Alpha-Omega

The opening and closing shot of every Kubrick feature film.

Observations:

Some of these films seem to be talking to each other.

KILLER’S KISS, which in Kubrick’s own revised filmography stands as his first feature (he suppressed FEAR AND DESIRE, top) is the only film ending with anything so conventional as a clinch, but way down at the end EYES WIDE SHUT ends with Nicole’s four-letter suggestion, thus closing a circle of a kind.

The forested hillsides of FEAR AND DESIRE seem to echo those of THE SHINING but if you’re looking at what the shot’s DOING, the real rhyme is between DR. STRANGELOVE and THE SHINING.

STRANGELOVE to CLOCKWORK ORANGE is the sequence I really stand by.

It’s sometimes hard to know what IS the last shot. BARRY LYNDON earns two images, the last live image and the Epilogue card which is clearly part of the film and makes a nice connection with LOLITA and THE SHINING. Likewise LOLITA gets the last shot of Mason, which loops back to the first scene (Peter Sellers is about to emerge and say “I’m Spartacus” just as we hastily fade out), and its final super-title. THE SHINING’s closing shot I’ve represented with two images because it’s a rostrum move.

SPARTACUS is an outlier — I chose to use the first shot of Saul Bass’s title sequence, because the first shot of the film proper, I believe, is by Anthony Mann before he was fired. And the hand makes a nice rhyme with LOLITA…

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6 Responses to “Alpha-Omega”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    I regard Marisa Berenson hesitating over the check before signing it as the last shot of “Barry Lyndon” (my favorite Kubrick) Including the end card is a great idea, however. “They are all equal now” is something I use all the time.

  2. “The long result of time.”

  3. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    Kubrick set a lot of store in editing, and he was of course a photographer with a special focus on formal symmetry. So I guess as an editor he was drawn to a kind of unity. The first and last shots are correlatives of first and last sentences or in poetry opening and closing stanzas.

    There’s also something else we need to keep in mind that given that editing relies on us to create narrative, the act of laying out opening and closing shots in this manner, even as stills is by itself a kind of narrative-creating process. By that I mean it’s our tendency to seek unity and connections when shown one image on top of another. And of course Kubrick planned other films in between that didn’t get made. So it’s hard to ignore the contingent element in all this. And Eyes Wide Shut was released after his death with sound mixing and other post-production not yet fully completed.

  4. Add in Kubick’s known tendency to trim films even after they opened. The Shining lost its closing scene, which might have altered how this
    page looks, so who knows what he might have done to EWS (I bet it’d be shorter).

  5. My understanding of the SHINING edit is that the deleted scene would have come between Jack’s frozen close-up and the push-in to the ball photo, so the ending would have been the same.

    I also wonder what he might have done with EWS. I think he uses the Ligeti piano piece at least one time too many (when Dr. Harford is reading the article in the cafe is the one that stands out).

  6. Yes, it becomes unintentionally comic, which might be a hard thing to spot of you’re not doing test screenings. I also find the last half hour very slow, and crack up when Polack says, “Yes. [huuuuuge pause] She was.” All stuff that might have been tweaked.

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