Kubrick's Early Shorts - Day Of The Fight, The Flying Padre, The Seafarers
The collected coverage of the new blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick's Fear And Desire has found it nearly impossible to not refer to the fact that the director himself tried to remove the film from circulation. Quoting the film's accompanying booklet, which also draws attention to Kubrick's distrust of his first feature, The Telegraph's piece is one of many which pays at least passing attention to ideas of authorship and ownership. Kubrick, at one point, did not want this film seen, did not want it to form part of his canon. Do we have a right to label it as such, to watch it even?
Whilst Fear And Desire is more than a passable film and Kubrick's embarrassment is, at least in part, misguided, one has to wonder what he would make of the fact that the blu-ray package comes complete with three of his early shorts, all at least equally dubious in their cinematic quality.
Day Of The Fight, Kubrick's first attempt at cinema, runs to sixteen minutes and is the most impressive of the bunch. Filmed on the back of an article Kubrick had produced for Look magazine, who employed him as a photographer at the time, the director follows boxer Walter Cartier through a painstaking day of waiting before he fights to move up a rung on the middle-weight ladder.
There is something innately Kubrickian of Day Of The Fight, with a focus, emphasised by the narration from Douglas Edwards, placed on to human condition. The film considers the idea that Cartier, unlike most, knows where he is heading and that any nerves are all present only in the peaceful daytime, absent at the point of conflict, where arguably he should feel their presence the most. It is a film only let down by the archaic structure and uninspired direction of the fight itself, which seems to include a staged shot, undermining its documentary credentials.
Financed on the back of Day Of The Fight's success, Flying Padre also has some of the ideas Kubrick would follow in his later career - the exploration of 'space', the human condition - but at just nine minutes long he hardly gives himself time to consider them. Again, two scenes in particular feel very staged and it is difficult to know whether to take this minor film as fiction or fact.
The Seafarers, which weighs in at a fairly meaty twenty-nine minutes and marks Kubrick's first brush with colour, seems to have the most promise but is actually by far the worst of the bunch. A thinly disguised half hour commercial for a union of ship workers, the film is a monotonous sales pitch, with clunky visuals, no auteur flair and next to no drama - documentary or otherwise - with which to hook you in. It is, give or take, about as boring as Kubrick ever gets, unless you have a deeply held desire to travel the history of the SIU, who will forever have a not insignificant cinematic claim to fame.
All three of Kubrick's early shorts are available on Masters Of Cinema's new release of Fear And Desire, Kubrick's first feature film.