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The Kubrick Facade

Faces and Voices in the Films of Stanley Kubrick

Jason Sperb

Many of Stanley Kubrick's films are often interpreted as cold and ambiguous. Whether viewing Barry Lyndon, 2001, The Shining, or Eyes Wide Shut, there is a sense in which these films resist their own audiences, creating a distance from them. Though many note the coldness of Kubrick's films, a smaller number attempt to explore exactly how his body of work elicits this particular reaction. Fewer still attempt to articulate what it might mean to "feel" Stanley Kubrick's films. In The Kubrick Facade, Jason Sperb examines the narrative ambiguity of the director's films—from the voice-over narration in early works, including the once forgotten Fear and Desire—to the blank faces of characters in his later ones. In doing so, Sperb shows how both devices struggle in vain to make sense of the chaos and sterility of the cinematic surface.

All thirteen of Stanley Kubrick's feature-length films are discussed in chronological order, from the little-seen and long-neglected Fear and Desire to the posthumous release of Eyes Wide Shut. Sperb also discusses Kubrick's importance to Steven Spielberg's AI. While exploring all of Kubrick's films, the author concentrates in particular on The Killing, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut.

This is also the first book-length study that focuses considerable attention on Fear and Desire and its relevance to Kubrick's larger body of work. In this respect, The Kubrick Facade is one of the first truly comprehensive books on narrative in the maverick director's films. It is also the first book to integrate a discussion of AI, and the first to fully explore the importance of the consistent visual emphasis on blank, silent faces in his post-Lolita films.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 198Size: 6 x 9
978-0-8108-5855-8 • Paperback • June 2006 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-4616-7307-1 • eBook • June 2006 • $45.99 • (£31.95)
Jason Sperb teaches in the Department of Communication & Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has contributed to such publications as Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Biography, Studies in the Literary Imagination, and Bright Lights Film Journal.
Part 1 Preface
Part 2 Acknowledgments
Chapter 3 1. Introduction: Experiencing Faces and Voices
Chapter 4 2. We're All Islands: Seeing and Hearing the Country of the Mind in Fear and Desire
Chapter 5 3. Taking Life Too Seriously: Imposing Narrative Authority from Killer's Kiss to Lolita
Chapter 6 4. He'll See the Big Board: Narration and the Magic of Words in Dr. Strangelove
Chapter 7 5. I Can Feel It: Sounds, Intensities, and Subjectivities in 2001
Chapter 8 6. A Kubrickian Look: Narrating in a Voiceless Voice-Over
Chapter 9 7. Their Eyes Were Wide Shut: Bill Harford as Failed Narrator
Chapter 10 8. Conclusion: Sensing Stanley Kubrick
Part 11 Filmography
Part 12 Selected Bibliography
Part 13 Index
Part 14 About the Author
...examines the 'narrative ambiguity' of the director's films, 'from the voice-over narration in early works to the blank faces and characters in later ones.'
Film Review, August 2007

...presents well-founded points...hardcore Kubrick fans and/or serious cinephiles will want to own [this book]...
Cinema Retro

Ambitious, concise, convincing, and tightly argued, this book suggests Sperb as a formidable scholar with an amazing career ahead of him. Essential.
CHOICE, Vol. 44, No. 09 (May 2007)

Sperb (communication and culture, Indiana U., Bloomington) analyzes the narrative ambiguity that is characteristic of films by Stanley Kubrick. He examines each of Kubrick's 13 feature-length films in chronological order, paying particular attention to the visual emphasis on blank, silent faces in his post-Lolita works. Kubrick's influence on Steven Spielberg's AI is also discussed. A complete filmography listing primary cast and crew is found at the back of the volume.
Reference and Research Book News, November 2006