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by Casey Cipriani
March 31, 2014 10:51 AM
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Stanley Kubrick's Longtime Producer Trashes 'Room 237' and Lists 'Eyes Wide Shut' As His Favorite Kubrick Film

Tell me about the Kubrick exhibit you've put together. 

The exhibit is fantastic. The whole exhibition was created because of the film institute in Frankfurt. We were very resistant because why Germany? Kubrick really had nothing to do with Germany; it should have really been New York or London where such an exhibition should open because these were his two cities. But nobody came from New York and nobody came from London to this very day. So Frankfurt pushed very hard, and finally the federal government came and guaranteed certain funding because they thought that Kubrick - it was irrelevant that he was American or lived in England, he was a world artist like Picasso or Beethoven, it didn't matter. He was a really important artist of his generation. I'm sure it will come back to America. But it should really come to New York. But nobody wants it.

Is there a lot of the "Napoleon" work in it?

"Napoleon" is very much presented in that exhibition. And of course there's this book on "Napoleon" in the exhibit there's this Taschen book, I think it's the only book made about a film that has never been made!

How come it never came together?

That's a question for film studio executives to decide because they have to evaluate, quite rightly, the cost of doing it versus the potential audience, and I cannot judge this. Right now we are talking about maybe a television series; that would be the solution, no doubt.

Especially now since TV is so good.

Absolutely. Television is now the answer, there's no doubt about it. Finally it may come into it's own.

'The Shining'

You have a very famous uncle. (Harlan's uncle was the infamous Veit Harlan, who directed the Nazi propaganda film "Jew Suss.")

Yeah he was, I don't know much about him, but he was very famous in Germany. He did some schlock films, some terrible movies. I can't tell you much about it I would have to Google it like you. 

But my parents were opera singers, both of them. I grew up with music, with classical music, that's my home territory. I like great composers; it was one of the first things that brought me together with Kubrick because I brought to him "Thus Spoke Zarathustra." I came for Christmas to England, and he said to me [of "2001" A Space Odyssey,"] "The music I don't really like yet. Do you have anything that is really great, and comes to an end, and is not too long?" So I brought a whole stack of LP's and one of them was "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and he loved it instantly. He was already taken by the title. It suggests something which is spiritual. He liked that because his film actually was quite a spiritual film. "2001" takes a big bow to the unknown or the creator of the universe. Kubrick was not a religious guy at all, but he was very respectful to life and to the fact that we know nothing. And we are surrounded by miracles. He was an agnostic.

That was always a sideline of what I did later, I suggested music. I didn't choose it, I suggested it. He knows what he likes; he was very musical himself. He was very interested from jazz to contemporary to Ligeti, which he used three times. Ligeti in "The Shining" and Penderecki. "Dies Irae" by Berlioz is an interesting example because the beginning of the film looks like it's National Geographic but it's the music that tells you there's something wrong here.

You do a lot of teaching now; what is your biggest piece of advice that you give to students?

You've got to love it. You've got to love what you're doing because why should anybody else love it if you don't yourself? This goes for all of the elements. You've got to love your script; you have to really have passion for wanting to tell a story. It's a difficult task because you know many students just have to make a short film as part of their studies and it’s a big demand.. But on the other hand most of these films are also not interesting. So it's tough. I'm not saying it's easy. You have to love it and this is something I really love from Kubrick, he would not use music he didn't love. Now comes the question of what fits. Let's talk about music, what fits? Music fits if the director loves it. Does a Viennese waltz fit as space music for a futuristic film? Of course it doesn't. If you love it enough and that's what you want to do then it fits. This is artistic freedom, yeah? Art is not about being realistic. Art is about being real. Big difference.

The video of the panel, which addresses even more topics, is posted below, courtesy of BIFF and filmmaker Robert Zuill.


  • T. Reed | April 1, 2014 7:10 PMReply

    It's funny and surprising sometimes to hear what people who work on films actually think about them. Never saw Room 237, but you know what WAS idiotic was "Eyes Wide Shut" - 3 hours of my life I can't get back. Felt like someone else came along and decided how the movie should end after he died. I was expecting to hear the credits roll with bad comedic trope music. For me, Kubrick did not go out on a high note with that film. And I don't think the extreme "method" Kubrick put Cruise through worked at all for this film...ironically (as if a delayed reaction) Cruise seemed to get something out of it that he applied in his next film (and best performance of his life IMHO) in Magnolia.

  • Charles | April 1, 2014 8:02 AMReply

    Harlan's own documentary on Kubrik 'A Life in Pictures' is very stylish and informative once you get past the fact that it's narrated by Tom Cruise.

  • Charles | April 1, 2014 8:00 AMReply

    'Room 237' isn't really about Kubrik. It's about projection of the Self onto a luminous canvas. The only thing it has to do with Kubrik is that 'The Shining' turned out to be such a magnet for slightly obsessive personalities. In that sense, it's about religion.

    It could have been any film: I imagine you could have found many more people with similar ideas about a more overtly profound film like '2001' but there are probably those who have had strange revelations about 'Fantasia'.

  • jim emerson | March 31, 2014 9:31 PMReply

    What makes the obsessive fantasies of "Room 237" patently "idiotic" is simply their indisputable illogic. It's one thing to trace the Apollo 11 references, for example, but quite another to twist them into Kubrick's personal apology for "faking" moon landing footage, and dragging Kubrick's wife into the conspiracy plot as well. That "theory" bases its premise on its unsupported conclusion, and there's not only no evidence that Kubrick did, in fact, fake moon landing video, but also no actual indication that "The Shining" had anything to do with it. The Native American stuff is right there on the surface of the movie -- not even buried as deeply as the sacred Indian burial ground in
    "Poltergeist" a year later (and that was a horror movie cliche long before). It's a shame people don't know what "critical thinking" is. But is that the subject of "Room 237"? Maybe. Where's the evidence in the film itself?

  • mark | March 31, 2014 6:28 PMReply

    I think everyone defending "Room 237" on this page are the same one person, quite honestly.

  • Todd Ford | March 31, 2014 3:58 PMReply

    I think his reaction to Room 237 is dumb. Seriously. The director waited until Kubrick was dead to make it? WTF? He must not have seen it. It's about how far people with VCRs and too much free time are capable of crawling into their navels. It's hardly about The Shining at all and certainly nothing Kubrick would've even considered suing over.

  • az | March 31, 2014 2:37 PMReply

    Clearly Room 237 was woefully misguided to believe Kubrick was anything deeper than a charlatan. Harlan says "The Shining" was a walk in the park in comparison, because it's easy, you can do whatever you like. Nothing has to make sense, it doesn't matter you can do what you like." And so Harlan exposes himself and Kubrick, the only reason folk have conjured up such dense, impossible, wonderful themes around the movie is because Kubrick was held in (and exploited) a near mythological esteem, consequently all of his films had to be about something hugely important. Wizard of Oz time, the guy was an over feted, style obsessed phony with nothing to say other than his own need for stylistic indulgence. The irony is that it seems to be the fans of The Shining who have turned out to be the imaginative conjurers of dreams, not Kubrick.

  • Casey Cipriani | March 31, 2014 3:40 PM

    Ironically enough, Kubrick always hated The Wizard of Oz :)

  • Jonathan Rosenbaum | March 31, 2014 2:37 PMReply

    The film would be worth defending if it bothered to distinguish between legitimate/serious and crazy/frivolous interpretations. By refusing to discriminate between the two, it implicitly trashes criticism as a rational pursuit. So Jan Harlan is right.

  • Clark Gerardo | March 31, 2014 1:45 PMReply

    I think Room 237 is an incredible documentary about film fanaticism and our individual interpretations of art. It isn't about the truths or Kubrick's work... It's showing some REALLY hardcore fans and how they try to find things that might not be there. So they can feel connected.
    I wasn't a huge Kubrick fan before Room 237. Now I find him to be absolutely fascinating. So it's a win-win!

  • Glory | March 31, 2014 11:06 AMReply

    What does it say that Harlan's annoyed aside about Room 237 is given first billing in the title? His opinion adds or detracts nothing from Room 237 (which most people already have an opinion on, and would be crazy to take anything from the "Kubrick Estate" as the defining answer on the subject) and only discredits what is otherwise a fascinating interview with one of the few intimate friends of The Man.

  • Mark | March 31, 2014 11:02 AMReply

    Glad to hear Harlan trashing 'Room 237'. It was garbage.

  • Glory | March 31, 2014 11:17 AM

    Ye shall know them by their obtuse expostulations.