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FOURTH PARADOX: Having made what amounts to an art-film spectaclesomething few directors since Griffith and Eisenstein have brought offKubrick now requires that his backers go out and sell the damned thing. Because of distribution and promotion costs, the film must gross at least $30 million to make a profit. Kubrick has his own ideas about how to proceed: a tasteful ad campaign, a limited-release pattern permitting good word of mouth to build, saturation bookings timed to coincide with the Academy Award nominations that the director and studio believe are inevitable. Warner salesmen wish they had something simpler on then-handsa great sloshy romance like Dr. Zhivago, for instance, or at least a rollicking rip-off of olden times, like Tom Jones. Now Kubrick will help sell his picture. Among other things, he employs a bookkeeper to chart how films have played in the first-run houses of key cities, so his films can be booked into those with the best records. But the fact remains that his work habits are anything but helpful to publicists.
Multimillion-dollar movies are usually open to the press as they are being made; their heavy tread can be heard clumping toward the theaters for a year prior to release. Kubrick's locations, however, were closed. Not a single publicity still emerged without the director's express approval, which was almost never granted. Thus the only word on Barry Lyndon came from actors and technicians, none of them privy to Kubrick's vision, and some wearied and literally sickened by his obsessive perfectionism.
At age 47, he is the creator of one of cinema's most varied and successful bodies of work; in addition to 2001, it includes Paths of Glory, Lolita, Doctor Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange. He enjoys the rare right to final cut of his film without studio advice or interference. Warner executives were not permitted to see more than a few bits of it until the completed version take it or leave itwas screened for them just three weeks ago. To put it mildly, it is hard for them to get a proper buildup going for their expensive property on such short notice.
FIFTH PARADOX: Stanley Kubrick himself. Barry Lyndon may be an austere epic, but an epic it surely is. Such works pose complex logistical and technical problems that must be solved along with the aesthetic questions that arise every time a new camera setup is chosen. Kubrick's basic cast and crew of 170augmented by hundreds of extras and supporting specialists as needed crawled from location to location across Ireland and England for 8% months. Normally, the commanders of cinematic operations on this scale are outgoing, not to say colorfully flamboyant characters.