Kubrick's films invited the viewer to think critically about the prevailing winds in personal and social morality. "Lolita" probed taboo desires, "Dr. Strangelove" parodied the twisted comedy of the Cold War, "2001" asked uncomfortable questions about technological progress, while "A Clockwork Orange" extended his morbid inquiry into the primal underbelly of modernity. At the time of his death he'd returned to the theme of obsessive desire -- "Eyes Wide Shut" revolves around two married psychologists indulging their ids with patients. Although Kubrick won't get to sign off on the final edit, the mostly completed film is due for release later this year. Unlike the computer Hal in "2001," Kubrick's canon will long outlive its creator.
Stanley Kubrick was not Spartacus -- he was every inch his own man, but no less a revolutionary than the Roman slave who inadvertently provoked an epiphany in the director's career. "If I ever needed convincing of limits of persuasion a director can have on the film when someone else is the producer and he is merely the highest-paid member of the crew, 'Spartacus' provided proof to last a lifetime," he once told an interviewer. It was Kubrick's experience as the replacement director on the Kirk Douglas vehicle that sent the New York native fleeing across the Atlantic in search of artistic freedom. Settling into what became a permanent voluntary exile in London, Kubrick then created a series of enduringly provocative films that made his name synonymous with rewarding cinematic risk. "Lolita" (1962), "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) and "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) all stand up to today's scrutiny better than most films of their eras -- indeed, there's not much that Hollywood's self-styled enfants terribles are doing today with sex and violence that wasn't done decades ago by Kubrick -- and done a lot more thoughtfully, to boot.