poster and this mirrors what happens in the movie itself: the characters in this story are left with uncertainty about who has been infected and who hasn’t, and all their fear and paranoia come from this lack of knowledge. Additionally, in the western culture knowledge has always been associated with a white light, often a divine light coming from above guiding men in their life journey; interesting to notice that in this case the light, this divine revelation, doesn’t come from above, but from within, where the horror is waiting.

The movie title appears in capital letters right in the center, below the petrified human being; above it, we see the usual “John Carpenter’s” header, something which acts as a quality signature for a certain kind of audience: when you go to see a movie with “John Carpenter’s” in the title, you know what to expect out of it. In the lower section of the poster, in bluish coloured capital letters, we read the main credits for music, photography, special effects, direction and production; particular and unexpected is the choice of giving an entire line to the main actor, Kurt Russell, Carpenter’s favourite: they shot five movies together.

Could this titling choice be the clue to solve the mystery of the unknown man in the poster?
We know that at one point towards the end of the movie the character named Childs goes out of the base camp and disappears; right in the end, after the gigantic alien is blown up, burned and defeated and MacReady, the character played by Russell, is resting in the snow waiting for his inevitable death by hypothermia, Childs shows up saying he is ok and that he didn’t disappeared but he went out of the base looking for another member of the scientific team. MacReady suspects that Childs could be infected because his story makes little to no sense, but he is too weak to fight back so he offers him a drink from his whisky bottle and invites him to sit down. Childs accepts the offer, but he doesn’t know that this is actually a trap as MacReady is still holding the blowtorch and he is in possession of some dynamite.

The movie ends before any of the two characters make a move and therefore the audience is left with uncertainty about MacReady’s fate.
Given these elements, maybe the unknown man in the poster is MacReady and that line with “Kurt Russell” so prominently displayed in the center could be a clue which leads to the identification of him.
Or maybe this is just speculation.

The Thing is thirty three years old, but it still sparkles vivacious analytical discussions among film critics; this is because of its ingenious narrative and incredibly tense story, something that the poster conveys perfectly.