Let’s say you want to get a handle on Stanley Kubrick. Your task is simple: Beg, borrow, or rent Warner’s nine-disc Stanley Kubrick Collection, which brings together the films from 1962 on—all in remastered versions, many with new Dolby 5.1 soundtracks—plus the 142-minute documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. This is a rare single-filmmaker seminar, and it reveals that Kubrick, aside from being a brilliant craftsman and lifelong misanthrope, served as a metaphor for all ambitious moviemakers who move from daring precision to hollow perfectionism over the course of their careers.
For the full story, pick up his first three features, Killer’s Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956), and the brilliant antiwar film, Paths of Glory (1957), all from MGM. Then check out Criterion’s Spartacus (1960), a movie the director-for-hire disavowed but that more than merits attention. Finally, dig into the boxed set: Clamber past the lumpy Lolita (1962) and savor the Cold War follies of Dr. Strangelove (1964), a movie that shocked the world into a new death-rattle irony. Blow your mind out with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); it makes sense now, doesn’t it? Appreciate how A Clockwork Orange (1971) presaged the punk revolution with startling specificity. Loll in the beauty and cruelty of Barry Lyndon (1975), which, surprisingly, has aged like a good claret. Note the evidence of decline in the crowd-pleasing but sterile The Shining (1980). Reflect that Full Metal Jacket (1987) does, in fact, look like a Vietnam movie made by a man who hadn’t left England in years. Marvel at how Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is as behind the times as Strangelove was ahead.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but love him or hate him, this box is a master class in how a solitary-minded artist bent our most communal art form to his will, with results splendid and dire. Will there be a quiz? Certainly—in every movie that burns with something to prove.