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Not Designed for Stanley
on April 1, 2011
In this book one can pore over Stanley Kubrick's personal correspondences as well as the screenplay, saying nothing of the 100's of photos. The content is incredible.
Stanley Kubrick's passion for research, beauty, and functional organization is no secret. It is ironic and unfortunate, that this book was incredibly well researched, meticulous in what was put in (and left out), well organized, but was printed in an odd format, in a way that stifles clear communication of the book's own content. It was not formatted for function, but for concept.
The volume is over 1000 pages yet uses a distinctly vertical format to feel like a book from the Napoleon era. The pages curl tremendously towards the center, and the text documents within the book fan out from the binding of the book, for that feel of actually looking through originals. Unfortunately, the information close to the center of the book becomes so curved due to the book's size that the reader has to angle their head or move the book to read (particularly around page 500). The hundreds of sequential photos do not read well across a vertical format; they are just over an inch wide and unclear. Often these images are of etchings from napoleons era, an art form whose beauty resides in the details.
I get the conceptual appeal of the book format. It looks nice on my coffee table. It just needed to be a much bigger book to feel clear, or in another format to properly use.
Instead of focusing on the type of BOOK that was produced in the napoleonic era, it would have been much more pleasurable for the reader, to design the format of the book around the FILM Stanley Kubrick designed. Stanley wasn't going to film Napoleon in the common aspect-ratio of prints and paintings from the Napoleonic era. He was going to film it in the clearest way possible to show us the Napoleonic era itself. Sweeping vistas of armies, their patterns of war, and the european countryside might have been just as central a tenet to this film as Napoleon himself. Despite having excellent content, Castle's take on Napoleon doesn't give us enough room to properly enjoy it.