Mikics is a forensic film critic, and fascinating on what might have been in Kubrick’s career. He never made his long-cherished biopic of Napoleon, partly due to the Hollywood adage that “Americans don’t like films where people write with feathers”. Stubbornly he went on to make Barry Lyndon, set in 18th-century Ireland, although its lukewarm reception in the US rather proved the adage. Madmagazine rechristened it “Boring Lyndon”.
Now, actors usually like working with uncertain directors. It gives them the chance to show what they can do. But Mikics quotes numerous dread memories of scenes being done over and over — with no indication from Kubrick as to what had been wrong with the previous take. Given his monstrous bullying of her on The Shining shoot, Shelley Duvall has every right to kid herself she learned more from Kubrick than she did from her seven movies with Robert Altman. David Mikics has no such right. But like Tom Cruise in Kubrick’s swansong, he keeps his eyes wide shut.