Friday, July 24, 2009

"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) - Movie Review

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is the second film I watched of Stanley Kubrick. It is a satire marginalizing the possibility of this reality. Still Kubrick does not attenuate the possibility. The fear of who strikes whom first and the long threatened suspicion between two powerful countries in that cold war is a violence mentality at its best. Neither of the party never willed to settle and always wondering whether any soft reaction is a sneaky stab in the back. But that is on the surface of this film. The deeper issues are the ramped up characterization and a cartoon mannerisms in its actors makes it a strange ride if not completely enjoyable.

Peter Sellers in three roles which I could not figure till I read it in wiki tells the variety and the talent he brought in to this film. He plays a calm but awkwardly diplomatic President of the US Merkin Muffley, a feared and trapped Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and the titular character unable to control his right arm to hail the fuhrer. The film has three major settings. One is in the army base camp where the eccentric General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has given orders to drop nuclear bombs on the Russia to the thirty odd planes circling over the country, the second is the war room where the President with his generals, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) amongst the notable to tackle this colossal mistake and the third is the sincere and patriotic soldiers in one of the war planes giving everything they have to complete their mission. In these three circumstances, Kubrick gives a humour dry yet razor sharp, ridiculous but pondering and sometimes laughing not alone at the nonsensical situations of the characters but the possibility of these trivial day to day activities of these leaders.

The photography is immaculate. It provides the wideness of the air these planes are flying through while geographically giving a sense of the calamity they can induce. It then in the war room scenes slants on the corner of the table when Turgidson speaks and backs out to give the big round table of the discussion. And when President Muffley talks with the Russian Premier Dmitri Kissoff as the others listen through the phone throws the roof of the laughing nerve. Dmitri is little bit drunk says the Ambassador (Peter Bull) but with Muffley’s discussion over the phone, Dmitri seems to be a kid on sugar high.

It is a sensation like no other watching Kubrick’s style of film making. It is perfect in the picture it gives but odd in its character. Then again it is real in the situation. This is the same kind of reaction I got watching “A Clockwork Orange” which has immense violence, sex and a wicked outlook. Yet there is a numbing agent in the emotional frontier it provides to its audience. It makes us a culprit without our awareness. Hence as the audience I was entertained but not necessarily moved. I could see the audacity in the material and the perfection in its execution but felt empty.

It is a comedy like none at all. It is a satire like none at all. The air force personnel in the flight are proud people giving everything they have been asked to. To them they are doing the best damn job they were trained for. The Texas pilot (Slim Pickens) is especially committed, heroic and sticks with his men. If the other circumstances are removed from the picture, their segment will be a thrilling ride in their heroism with a tragedy. But Kubrick makes us realize how much of the moving coins they become in the big picture than the actuality of the m being the mercenaries. The cash out here is the patriotism of feeling spectacular.

George C. Scott’s ultra right wing warmonger presentation of Turgidson would look over the top but there are people reeking with the pride of being the soldier of the country. They are clouded by their staunching values that the actual effects are secondary and execution becomes primary, however idiotic and lethal that would be. He constantly bullies and sheds slurs over the Russian Ambassador. But when they were able to successfully bring back the situation to normal in war room, he changes a tone after calling Russians as peons, saying “And that’s not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador” which is a change in the momentum of his thinking. He has denied to know them but when he begins to acclimate with one, he is apologizing to himself on that means. With that line, Kubrick gives the animated character a weird sense of humanism.

My high praise for the film does not mean I liked it. There are films which I could see people loving and admiring when I could not. Such a feat is when a director accomplishes more than a passionate director. Film making and the art of movies is about entertainment and thought provoking. But if someone could succeed in making a film wherein despite one’s dislike towards it can understand its greatness, then it is success of different level.


Howard Roark said...

And this one does not get listed under the "Movie Classics" category?!? I thought this movie deserved that :-)


Ashok said...

Well, "Movie Classics" is something I made as a representation of the "great" films I personally loved. While I adored this film's style and content, it just did not get that edge over to be something I loved. Hence the reason Nagesh :-).