Sunday, 6 October 2013

2013: A Kubrickian Odyssey - Killer's Kiss

Throughout 2013, I shall be watching all of Stanley Kubrick's 13 feature films in chronological order. I'll discuss each film on here along with a handful of documentaries and short films. To read all the posts so far, click on the "Stanley Kubrick" tag at the end of this post.

Stanley Kubrick returned to the cinema screen, after the unfavourable experience of making Fear & Desire, with Killer's Kiss: a film noir about an ageing boxer who falls in love with his neighbour. Technically, the film is a vast improvement on the amateurish Fear & Desire, but there is sadly little else to recommend about Killer's Kiss.

The main problem is that there is nothing remotely interesting about the characters or the story. For all of its faults, Fear And Desire at least attempted to tell an interesting story; something that Killer's Kiss just doesn't do. Davey Gordon has little in his life worth fighting for; his modest boxing career is on a downward spiral and he spends his days doing very little. After losing his latest fight, he begins a relationship with his neighbour Gloria, a dancer who works at a club in the city. However, she is wary of the advances of her shady employer Vincent.

At a slim 67 minutes, the story progresses so hastily towards its conclusion that there is very little time to establish interesting characters. There's the goodie, there's the baddies and the damsel finds herself in need of saving. When Kubrick does make an attempt at adding character depth, he chooses one of the more incidental characters (Gloria) to do so.It's a strange ballet sequence with narration which felt even longer than the Vietnam flashback in Assassinator 2. Its inclusion makes more sense when you learn that the ballet dancer in this scene is Ruth Sobotka, who was Kubrick's partner at the time.

What saves Killer's Kiss from the film scrapheap is a handful of scenes and Kubrick's evident talents as a cinematographer. Kubrick manages to capture a sense of the time of day to many scenes, whether it be a bustling street at night or a chase across the streets and rooftops of a warehouse district (reminiscent of the rooftop scenes towards the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed).

That's all there is to say really. A slight improvement on Fear And Desire; it's certainly more watchable than the first film, but it is a far less interesting effort.

Up next: The Killing, a twisty heist thriller.

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