This weekend, as part of our “Underrated Stanley Kubrick” series, the Trylon presents the first two films from the master himself: Killer’s Kiss, an early noir, and Fear and Desire, his first feature film, thought lost until the early 90s, and newly restored by the George Eastman House.
Review of Killer’s Kiss by Trylon volunteer David Berglund.
Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss is a disorienting little film–not only does it tell a winding story of seedy betrayal and urban danger, but its verité sensibilities stand in striking contrast to the usual Hollywood noir. It outright rejects the concept of slick operating criminals and detectives, instead opting to present all its characters as inept sad sacks prone to lustful downfalls and clumsy mistakes. These characters would to most be more befitting of neorealism than a crime tale climaxed by a stylized chase sequence, but here we find them.
Perhaps more disorienting than this is that the film is nearly devoid of the intense sentiment so prevalent in the noir genre. While the standard noir approach would inject melodrama and heightened emotion to its twisting plot, and there is ample opportunity to do this with the film’s romantic impulses, Kubrick examines his plot with a distant curiosity. In this, Killer’s Kiss not only foreshadows the revisionist noir tales of the late 50s and early 60s (most commonly, and wrongly, believed to be kicked off by Welles’ Touch of Evil), but it clearly foreshadows Kubrick’s long and influential career as a cold, deeply cerebral, and unendingly interesting filmmaker.
This early, budding glimpse into Kubrick’s genius is more than enough to justify a viewing. The fact that Killer’s Kiss is carried by a high attention to detail, striking chiaroscuro lighting contrasts, and arrestingly understated performances from its leads only makes the proposition sweeter.
David Berglund is a proud Longfellow resident and ardent cinema junkie who previously wrote on film with his wife, Chelsea Berglund, on their Movie Matrimony blog.
Killer’s Kiss screens Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 8:30, and Sunday at 6:30; Fear and Desire shows Friday at 8:30, Saturday at 7:00, and Sunday at 5:00 and 8:00. Purchase tickets for Killer’s here, and for Fear and Desire here.