Today’s needull is a book review of The Extraordinary Image: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and the Reimagining of Cinema by Robert P. Kolker. Kolker is known for his extensive studies in cinema and is a very well respected figure.
The treatment of women in Kubrick’s films can (and has) filled volumes—that astonishing scene in Killer’s Kiss (1955), in which scores of mute, naked female mannequins are mutilated in the midst of a fight between two men wildly swinging axes and spears can be read as a summary of every charge of misogyny ever leveled at film noir. And the connection between sex and death in Kubrick films goes back at least as far as Paths of Glory (1957), when one soldier realizes that he hasn’t had a “single sexual thought” since learning he had been condemned to face a firing squad. But once again The Extraordinary Image more commonly gestures than investigates. A summary of the sexual banter between Joker and Cowboy in Full Metal Jacket (1987), for example, was particularly unfulfilling, as this reader at least has always struggled with how to read that scene. Regrettably, Kolker does little more than describe the action. Yes, Joker’s sexually aggressive banter is accompanied, (incidentally and subtly), by “the fly on his shorts coming open,” but is this indicating a sexual relationship between the two men? The film (and this book) doesn’t say.