John Baxter is a film critic, novelist, biographer and broadcaster, whose books on the cinema include The Hollywood Exiles, The Cinema of John Ford, and highly praised biographies of Ken Russell, Fellini, Bunuel, Steven Spielberg, Kubrick and Woody Allen. Born in Australia, John Baxter now lives in Paris.
The Bronx-born director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange has lived reclusively in England since 1961. This somewhat prosaic life serves as a breezy introduction to his acclaimed oeuvre, but does not bring us closer to the man than others have managed. Baxter, a British novelist and author of studies of John Ford, Steven Spielberg and other directors, focuses on the professional life of the filmmaker by tracing the development of each of his dozen feature films of the past 44 years. He acknowledges Kubrick's personal and professional flaws‘his ruthless exploitation of collaborators; his antiseptic, even misanthropic view of the world; his dependence on (and contempt for) the writers who provide him with stories to film‘while emphasizing the visual flair and maverick independence that have made him one of the most admired figures in contemporary cinema. But there's little new in all of this. While Baxter interviewed some figures in Kubrick's circle (though not, unsurprisingly, the notoriously reclusive master himself), he relies heavily on the dozens of books that have discussed the director's life and work, many of them full-scale studies. This might not be a problem if Baxter had a clear and compelling interpretive contribution to make to this discussion, but his aim seems to be merely to collect all the known facts. Readers are more likely to find satisfaction in Vincent LoBrutto's longer, identically titled 1996 biography. Photos. 20,000 first printing. (Oct.) FYI: The book's release anticipates that of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's first film since 1987's Full Metal Jacket.
This book is timed to appear with the release of Kubrick's new film, Eyes Wide Shut, his first movie since Full Metal Jacket in 1987. The decade-long gap between projects is, by the author's reasoning, part of the price Kubrick pays for being himself. Baxter (Fellini, LJ 11/1/94) portrays Kubrick as a gifted man with an instinctive talent for directing. Indeed, Kubrick has a unique genius for film images, for how a scene looks and how it should be lit. But Baxter also reveals a man obsessed with his privacy who controls everything even remotely connected to his work. Kubrick is also apparently the boss from hell, especially for writers. Baxter effectively uses extensive interviews with people who have worked on Kubrick's movies to support these characterizations, and this raw material makes his book stand out among the few biographies of Kubrick.‘Marianne Cawley, Charleston Cty. Lib., S.C.