• Christiane Kubrick

    I work in the editorial department here at Criterion, and I’ve recently taken it on myself to do a little poking around at the office, to find out what my colleagues have going on and share that with visitors to the Current. Producer Curtis Tsui is first. He’s really had his nose to the grindstone lately, but I couldn’t help noticing a certain aura, the kind that comes from a brush with greatness. I pinned him down over e-mail about what he’s been up to at work. —Anna Thorngate

    Hey, Curtis, you have a lot on your plate right now: Paths of Glory, House, and now also Cronoswelcome news for Guillermo del Toro fans.

    Yeah, my next few weeks are going to be hectic with a capital H. And I suppose I should also say that I’ll be juggling reading some packaging proofs during all that.

    Right, get those proofs back to us in a timely fashion, please! So I want to hear about Paths—where are you in that process?

    Wrapping up a lot of new supplements that I’ve put together. We’ve got three new video interviews, with Christiane Kubrick [she’s in the movie and is Stanley’s widow, and that’s her on both screens in the image above], producer James B. Harris, and Jan Harlan, who worked with Kubrick as a production executive for a long time.

    Did you end up getting to use that audio interview you wanted?

    Yeah, Kubrick talking about Paths. It’s not a long excerpt, and—no surprise here—he doesn’t exactly go into tons of detail about the film (it’s mostly him waxing euphoric about Christiane), but just hearing his voice is something of an event. I’ve been adding some images to that material, so it’ll just be a couple of fine tunings and then I’ll have everything done.

    You’re a big Kubrick fan, aren’t you? And you got to go to his house! Tell me about that.

    Usually, when I work on a project that involves a talent I’ve revered, the end result is simply a strengthened impression of that filmmaker or his work. In this case, I went in with a love for Kubrick’s films and abilities but also a picture in my mind of some kind of brilliant, eccentric, antisocial recluse, something in line with those generic critiques of his work—ones I’ve never agreed with but that nonetheless colored my perspective—as being too chilly or emotionally distant. Sure, the picture of the man I got by meeting his friends and loved ones is pretty subjective, but I now feel that no one who surrounded himself with such warm, kind, and generous people could have been misanthropic. The sheer joy that Christiane, James, and Jan had in remembering him and talking about him went beyond anything sycophantic and seemed to genuinely evoke the spirit of the man. It’s the first time, I think, that my opinions at the outset of a project haven’t been simply strengthened or fleshed out but also, in a way, totally transformed.

    Lovely! I can’t help feeling like you’re dodging a certain question, though. The house, man, the house! What’s it like?

    Big. With a big yard.

    Okay, I know I’m being annoyingly coy about the experience. The thing is, I kind of felt that I was allowed to be there with the tacit understanding that I’d be respectful about it. And by “respectful,” I mean not blabbing about it. They preferred that anyone who wasn’t part of the shoot not be there.

    I know that this just adds to some kind of twisted image of a family that lives a hermitlike existence, but I don’t think anyone who’s ever interacted with the Kubricks really goes out “telling all.” And what’s often been mistaken for eccentricity or reclusiveness on the part of Stanley Kubrick was actually, in my mind, a healthy separation of family life and work.

    And just so you know, it’s not like Childwickbury House is a Koresh-like compound. Christiane even does an annual arts fair on the premises, so it’s hardly closed off to the public. They didn’t make me sign nondisclosure papers, send hit men after me, anything like that. I’m just doing what I personally believe they’d like me to do.

    All right, uncle. Tell me about something cool you came across that’s not going to make it into the release.

    In looking for the ideal Kirk Douglas interview, I stumbled across a 1957 piece conducted by Mike Wallace. Although Douglas doesn’t spend any real time talking about the movie, the interview itself is kind of mind-blowing. The types of questions that Wallace tosses out would catch almost anyone off guard (and never be allowed by a protective publicist today), and it’s really pretty stunning to see Douglas thinking on his feet and parrying those blows like a total pro. You can see why the guy became a Hollywood legend. Unfortunately, the piece was impossible to land for the disc, but hey, you can see it here.

    Any other high points?

    I was really thrilled to meet James B. Harris. Not only is his interview great, but I think the guy’s a really interesting filmmaker in his own right. Ever see Cop with James Woods? I still think it’s one of the best Ellroy adaptations out there. Anyway, he’s a total gentleman and has a steel-trap mind that seemed to remember every Paths of Glory–related incident that ever happened. Talking to him was a major highlight.

    Thanks, Curtis. See you in the screening room.

10 comments

  • By Rob
    August 09, 2010
    01:54 AM

    I am so happy and excited that this wonderful company has managed to license this wonderful film for release on Blu-ray Disc and DVD. Criterion is always releasing important and historic films, but, to me, anything Kubrick is extra-special. I'd be very interested to learn how the 1.66:1 aspect ratio came to be chosen, as I know that aspect ratios for Kubrick films are almost always surrounded by controversy, particularly ones that were filmed full-frame. I don't know if Mr. Tsui will see this, but if he could shed some light on the subject, I'm sure a lot of us Criterion Collection Collectors would be most interested in what he could share.
    Reply
  • By Curtis
    August 10, 2010
    12:15 PM

    Hi Rob Thanks for reading and posting! You're totally correct that Kubrick aspect ratios are a consistently controversial subject, but we're confident about the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for a couple of reasons (and that doesn't include the fact that when you see the movie in this format, everything -- from the presentation of the opening credits to the internal balance of the compositions -- appears perfect). First, Bob Gitt of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, whose stellar restoration provides the basis for our master, was totally positive that 1.66:1 was the film's projected ratio in theaters. As you probably know, our policy is to try to adhere as closely to original theatrical presentation as possible. Second, Leon Vitali (Stanley Kubrick's longtime technical assistant and BARRY LYNDON's Lord Bullingdon) supervised the video mastering and he too insisted on 1.66:1. Who's to argue when Lord Bullingdon himself requests satisfaction? OK, Kubrick in-joke aside, I want to assure you that we didn't undertake the pictoral presentation of one of cinema's greatest visionaries lightly, and we made absolutely sure that our release would do justice to the masterpiece and preserve the work's original theatrical format.
    Reply
  • By Rob
    August 12, 2010
    04:17 AM

    Hello Curtis! Thank you so much for responding personally. It's this kind of customer attention and clearly obvious passion for your work that makes people like me so loyal to The Criterion Collection. I have no doubt whatsoever that every decision made at Criterion is not made passively. I imagine that it's often a spill of blood, sweat and tears and many sleepless nights for the project at hand and that effort comes through clearly in the extremely high-quality end-product. The greatest thing I can say about Criterion is that I trust Criterion. I sincerely thank you again for your detailed explanation, Curtis. I'm 100% confident that this will be an incredible release and I can't wait to sit back and screen it in my home. And, you were certainly wise to heed Lord Bullingdon. If I remember correctly, he can be quite a good shot...
    Reply
  • By George
    August 12, 2010
    10:47 AM

    Anna and Curtis - What a interesting personalized peek into the inner workings of Criterion. Marvelously written. And the Kirk Douglas link is simply amazing. Curtis - Do you happen to know what Vivian Kubrick is up to these days? If I might dare invoke a non CC release, the behind the scenes footage that Vivian shot that's included on THE SHINING dvd tis (at least to me) more interesting than the film itself.
    Reply
  • By Jon Dambacher
    August 13, 2010
    05:07 PM

    Being one of the most iconic American filmmakers to have come out of the post-sound era Stanley Kubrick's work is cherished and analyzed thoroughly--a big celebration for Criterion to be bringing him back into the collection... However being that Mr. Kubrick's widow, Christiane Kubrick, has been joyously involved in the preservation and education surrounding her husband's work wouldn't it be a fine feature to have included an audio commentary of her own? Not only being a member of the cast in this film but also it being the production where she and her husband met? Obviously it's a touch too late in the game... But for those archeologists out there it certainly is a fantastic way to imagine what one, or perhaps millions of growing Criterion fans and many more million Kubrick fans, would learn from her first-hand experience/involvement. Still quite excited and thankful Mr. Kubrick's rejoining the team. -- Jon Dambacher
    Reply
  • By Curtis
    August 17, 2010
    01:38 PM

    Hi George & Jon, Responding kind of late here... as predicted I got a bit bogged down with work. I figured I'd reply to both of you in one post. Regarding Vivian Kubrick, I have to say that our my conversations with the family never went in any direction that discussed her. In my time with them, I basically rolled with the topics that they'd bring up with me (such as their belief that Stanley Kubrick -- gadget fanatic that he was -- would've loved to have tried out an iPad). So I didn't delve into any family matters that weren't put in front of me. About the possibility of a commentary from Mrs. Kubrick, Christiane Kubrick had graciously whittled out a bit of her schedule (she teaches painting in St. Albans) to fit in the interview session, and realistically I wouldn't have been able to pull off a full feature-length commentary within that window of availability. I know that an interview is shorter than a commentary, but I'm hoping that you'll nevertheless find it rewarding.
    Reply
  • By Jon Dambacher
    August 23, 2010
    04:20 PM

    Thanks Curtis. Good to hear from you.
    Reply
  • By AP
    August 29, 2010
    12:30 PM

    Hey Curtis, I liked your work on Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Since Paths of Glory was an MGM property, will you be trying to get more of them? Fellini Satyricon or Hawks' Red River?
    Reply
  • By Kathryn Fauble
    August 11, 2012
    06:44 PM

    Love your work on "Paths of Glory" and "Harold and Maude." Here's a specific, easy question about "Harold and Maude." I enjoy the bonus interview that Criterion did with Cat Stevens. It includes some awesome color still photos of him in London in the 1960s. In the closing credits for it, I see "copyright 2012." Can you please give me an approximate time frame for when somebody videorecorded Mr. Islam reminiscing? It seems to have been within the last year. Was it the fall of 2011 or early 2012 ? I hope to tell a very young friend of mine how fresh the footage is. Thanks for your attention !
    Reply
  • By Kathryn Fauble
    August 11, 2012
    06:45 PM

    In case my email address did not transmit so that Mr. Tsui can see it, here it is: kathrynfauble@yahoo.com If he prefers to post his reply here, that's cool.
    Reply