Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Killer's Kiss. A-

While early Kubrick isn't nearly as powerful as everything else he did in his career, it still has that strange ability to mesmerize. This is largely due to Kubrick's brave stylistic choices, which were readily apparent in the 1950s when classical hollywood form was still pretty much the norm. There's something incredibly alluring about Kubrick's early work in which he tackles familiar gritty noir material but then adds visual touches that wouldn't become common until a decade later. I'm talking mainly about Paths of Glory (though that's actually a war film, and one of the best ever), The Killing, and Killer's Kiss. The former two are fairly standard titles in the Kubrick cannon, but Killer's Kiss has taken a spot in the back lot. This is not indicative of the movie's quality, but just due to it being only Kubrick's second narrative film (he started out making short documentaries), its familiar plot, and its overall slightness (nearly everything else Kubrick made was big in some way or another). It starts out much the same way Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity does, with a man telling us how terribly he's messed up and then his story being related in flashback. After getting the introduction out of the way, in which the hero is introduced as a struggling boxer (nothing new) and a girl living in his apartment as an unhappy dancer, Kubrick does something rather amazing: he throws out any major plot convolutions we come to expect because simply because it's a noir and spends the rest of the movie with the guy and the girl trying to get out of town to his uncle's ranch in Seattle. This is the idyllic destination to take these two new lovers away from their glum lives. Of course, things go wrong, but Kubrick still keeps things simple. For this is not a mystery, or a thriller, but a love story, the kind we get from men like Michael Mann where the beauty lies in the tragedy. Kubrick was a young filmmaker when he made this, and any young students of film should give this a watch just to see where he puts his camera and why. For a film made in 1955, it looks remarkably modern. 

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