Net gains: Full mental racket

Ever since Steven Spielberg's harrowing Second World War film, Saving Private Ryan, was released in the United States, the online newsgroups have, bizarrely, been buzzing with opinions about how the film compares with, of all things, Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam epic, Full Metal Jacket (right).

In fact, the comparison is not as strange as all that. It is more a testament to Kubrick's knack of selecting the right projects. Even with the relative handful of films that he has directed, every major movie released seems to fall into an unfavourable comparison with something he has done. Not even the Alfred Hitchcock newsgroup receives as many daily postings as Kubrick's does. And there cannot be many more accurate ways of assessing whether or not a particular director has any credibility among the movie-

going public than that.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, clearly, Kubrick is still among us, which means he is generating news. Secondly, most of his films address more contemporary themes than those of Hitchcock, making his work much less likely to be the preserve of film buffs. And then there is the crucial thing - he is an obsessive recluse.

You do not need to look far to see how, on the Internet, information tends to look for gaps and then fill them. The dearth of any hard facts is no hindrance to the Net's more imaginative denizens. They just replace the vacuum with rumours.

Among the recent Kubrick rumours that I have come across is the suggestion that a screening of his new project, Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, was a disaster (untrue: Kubrick has only just finished shooting the film). Another intimated that his attempt to corner the horror genre, The Shining, was shot at 25 frames per second so that, when it was shown in the cinema at 24 frames per second, the audience would subconsciously sense that something was awry. Rubbish: films play at different frame rates on cinema screens and television. It does not matter, because most of us cannot tell the difference anyway.

The websites, thankfully, are much more considered than the newsgroups. The best starting point is Starbuzz, while Celebsite is also worth looking at. Both of them offer fairly standard biographical treatments, but they contain plenty of links to other sites containing masses of information, from the fascinating to the plain barking mad.

Kubrick must be aware of all this information flying around about him. A deeply unorthodox man, who in the past has gained notoriety for staying up all night watching television, I am sure that these days he whiles away many happy hours surfing the Internet.

Ultimately, though, Kubrick has always had a talent for tapping into the zeitgeist. And with the dismal failure of attempts to launch Internet films, it would be sad if one of the century's great directors did not turn his unique talents to the medium. It could well be the perfect final challenge for a man who, aged 42, made his notorious film of A Clockwork Orange because he was afraid of being regarded as past it by young cinema audiences.

www.starbuzz.com/guide/S/ Stanley_Kubrick.html

www.celebsite.com/people/ stanleykubrick/index.html

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