A Conversation About Stanley Kubrick with Jan Harlan @ SXSW, March 15, 2009
A Conversation With Jan Harlan
Sunday, March 15th @ 3pm
Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
Elvis Mitchell, Host of The Treatment, KCRW-FM and Under the Influence
Jan Harlan, director of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures
Jan Harlan was a close confidante of the late Stanley Kubrick. Harlan was Kubrick's brother-in-law, and also served as executive producer on many of Kubrick's later films, including Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut. In 2001, Harlan directed Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, a documentary chronicling Kubrick's life and career.
A good portion of the conversation discussed Kubrick's last two movies, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. Harlan thought that the young soldiers in Full Metal Jacket were fighting without really knowing what they were doing. He thought that there was a similar situation happening now with the Iraq War.
Elvis Mitchell commented, "I read Matthew Modine's book where he talks about that entire process, and about a month or two into it, he felt like they were soldiers brought into this whole thing, and that they were part of Stanley's army."
Harlan called making Full Metal Jacket, "The best year of my life."
Mitchell and Harlan discussed Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, the book that was the inspiration for Kubrick's final movie, Eyes Wide Shut. Traumnovelle's dreamlike narrative served as the basis for the sexual explorations of Tom Cruise's character. Kubrick did not set out to make Eyes Wide Shut with Cruise in mind. Stanley Kubrick saw Nicole Kidman in To Die For, and noticed how Kidman could hold a close-up for a long time. Kubrick cast Kidman, then Cruise.
Harlan's son also worked on the film, taking the photographs that would help Kubrick replicate New York City on a London soundstage.
Said Mitchell, "Eyes Wide Shut is essentially trying to figure out what romance is."
Mitchell also diverged into the critical reception of Kubrick's films at length. Reviewers, according to Mitchell, have a habit of going back and reviewing Kubrick's previous movie instead of the movie at hand. Rather than reviewing Eyes Wide Shut, they would expound on Full Metal Jacket. Mitchell noted that Kubrick's movies are often first panned, then praised, and used Eyes as an example. 2001: A Space Odyssey had moviegoers lined up around the block in New York, despite Pauline Kael's notorious pan.
"Ideally, you should see the movie more than once," Harlan said of Eyes Wide Shut. "If you've only seen it once, see it again."
"I would say that about all of them," Mitchell added.
When asked if his idea of who Kubrick was changed after he made the documentary, Harlan answered, "What really suprised me is how much people liked his work. Everybody wanted to come out, even Jack Nicholson--he won't even come on camera to talk about himself! He didn't do it for me, he did it for Stanley. Woody Allen came, Martin Scorsese came. The only guy I didn't get was Marlon Brando. I guess he wanted to stay on his island. Everyone else who knew Stanley, who worked with him, wanted to come on."