Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Killer's Kiss: Casual Friday Kubrick

God bless Criterion. They only handle movies that impress them (mostly), they really heap on the special features. Plus they had a half-price sale on Valentine's Day. I thought that I picked up four movies that I always wanted to have on Blu-Ray, but it turns out they sent me five! To whit: if you're interested in owning Stanley Kubrick's heist-caper film The Killers let me sweeten the deal by telling you that among the extras is a beautiful transfer of Kubrick's 2nd feature Killer's Kiss.

Killer's Kiss is best described as a kind of minimalist thriller; a story about three characters, shot in black and white, coming in at an economical 67 minutes. Kubrick notwithstanding, it's not a particularly good movie. If anything, it plays like the work of a guy who wanted to make a movie and was willing to use any old story to do it. Boy (washed up prizefighter) meets girl (dance hall "hostess") and falls for her after scaring away her boyfriend and boss (creepy older minor-league mobster). But the mobster won't give the girl up.

Most of the action takes place within a flashback of the prizefighter's previous 48 hours, and during that flashback there is another flashback filling in the girls backstory. Being Kubrick, the whole things is very, very well photographed. More so when you consider that he was director, writer, cinematographer and editor as well. The compositions are sharp, the use of light, shadow and contrast is eye-popping. And the story moves at a quick clip, hampered only by the problem of characters who think like movie characters rather than people. And talk like, well, like nobody who ever lived. It's probably this movie that convinced Kubrick to start paying other people to write his dialog. Weirdly, he mostly chose novelists but I guess it worked out for him.

I think the most fascinating thing about this movie is that it's almost completely Kubrickian except for one major thing: he didn't have the budget or time to do retakes. The thing you look for in Kubrick movies is the eerie gloss he brings to scenes by using the 50th take. This is an off-the-cuff Kubrick. It's casual Friday Kubrick. It's like The Shining directed by William "One Shot" Beaudine. And those actors, frankly, they could have benefited from another 48 takes or so.

Worth seeing, especially either in the context of The Killing or of this, if you can find it. Check it out.

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