"Maybe it begins by taking life too serious..." All of Stanley Kubrick's apprenticeship in still photography and Pathe documentaries goes into this dense Großstadtsinfonie, a jumble of expressive seediness with a little tale of romance and violence floating in the background. The imagery takes off from Hopper and Weegee, the prizefighter (Jamie Smith) paces in his flat and peers into a fishbowl, not quite yet thirty but evidently "one long promise without fulfillment." His neighbor from across the way (Irene Kane) works at the Pleasureland ballroom, pawed by her boss (Frank Silvera) while the boxer takes a pummeling on the telly. (The doubling-effect of flesh spectacles has the defeated palooka watching another screen within the screen, the worn dancer undressing by her window.) A ten-second nightmare (a barreling POV drive with buildings on both sides of the frame, filmed in negative stock) is nothing less than a rough sketch for the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the damaged dame's family remembrance (ballerinas and slashed wrists) is effectively skewered in Lolita. Underworld menace further endangers the fragile connection, the hero recalls it all while waiting in Penn Station, "sort of an involved story." New York harmonies, an album of back alleys, subways, staircases, rooftops and warehouses. Here his own writer, cinematographer and editor, Kubrick is already set on taking the medium's planes apart: A glass is hurled at a mirror so that the camera's eye is itself shattered, a jostle of fire axe and spear settles matters before an audience of mannequin faces and torsos and hands. (The Welles of The Lady from Shanghai is the presiding spirit.) Escape to Seattle, frisky mooks on the sidewalk, the doll on the heroine's bedpost. Shoestring Times Square in time morphs into Eyes Wide Shut's studio fabrication of Greenwich Village, the same hope for frayed lovers nearly five decades apart. black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce