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David Cronenberg Says Stanley Kubrick Didn’t Understand Horror And That ‘The Shining’ Is Not “A Great Film”

David Cronenberg Says Stanley Kubrick Didn't Understand Horror And That 'The Shining' Is Not "A Great Film"

For whatever reason, Stanley Kubrick‘s “The Shining” has been a bit more scrutinized than usual in 2013. The documentary “Room 237” dredged up all sorts of fanciful, conspiratorial theories about the director’s supposedly “true” intentions behind the film, while Stephen King—promoting “Doctor Sleep,” the sequel to his horror classic —took another swipe at the 1980 adaptation, calling it “misogynistic” among other things. And now, David Cronenberg has weighed in with his thoughts on Kubrick’s chiller, and you might be surprised to learn he’s not a fan. 

Speaking with The Toronto Star about the TIFF exhibit “Cronenberg: Evolutions,” the director posited that not only are his films more personal than Kubrick, the filmmaker didn’t really understand the horror genre at all. “I think I’m a more intimate and personal filmmaker than Kubrick ever was,” Cronenberg shared. “That’s why I find ‘The Shining’ not to be a great film. I don’t think he understood the (horror) genre. I don’t think he understood what he was doing. There were some striking images in the book and he got that, but I don’t think he really felt it.”

The criticism of Kubrick’s films being emotionally cold or distant isn’t new, but we’d have to say, this might be the first time we’ve heard someone argue that he was an intentionally populist filmmaker. “In a weird way, although he’s revered as a high-level cinematic artist, I think he was much more commercial-minded and was looking for stuff that would click and that he could get financed,” Cronenberg opined. “I think he was very obsessed with that, to an extent that I’m not. Or that Bergman or Fellini were.”

We’d like to live in a world where Kubrick’s films are seen as big commercial prospects, but we’ll let you all debate that below. As for Cronenberg, his next very non-commercial, satirical movie about Hollywood starring John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, and Sarah Gadon is in post and according to the paper it “may” premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next year. 

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Idiot King

As the king of idiots I am quite ashamed of David’s complete lack of honesty beyond self-aggrandizement to postulate how much "better" of a filmmaker he is than the late great Kubrick, on behalf of idiots all over the world I hang my head in shame at this abasement of one of the greatest story tellers of all time


You must have been living under a rock if you think that Kubrick wasn't at all commercially minded. That's thr biggest myth of them all!! When John Landis used to meet with Kubrick, it's all he was interested in: how much money it would cost to make, how much it would make in return etc, etc. He wasn't interested in 'art' put it that way.


    @Jinny: Whenever a preproduction of a film takes place, a huge chunk of time is spent on budgeting. After all, you have to make sure that there’s enough money to get things done. Films cost money. Yes, they do. So, to say that Kubrick was all about money and using his concern with budget as evidence shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about.


    @Jinny: Whenever a preproduction of a film takes place, a huge chunk of time is spent on budgeting. After all, you have to make sure that there’s enough money to get things done. Films cost money. Yes, they do. So, to say that Kubrick was all about money and using his concern with budget as evidence shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about.


I'll tell you this. It's the only horror movie I've ever liked. So what does that say?


Is this dood being "ironical"? Kubrick understood more about how to scare people than most of the people in this genre all the way up to today. I don't even know where to begin disagreeing with such statements. His awareness of sound placement and quality. His knowledge of what it does to the human psyche to not be sure of what it saw at the limits of vision and what the mind does when it's on overload and presented with the absolutely absurd, such as the completely nonchalant ghosts appearing before Wendy while she's running and looking for Danny. The score, for crying out loud and the musical crescendos and how they extended the sense of dread.

A master of the genre in my opinion is someone who understands that there is nothing he can put on screen that is worse than what the mind can create given the right suggestion. The Shining is ALL about that. A profound sense of unease created by what's scariest of all – knowing something is not "wrong", but "un-right". Most in the genre still haven't got that figured out.

Just think about how freaky that scene in the Exorcist was when the priest walked in expecting to see Reagan and instead sees that mockery of his own mother. Every hair on my body stood up. Not cause it was so "scary", but because it was "un-right". Just didn't belong. I think most know what I mean.

Cory James

Wow… I just lost an immense amount of respect for Cronenberg… I always liked his films but where in the world does he get off saying this… especially since nobody bloody well asked! Kubrick IS the master of cinema, and will remain that for a long time, if not for ever. I just don't see anyone coming along to claim that crown. PT Anderson gets to wear it, but Stanley still owns it.

Jackson Hawley

David Cronenberg doesn't "get" anything. Outside of the great body horror effects, his movies are basically pseudointellectual posturing – much like his idol, Burroughs. Kubrick was someone with a classically "grand" mind, one that saw the bigger picture, but this idea that his movies are cold and impersonal is ridiculous. His movies are FILLED with a strong understanding of human emotion and psychology. His only sin is having to compete with a Hollywood machine that peddles a very easy, digestible, yet ultimately wrongheaded idea of what emotion is and how it operates.


It's a bit rich that Stephen King considers Kubrick's film misogynistic when his novel actually deserves this label more. The annoying maid who first sees the dead woman in the bathtub is referred to as a cunt and a quim (once by the saintly Dick Hallorann himself), and we are supposed to find it hilarious and disgusting when an elderly woman has a passing lustful thought about a bellhop. The dirty old man janitor Watson, however, is supposed to be a lovable old salt. And the Wendy in the book, like many wives and love interests in King's early novels, is a conventionally beautiful woman (there are many references to her legs and ass) who has improbably become involved with an average-looking and troubled man. As for Kubrick's interpretation of Wendy, I didn't it sexist–looks-wise, she matched up well with Nicholson (who is playing an ex-school teacher/struggling novelist, not a tycoon). If she is high strung and nervous throughout much of the film, well, that's what living with a deeply disturbed and abusive man does to you.


Cronenberg is right.And his comments doesn't make Kubrick a bad director. But states the fact that this particular film, The Shining, was bad. He was polite to say "not a great film". It was simply bad. King himself said "The real problem is that Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre."
Look at the documentary "Room 237" . Even the continuity errors are considered to be Kubrick's genius.


Congratulations, Cronenberg. You've succeeded in making yourself not only misguided, but also egotistical.

Andy (again)

An additional thought. Cronenberg may have been talking of "genre" and what in his mind constitutes a "horror" film. That kind of academic analysis in the creative world is sad and pathetic. People who develop or follow "rules" for genres do exercises in mediocrity. In the creative world there are no rules. Structure means nothing – it either works or doesn't. The film world is filled with walking mediocrities who will tell you a script is no good if it has three brads. The industry rule is two brads – top and bottom – you leave the middle hole empty. A creative film maker ignores all the rules he can afford to ignore.

Andy Halmay

I haven't seen any of Cronenberg's films so I wont get into a debate on comparatives, but I met him once and found him to be a very genial, gentle and reasonable man. I had started life as a performer and then moved on to Madison Avenue and the life of an entrepreneur and producer. Ironically, when a big deal fell apart, it was a return to performing for a couple of years that got me out of the hole. That would have been 1974 or 75. My agents shipped me up to Montreal to audition for a film. I had no idea who or what. When I arrived someone handed me a script without indicating which part I was to read for and ushered me into an empty room. I began to read the script and found it dreadful. A man came into the room looking for something and I asked him, "Are they really going to try to make a film out of this shit?" He smiled and said, "Oh, yes, this kind of stuff is very popular." A bit later I was ushered into another room where several people and this man were auditioning. They were joined an angry looking, huffing and puffing Ivan Reitman and then I discovered that the man I had met in the first room was Cronenberg. He must have changed because his current statement labels him a fool.

Gus Stone

Mr Cronenberg, you not Kubrick nor will you ever be. As simple as that.


I feel cronenberg is entittled tittled to his opinion. Kubrik is a master director as is cronenberg…but not everyone like kubrik films…like some people don't like cronenberg films. His opinions on kubrik won't change how I feel about cronenberg or kubrik. Way to go david for not being afraid to express yourself.


Cronenberg – I stopped taking you seriously this very moment.


I mostly watch The Shining for Jack Nicholson's facial expressions, I think they're hilarious.


Cronenberg makes weird films. Kubrick less so. Anyway who cares what Cronenberg thinks.

Leon V

Kubrick was an uncomproming auteur. He had commercial instincts, and luckily his vision and the taste of the audience mostly clicked. Twenty years ago, Cronenberg was much the same. Then his (or his audiences´) interest drifted and he started branching out, becoming a very capable, workmanlike director – rather detached from a vision or aesthetic signature. A curious thing, to happen to an artist. THE SHINING was cold, detached, but it worked perfectly for the material. Kubrick saw the match and nailed it.


Every time Kubrick made a film he closed down a particular genre for a period of time for all the other directors. No one ever had enough courage to release a movie of the same genre righ after Kubrick. This speaks for itself.


The main thing I enjoy about the film version of 'The Shining' is how transfixed I become every time I watch it. Everything about this film works for me. It's eeriness, the weirdness, the history of the hotel, the dream sequences, the 'shining' ability itself, the old woman in the tub, the ugly twins, the maze, the isolation, the son's strangeness, the awkward and somewhat simple wife, the loser husband who goes crazy, the bartender, and the friendly black guy who shouldn't have died all come together to create this totally odd, yet engrossing tale. I wouldn't call it a horror film, but it is a classic (for me) nonetheless. As for Cronenberg, well, his work has never really appealed to me personally (outside of the two films he and Viggo Mortenson made together a few years back) but, I feel he's entitled to his opinion either way. Interesting comments.


Sorry… The Shining was perfection in its distance. It is a feast for the intuitive.

The Monolith

When Cronenberg creates anything close to A Clockwork Orange, then he can criticise Kubrick as re "horror" or filmmaking in general. Just as all chef's are not equals, so it is for filmmakers. Kubrick's work was the height of contemporary cuisine, like a delicious meal that excites the senses and satisfies on a deep level. Whereas Cronenberg's work was a baloney sandwich.


I really enjoyed The Shining in spite of it not being like the novel. It was disturbing. Creepy. Quiet. I like its eeriness. As for the misogyny. I mean, I'm not sure I get that accusation. It's a story – his interpretation – and he chose to depict a certain kind of woman. It wasn't enough for me to be offended and I am a woman. Anyhoo, I remember digging some of Cronenberg. Neither director is a favorite, so I'll just appreciate what I can.


Meh. I just know that I could easily write a thesis on any Kubrick movie at any time because of how accessible his films are to analysis, whereas Cronenberg's work would take a lot more work and could probably be more fun.


I have to agree with Cronenberg, the film is a poor horror film, at least compared to "true" horror films. But that's simply because "The Shining" is *not* a horror film, and was never meant to be one. It's a spoof and satire of a classic horror film, from the first scene to the last.

When I first saw the film in a large theater, the seats were all full. Kubrick's marketing campaign began six months earlier, with ads saying nothing more than "Coming this June, the greatest epic horror movie in the history of motion pictures!" That was clue #1. Already aware of how little Kubrick liked to publicize his films before they were released, and even keeping the sets closed and the press far away, I already suspected he was putting us on. The man who gave us "Dr. Strangelove," one the the world's greatest war satires, had something up his sleeve again.

I remember sitting in that crowded giant-screen theater and being the only person who laughed out loud during a number of scenes – and not just the "Here's Johnny" one. Every scene, from the first to the last, was loaded with so many cliches from scary movies past, and with the in-your-face storyline and music force-feeding our fears, how could I not.

In hindsight, the only thing amazing about the movie is that to this day I don't recall anyone else even speculating about whether Kubrick was again putting us on. Even Stephen King doesn't get it. But hey, most people who saw "Borat" for the first time didn't get the satire either, same with many of the Coen Brothers' films. People often leave confused, not sure what the hell they just saw. Such is the subtlety of good satire.


Kubrick, you poor, poor dear. You just didn't "understand" horror. Horror isn't about existential dread and ambiguous encounters with demons real and / or imagined… It's about incessant gore-drenched sexual imagery and / or Jeff Goldblum melting a guy's hand with vomit…

I suspected it when he bitched about Nolan last year, and now this confirms it: David Cronenberg is an asshurt sour grapes vintner. He's the spiritual father of every faux-intellectual contrarian hipster prick film studies major. He could give Armond White lessons in this shit.

I anxiously await his inevitable "You know who else isn't all that great" smears on Hitchcock, Lang, and Murnau.


If the Naked Lunch ( his only view able film in my opinion ), is "Horror", he missed a bit himself.

Leonard Pollack

I always found Kubrick, however interesting, Way overrated. His films for the most part are badly acted , void of any sensuality, cold but beautifully mounted.I always preferred the work of Ken Russell. I prefer his rollercoaster rides as opposed to Kubricks slow pacing.


This article doesn't surprise me, since Cronenberg and Kubrick are polar opposites when it comes to filmmaking (at least that's my belief). Not a fan of Cronenberg's work; i've always found it rather ponderous, cluttered, and messy, with plenty of gratuitous gore. He would fail to understand the Kubrick style of horror – that yes, cold, understated, slowly building crescendo of unnerving images that make dread pool in your stomach. But King's statement i agree with entirely. Sitting here, at this moment, i cannot think of one film in which Kubrick showcased a strong, positive female character. He took the quietly resourceful and courageous Wendy from King's novel and turned her into a whiny, annoying nag; even making Shelley Duval do all that snuffling to make her less likeable. In Clockwork Orange, all the women were receptacles and objects – either rape victims, murder victims, doormats like Alec's mother, or even furniture, as in the Korova Milkbar where the beginning of the film is set. In Full Metal Jacket, all the female characters are prostitutes or victims. The list goes on….


one only has to watch king's version of the shining to realize what poor taste he has in films–not wild about cronenberg, either.


Not a huge Cronenberg fan, but THE DEAD ZONE is a much better movie than THE SHINING

Western Eyes

Cronenberg understands ridiculous uses of gore, not horror. E.g. Videodrome and the Fly.


If Cronenberg bashed Kubrick's 2001, I'm be right there with him. I can't back him on The Shining. Kubrick nailed it.


After reading The Shining SEVERAL times, one of my favorite King novels, I have to agree that the film adaptation completely sucked. None of the actors came even close to the character description. There were only a couple of "close but no cigar" scenes that resembled the novel. If Kubrick was not trying to do a horror movie then he should not have chosen a horror novel to make into a movie. Butchering someone else's work to the point that they creator has to negatively comment on it never means a good thing.

Ras The Exhorter

Having never been a fan of Cronenberg's work (even the potentially cool shit like eXistenZ could have been realized with a lot more emotional potency and done better with a more visionary director), he's certainly entitled to his opinion, but he read the movie wrong; it's not so much a horror film (consider its contemporaries) as much as an exploration of the implosion of a nuclear family (horrific in its own right) with supernatural overtones. He wasn't trying to do an extension of King's book, he was using King's story and framework to explore his own ideas.

The late John Calley would have told Cronenberg that Kubrick sort of had carte blanche when it came to his choice of projects, otherwise who would have greenlit Barry Lyndon (which is a singular film that is overly maligned and explores Kubrick's favorite things of man's inhumanity toward others and social climbing almost at an unparalleled level).

Also, Kubrick's films has a cultural icon status the Cronenberg can only dream about; that last waste of time and money, Cosmopolis, should have him in movie jail for the next decade. Cronenberg's work, for what he's saying, is perhaps too personal, hence the reason why it misses the mark much more often than not with the public. Sure, he has a POV and loves to explore violence on the human form, but his films are photographed for shit and the production design is hampered by lack of budget, which is a result of his inability to create material to generates lots of money.

I'm not a Kubrick-can-do-no-wrong fan, but his work is singular and his range is beyond impressive (when it Cronenberg going to successfully reach into other genres?)


Cronenberg has just made a fool of himself. He couldn't be more wrong about SK. #Fail #Hack

Miles Jackson the IVVVVX

Why Scatman Crothers got to die like that. Always the black man, always the black man (shaking head). Kubrick hadto give into the friendly black man who has some godly higher powers stereotype. He was all noble and shiiit and had 'the shining'. Shoulda be played by Morgan Freeman in the 2000s. That was some dumb shiiiit. Can I get someone to admit that much? More importantly, way his death scene was cut and edited it looked like Scatman was some sacrificial offering because noone wanted the little kid or duvall to get hurt. Kubrick's outlooks be coming out if you look at Scatman.

Chel E. Duval

Kubrick suxxx.


Jesus. The way most of the commenters on this article are talking about Kubrick, it's less appreciation than full on religious hero worship. No filmmaker, no artist, is a sacred cow beyond criticism. And EVERYONE has the right to criticize or look askance upon Kubrick's films. I say that as a fan.

Jason Torrey

I have almost all of Kubrick's films in my dvd collection, I have ZERO Cronenberg movies despite having seen a fair amount. I used to own The Dead Zone, but sold it. I have never parted with a Kubrick movie, in fact, I upgraded them from VHS to DVD and I intend on getting all of them on Blu-ray. Cronenberg does not have the material under his belt to say even one bad thing about Kubrick's body of work. You don't see M. Night Shyamalan criticizing Coen Brother's films!


What a douchebag. Firing upward weakly from his own mediocrity at Kubrick in the stratosphere of filmmaking.

Blown Away

I am a huge fan of Cronenberg. Videodrome is incredible. But! Talking down about Stanley Kubrick??? Are you serious David??? What were you thinking!


David Cronenberg… what a twat!

Killer Shrew

Cronenberg states regarding Kubrick's The Shining: "…the filmmaker [Kubrick] didn't really understand the horror genre…"

Um… I don't think Cronenberg really understands Kubrick… Kubrick wasn't trying to make "a horror film" … at least not a horror film as is traditionally understood… Quite frankly, a "Kubrick Film" is a genre in itself. Furthermore, while I realize that "Room 237" has some outlandish and silly claims in it, Kubrick's "The Shining" does hold some incredibly powerful symbolism and underlying meaning to it (which I won't get into here)… it's not just there to try and scare you with its surface story like a standard horror film… the changes from the book that are in it (both additions and deletions) were intentionally made to tell a symbolic story underneath its seemingly standard horror story…

It's a mistake to overly compare King's "The Shining" to Kubrick's "The Shining"… they are two very different animals… I love both of them but pretty much independent of each other…

tristan eldritch

What's the deal with the anti-spamming policy around here? Tired to post a comment with no links or nothing and it wouldn't print.

Gemini Saga

Again, with this useless ‘Novel versus Adaptation’ debate. I thought that it's been clear long ago that Kubrick's movie is more than just an adaptation of a great horror novel.

I don't think that a genius like Kubrick would be interested in being in the shadow of King's art. He transcended that, whether you believe in the theories in Room 237 or not, and whether he understood the Horror genre is irrelevant; Kubrick's The Shining is still unique and a masterpiece.


I just wonder if DC ever expressed this opinion about SK and THE SHINING, in particular, while SK was still alive…

Robert H. Gwinn

First of all I respect both Kubrick and Cronenberg as film makers. I must also say that if Kubrick's SHINING had been a stand alone film completely independent from source material prior to the screenplay, I might think it was a masterpiece. That said, it wasn't. While visually striking and creepy enough, it's failed to capture the spirit of King's novel at all. It is an awkward film that never really delivers on the haunted aspect of the hotel. If it were a story simply about a man going stir crazy locked up with his family all winter, it worked wonderfully, but it isn't. I love almost all of Kubrick's films, I consider myself a fan of his work, but Lolita, A Clockwork Orange, and Dr. Straingelove are much better films. My opinion. As for people who can think of no better response than to get personally offended on Kubrick's behalf and start slinging insults at Mr. Cronenberg (Who is right by the way) pull it together and make rational arguments or shut up.


There is a spirituality to Kubrick's films- a nod to something greater than all of us- that is far more powerful than intimacy.

John Coffman

Cronenberg would NOT know narrative if he stumbled over it. My humble opinion.

John Coffman

Above everything else, Kubrick was a story-teller. It may seem an odd choice to cast Shelly Duval as Jack Nicholson's wife, but she was there to play the anti-heroine. It's not misogyny. It irony in the context of fiction. Cronenberg would know narrative if he stumbled over it.

Marc Schenker

There wasn't an intelligent person who saw that movie that didn't walk out disappointed. Kubrick's take on "horror" maybe have more "paranormal." Or something else entirely. You can't be scarred of something you don't understand.


Cronenberg muddies his argument by getting defensive.

First, he is right. Kubrick probably didn't understand horror or suspense. That's a fairly good topic to debate. "The Shining" is a great, horror classic that Kurbrick didn't really get. In the end, he made a great movie, but it isn't a great scary movie. The only scares are the cheap "jump" scares. It has images and moments and performances that are breathtakingly superb, but it is not a scary horror movie.

Next, his Kubrick's films weren't very personal, but this isn't a big sin and gets into Cronenberg being defensive for no good reason. It's an easy attack – one made before – and only makes Cronenberg look insecure.

Finally, Kubrick was not an idiot when it came to making movies. He created great works of art around popular source material. People were out of their mind with excitement when the trailer for The Shining came out because the book was very popular. However, he took that and made something different out of them – something not expected, and in some cases not really wanted. So, it may be fair to say he was attune to what was popular, he certainly shouldn't be confused with a populist filmmaker.

On a side note, however, as bitchy as Cronenberg might be, he's not nearly as bitchy as Kevin, the blog writer. The man who made Videodrome, Scanners, Rabid, The Dead Zone, The Brood, Dead Ringers, The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises deserves a little more respect, especially around the topic of horror filmmaking.

Alan B

Yes, but what does Cronenberg think of the 3D cinematography in 'The Shining'? After all, he read an article about the film and doesn't have to see the film in order to criticize it and it's the reporters' fault for quoting him out of context blah, blah, blah …


A lot of folks here need to chill out with the Cronenberg hate-fest. Cronenberg is simply giving his opinion. It's not like suddenly – 'magically' – Kubrick's The Shining will now suck simply because someone said it's not a great film. You should note that Stephen King – you know, the guy who wrote the book, – hates the movie version of The Shining.


DC says that Kubrick worried about getting financing for his next films and was too commercially minded. It's not true. He had carte blanche at Warners and did as he pleased. Also, as for cold and remote, Kubrick was absolutely Capra compared to Cronenberg's bloodless nonsense.


Cronenberg dude, shut up and sit down. You sound like a 15 year old pressed mess. Just because your movies suck and have failed at the BO doesn't give you the right to bash the work of others who have been clearly very successful. Go and kiss your twilight boy.


Cronenberg dude, shut up and sit down. You sound like a 15 year old pressed mess. Just because your movies suck and have failed at the BO doesn't give you the right to bash the work of other who have clearly been successful. Go and kiss your twilight boy.


Pretentious as F*ck.


What a pretentious crook! He bashed every single famous directors in HW, but his movies are shit.


Shut the F off David Cronenberg. When your movies are continuing flop at the BO and had bad reviews, you have no right to judge other directors.


Ha – more people have seen THE SHINING than have the entire Cronenberg collection combined…


Cronenberg is an expert at using reverse psychology. Any time one of his movies doesn't make back it's budget, or just flat out flops, he falls back on the his past history of bashing others for being too commercial. Kind of ingenious. I do think he went too far here, though. Having seen many Cronenberg films and many of Kubrick's, I am very glad it was Kubrick who directed The Shining.

John Boyd

Kurbick is not a phony visionary. I don't believe the spike in his popularity amongst fanboys is a fluke, I think it was the case of an artist being ahead of his time.

Who thinks 1oo years from now The Shining is going to be considered anything but a classic? Are these guys kidding?


Cronenberg is going to knock on someone for being "commercial-minded" and looking for financing while he keeps hiring that no talent loser from the Twilight movies. Spare me.


So arrogant …

he's not even jabbing at Kubrick as much as at the general public who loves the film "The Shining" – He's basically saying, "Guys, you just don't understand … you don't know what a horror film is … my films are horror films. Trust me, I know." You can pretty much bet that anytime an artist states that another artist doesn't "understand" how something is done, they are hopeless in their judgement – after all, who can provide such a definitive idea of what any art form "should be", without being a total jackass.

But I'd be upset if I were CRONENBERG or KING too … an entire lifetime dedicated largely to horror, and almost their entire body of work is overshadowed by one Directors stab at the genre. It hurts to be totally overshadowed. Even more sad for CRONENBERG is his inability to make a film that is not blindly isolated in the time period he made it. Even his best ventures, such as VIDEODROME, have this unfortunate syndrome.

Maybe they can adapt KINGS latest, and make something as memorable as "The Dead Zone" together … Wait, you mean nobody remembers the dead zone? Case in point. These guys could have learned something from KUBRICK:

Sometimes you're better off not saying anything at all.

Taylor Jones

Kubrick's films probably weren't terribly personal. What of it? He was concerned mainly with the outside world and universal themes.

Cronenberg isn't obsessed with his box-office receipts probably because he can get get his microbudgeted films financed. Kubrick's films were definitely enterprises and he was smart and responsible enough to know how to make a film that operates textually and subtextually. For the films he wanted to make, it was obviously in his best interest to pay attention to how they performed financially. That doesn't make him any less of an artist; filmmaking isn't the best medium to bloodlet on the canvas.

W/r/t "The Shining": Maybe Kubrick wasn't making a horror film as such. Horror film aficionados are a weird defensive clan, but Kubrick never exactly adhered to convention. His film might be in the "Horror" section bet good luck distilling it into genre, as many, Cronenberg too apparently, are wont to do.


Room 237 was awesome, if your brain doesn't go into spasms of denial at the mention of the moon landings being faked.

Leigh Richert

Yes, even the great Stanley Kubrick can be objectively criticized. I don't have a right to do it, the author of this article doesn't have a right to do it (as wisely doesn't try), and the guy named "Sand" who wrote the comment below me doesn't have a right to do it (nor does anybody he knows or ever met). As a matter of fact, I could count on my left hand the few people in the world who do have a right to do it. And one of those people is Cronenberg.


Cronenberg here comes off as one of those bitter, jealous filmmakers who knock others for possessing something they don't have. For someone who "didn't understand horror", Kubrick's The Shining sure has entered the all-time annals as a movie that scared the pants off more people than Cronenberg's "body horror" movies ever will.


I wish Cronenberg would have elaborated on what he means by Kubrick failing to understand the horror genre. That statement can mean anything, which is to say it means nothing. I'll also say I don't think being a "high-level cinematic artist" and being "commercial-minded" are necessarily incongruent. I'm especially hesitant at accepting this argument when "commercial-minded" is used as an insult, as Cronenberg seemingly does. Someone like Hitchcock or Hawks or Ray were seemingly fairly radical for their era, but I'm certain they were commercial-minded as well. I think it's worth appreciating Kubrick came of age as a filmmaker in the mid-1950s when, for lack of a better phrase, un-commercial cinema wasn't even viable. Further, whatever the artistic merits of Dr. Strangelove or 2001 or Barry Lyndon, it's clear those are unusual films and not just the works of someone trying to make box office gold. None of this is to say I have no reservations with Kubrick's work (though I vastly prefer Kubrick to Cronenberg), and my reservations are probably most significant with "The Shining" and "A Clockwork Orange", but I just don't find Cronenberg's critiques particularly enlightening.

Also, I think it's absurd to suggest Kubrick's films aren't personal. His films are so mannerist how could they not be? Further, I've always thought the claim his films were "cold" was misguided, though I'll agree they are distant, which comes from Kubrick's tendency to limit showing his characters' interiority – he's quite purposefully distancing the spectator from the character's psychology. Like Resnais, the emotion comes through the formal play. Just off the top of my head, the austerity of the life on the shuttle scenes in 2001 brilliantly capture the characters' bitter loneliness and their detachment from others, for example.


I like (some) Cronenburg movies, but I'm sorry this is like Billy Idol trying to critique Beethoven and anyone who really gives a damn about the art of cinema probably knows this. Cronenburg should spend less time trying to talk himself up at the expense of dead masters who can't knock him off his high horse, and start making real films again.


i luv jagernauth lolz


Bottom line was that Kubrick was incredibly passionate about movies – all aspects of the industry and art form. It's a shame that his cold and distant visual style doesn't seem to gel with that passionate approach, and that's the reason why many people knock him. If his films weren't personal, there is no way he would have spent so many years on each… The only thing that drives that sort of obsessive dedication is passion.


“I think I’m a more intimate and personal filmmaker than Kubrick ever was,”

I don't think that many people will objectively dispute this, though I also think that Cronenberg has never come close to matching Kubrick's mastery over the medium. Love The Shining but I do understand the point he's making.


Cronenberg isn't wrong. Kubrick was obsessed with how his films did financially, how they were marketed, what screens they played on, etc. From Michael Herr's short book on Kubrick:

"He’d say that when he was younger and people used to ask him why he became a movie director, he’d tell them, Because the pay was good. He was excited by the roar of the propellers as big money took off and went flying through the system, circulating and separating into fewer and larger pockets, even if those pockets were not always his own; he just liked knowing that it was going on out there. He had great respect for the box office, if not the greatest respect, and found something to admire in even the most vile movie once it passed a hundred million. For him, that kind of success always produced some kind of wonderful/horrible aura, Vox Populi, a reflection of a meaningful fragment of the culture that he contemplated so ardently. Stanley never was one of those middle-class American Jewish men who are afraid of success.

He loved the biz, the industry, the action he observed day and night from his bridge; all those actors and directors and projects, all the dumb energy endlessly turning over in the studios and the P.R. that came with each new product; he loved being a part of it from his amazing remove, and in terms of being a player, he didn’t see himself as better or worse, higher or lower, than any of them, all of them in play together, playing toward commerce and art, big expensive art and works of art for the cash register or, as I’ve sometimes thought in his case, art films with blockbuster pretensions."

terry tee

Clearly most the people commenting in this thread do not understand the horror genre. Am glad David Cronenberg did. Kubricks films hold little to no meaning IMHO. Cronenbergs early works are good but after this he kind of lost interest for me also. My main issue with Kubrick is the poor representation of the novels he interpreted within what I have always found as depressingly boring films. He seemed to have left this job up to the obsessive fanboys who justify the repurchasing of the same dozen or so movies each time there reissued on blue ray, only so they can place them on there mantle piece like it’s some sort of medal in cinema Olympics.(must admit he had genius marketing) Fritz Lang was far more meaningful, entertaining and engaging than both of these overrated directors.


No denying that Kubrick was a master of his craft, in retrospect I lost faith in him because he jeopardized his true artistry and vision for something else. Sure those sets look great but at what expense? I mean certainly judge a film as a final product but maybe how it came to be and who is selling it to US? It is still a low blow and perhaps Cronenberg didnt understand Kubrick..or he sees someone who gambled with their morals and vision for a bigger, better, set. I personally have more respect for someone like DC or like other mavericks before him that stayed true to their artistic vision and went a “less commercial” route to ensure that their vision not be tainted over the all-time.

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