fbpx
Monday, July 6, 2020

Stanley Kubrick: Subliminal Jew

https://jewishjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/jj_avatar.jpg
Karen Lehrman Bloch
Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic; author of The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World (Doubleday) and The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty (Harper Design); Editor of International Political Affairs at The Weekly Blitz; and curator of the book and exhibition Passage to Israel (Skyhorse).

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” stated German philosopher Theodor Adorno.

Jews did, of course, create all types of art after World War II, even works of great beauty. But what about the young Jewish artists who came of age right after the Holocaust?

Stanley Kubrick was born in the Bronx in 1928. His maternal grandmother spoke Yiddish, but his home was not religious. (He once said he was “not really a Jew, but just happened to have two Jewish parents.”) 

Yet Kubrick certainly felt the awkwardness of being an outsider, a theme that turned up frequently in his films. He confronted blatant anti-Semitism — he was barred from restaurants and hotels in the South and was denied a table in Vermont. Even Hollywood was far from receptive early on. “Get that little Jewboy from the Bronx off my crane,” famed cinematographer Russell Metty once grumbled.

Kubrick’s observant sense of the outsider no doubt fueled the innovative brilliance of his early photographs. A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, “Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs,” focuses exclusively on Kubrick’s early work as a photographer for Look magazine. In 1945, at just 17, he sold his first photo to the magazine — an image of a dejected newsstand vendor the day after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

In the exhibition’s 130 images, you can see Kubrick’s uncanny artistic sensibility, finding inspiration in New York’s characters and settings. An acute observer of human interaction, Kubrick was brilliant at capturing the grit and dark glamour of the city — nightclubs, street scenes, sporting events — and trained his eye to capture poignant moments. He spent five years at the magazine, until he began work on his first independently produced documentary, “Day of the Fight.”

The exhibition’s curators claim  Kubrick’s photography laid the technical and aesthetic foundations for his iconic films. In terms of framing, lighting and composition, that would appear to be the case. There is even a poetry to some of them, however dark.

In a new book, “Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual,” author Nathan Abrams asserts that if you look closely enough, the tension between being a cultural and religious Jew turns up frequently in Kubrick’s work. 

Kubrick consistently worked with Jewish writers and actors. In general, Kubrick obfuscated the Jewishness of some of his characters, but expanded the roles that were “coded” for Jews. “2001: A Space Odyssey” plays with the Bible, Jewish liturgy and kabbalah. And Abrams argues “Eyes Wide Shut” is Kubrick’s most Jewish film, adapted from a Jewish author and heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud. 

But what’s most apparent in Kubrick’s films is the extraordinary effect the Holocaust had on him. According to Abrams, Kubrick read every word he could find on the subject. He became obsessed with darkness, perversity and evil, and with what it took for a soul to go from light to dark, for humanity to die on the inside.

Nazi or Holocaust references turn up frequently in his films. Out of nowhere in “Lolita” the title character shouts “Sieg Hiel!” at her mother with a Nazi salute. “Dr. Strangelove” is about the mundane processes of mass murder. “Full Metal Jacket” sports Naziesque generals. Kubrick’s films are filled with explosives, gunfire, firing squads and bombs.

Did the Holocaust destroy Kubrick’s own soul? There is little beauty — poetry — in Kubrick’s films. He ended up fulfilling Adorno’s most famous quote.

For the last 20 years of his life (he died in 1999, at 71), Kubrick worked on “Aryan Papers,” based on Louis Begley’s “Wartime Lies,” about a Jewish boy pretending to be Catholic to survive the war. But he was never able to finish it and was known to be very depressed when working on it. 

This may have been for the best. A Kubrick Holocaust movie would probably have been unbearable to watch.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic. 

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

50% of Jews in Switzerland Say They Experienced Anti-Semitism

In a recent survey, approximately half of the Jewish residents in Switzerland said they have experienced some form of anti-Semitic abuse over the past...

UberEats Ends Delivery of Toronto Restaurant Products Over ‘Zionists Not Welcome’ Social Media Post

UberEats has ceased delivering all products from a Toronto restaurant after the restaurant posted on its Instagram page that Zionists aren’t welcome. Foodbenders, which serves...

Beth Chayim Chadashim Welcomes Rabbi Jillian Cameron

She will lead the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue.

Farrakhan Calls ADL CEO ‘Satan’ in July 4 Address

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt the devil during his July 4 address. Farrakhan’s speech, which lasted nearly...

HBO Doc ‘Showbiz Kids’ Exposes the Dark Side of Child Stardom

In his HBO documentary “Showbiz Kids,” Alex Winter interviews former child stars about the pitfalls, pressures and price of fame.

Home Shalom Monday Message #15

Home Shalom promotes healthy relationships and facilitates the creation of judgement free, safe spaces in the Jewish community. Home Shalom is a program of...

Pandemic-Stricken Nonprofits Awarded L.A. Jewish Community Foundation Grants

In the face of a pandemic that has taken lives and livelihoods, charities and nonprofits across Los Angeles have been forced to increase their...

I’ve Applied to Over 100 Jobs With No Offers. This is What I Learned

At precisely 9:25 every morning, I go through a daily ritual. I open my Gmail and scan my inbox for a promising subject line. My...

Simply Splendid Summer Salads

Christopher Columbus set sail in August 1492, three days after the deadline set by the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion or forced conversion of...

Pandemic Times Episode 66: Where is America headed?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A conversation with Larry Greenfield on the winds of change roiling through the nation. How do we manage...

Culture

Beth Chayim Chadashim Welcomes Rabbi Jillian Cameron

She will lead the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue.

HBO Doc ‘Showbiz Kids’ Exposes the Dark Side of Child Stardom

In his HBO documentary “Showbiz Kids,” Alex Winter interviews former child stars about the pitfalls, pressures and price of fame.

Simply Splendid Summer Salads

Christopher Columbus set sail in August 1492, three days after the deadline set by the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion or forced conversion of...

‘Israel Story’ Podcast Premieres Human Interest Tales for Pandemic Times

“Israel Story” presents a series of biweekly episodes called “Alone, Together” that reflect the COVID-19 pandemic experience. 

Russell Crowe Asked Jared Kushner for Advice on How to Portray Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes

Crowe said he asked Kushner for the advice at Hugh Jackman’s 50th birthday party.

Latest Articles
Latest

50% of Jews in Switzerland Say They Experienced Anti-Semitism

In a recent survey, approximately half of the Jewish residents in Switzerland said they have experienced some form of anti-Semitic abuse over the past...

UberEats Ends Delivery of Toronto Restaurant Products Over ‘Zionists Not Welcome’ Social Media Post

UberEats has ceased delivering all products from a Toronto restaurant after the restaurant posted on its Instagram page that Zionists aren’t welcome. Foodbenders, which serves...

Beth Chayim Chadashim Welcomes Rabbi Jillian Cameron

She will lead the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue.

Farrakhan Calls ADL CEO ‘Satan’ in July 4 Address

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt the devil during his July 4 address. Farrakhan’s speech, which lasted nearly...

HBO Doc ‘Showbiz Kids’ Exposes the Dark Side of Child Stardom

In his HBO documentary “Showbiz Kids,” Alex Winter interviews former child stars about the pitfalls, pressures and price of fame.

Hollywood

Russell Crowe Asked Jared Kushner for Advice on How to Portray Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes

Crowe said he asked Kushner for the advice at Hugh Jackman’s 50th birthday party.

Ice Cube Denies Report He Ordered Entourage to Beat up a Rabbi

Above the letter he wrote “Don’t play with me. This is just phase one.”

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 66: Where is America headed?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A conversation with Larry Greenfield on the winds of change roiling through the nation. How do we manage...

Pandemic Times Episode 65: Do Jewish Comics Fight Anti-Semitism?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In honor of comedy legend Carl Reiner, we talk about the art and unique power of...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x