Commentary Track

The Killing (1956)

This week on The Spectator Film Podcast…

The Killing (1956) 11.2.18
Players: Austin, Maxx

Commentary begins at:  19:07

— Notes —

  • On Kubrick by James Naremore — Here’s an accessible and steadfast introduction into Kubrick’s work, which balances an historical account of his career alongside some thoughtful analysis and personal response. While I recommend it as an introduction, it certainly still has much to offer those (unbearable) people who’re already thoroughly familiar with Kubrick’s career/films. NOTE: the new copy price seems incredibly high, and I was able to buy this book for around $10 used; I suggest you shoot for the same. Below are some relevant passages on “the grotesque”:
    • All its visual and verbal manifestations, however, the grotesque is structured by a dual implication, and therefore has something in common with such rhetorical figures as ambiguity, irony and paradox. Its defining feature is what Philip Thompson describes as an ’unresolved’ tension between laughter and some unpleasant emotion such as disgust or fear. In effect, it fuses laughing and screaming impulses, leaving the viewer or reader balanced between conflicting feelings, slightly unsure how react” (27).

    • “No matter how the grotesque is achieved, it isn’t quite identical with the ‘absurd,’ at least if we take that term to mean ‘opposed to reason’. Nor is it quite identical with the the ‘macabre’, or the ‘uncanny’ which are usually taken to mean ‘very strange’,  ‘associated with death’ and ‘apparently supernatural’. It nevertheless belongs to what I’ve described as a family of these and other emotionally laden words with which it sometimes blend and become confused. Grotesque figures often appear in the theatre of the absurd, in fairy tales and in ghost stories, and all artistic uses of the grotesque might be said to imply a deep-seated anxiety” (28).

    • …the grotesque functions almost as a guarantee of artistic seriousness and authenticity during the first half of the twentieth century”(28).

  • The Grotesque in Art and Literature by Wolfgang Kayser — Naremore cites this book while discussing the grotesque, and it’s quite engaging. It seems to be out of print, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a copy online somehow. It’s available.
  • We watched the Criterion Collection version of The Killing, which includes this great essay “The Killing: Kubrick’s Clockwork” by Haden Guest.

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