Wait Training: “Day of the Fight” (1951)


       Stanley Kubrick’s first attempt at motion picture movie making is this short film inspired by his own photo essay on middleweight boxer Walter Cartier published when he was a young staff photographer at Look magazine. It may be unfair to judge a basically homemade inaugural effort of a film maker by the same standards of sophistication through which his later filmography might be appraised, especially a director as artistically esteemed as Kubrick, however, what one can do is to note any seeds of thematic or visual content which may find expansion or reoccurrence in his later works;  both of which can be found in “Day of the Fight”, especially in certain elements which find significant revisitation in Kubrick’s second feature “Killer’s Kiss”. It is also quite obvious, that of his initial trio of short films, including the 1951 RKO Pathé Screenliner short subject “Flying Padre” and the 1953 short documentary “The Seafarers”, “Day of the Fight” is by far the most interesting, acting less as a strictly informational documentary than as a psychologically ingrained docudrama, attempting to elicit a particularly intimate point of view within the larger- more familiar -framework of following a fighter’s training for his match; eschewing the usual intensity of physical seasoning by concentrating on the more meditative- almost spiritual -end of a fighter’s preparatory process: the agonizing waiting game.

     Kubrick emphasizes the specificity of the film’s perspective by skimming over the broader arena of the boxing world in a rapid opening sequence which (in a voiceover narration written by Robert Rein and spoken by newscaster Douglas Edwards that contains more than a hint of the colorfully hyperbole as moralizing observation which later became standard practice in Ed Wood films) touches on the world of prizefighting from a spectator and fighter’s point of view, though quickly focusing on the latter, and then becoming specific to the perspective of Walter Cartier to the point that the film ungenerously excludes any consideration that his opponent, Bobby James, might be experiencing similar gnawing feelings of anticipatory anxieties, thus Kubrick mentally isolates his subject (despite the close proximity of sincere moral support from both his eerily identical twin brother Vincent and Walter’s dog, the latter focused on with lingering cuteness attempo: the complete review, click the following link teadting a heartfelt sentimentality at odds with the brooding- almost noirish -nature in which Kubrick expresses his story, and a quality at this formative stage of his career already seems alien to his emerging artistic sensibility) from a broader fraternity of like-minded modern-day gladiators, into a Sisyphean figure condemned to anguish over the absurdist task of perpetually seeking to win matches which will elevate his professional career standing while each match brings a harrowing repetition of the agonizing waiting process through which he must suffer. (Is it any wonder that during a scene of pre-bout communion, Kubrick attaches a distorted Dutch tilt to a shot of a witnessing statue of the Madonna and Christ, as if to italicize the idea of Cartier, by way of a martyrdom that sates the appetites of the boxing fanatics, enters a consecrated state of sanctity?)

To read the complete review, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/short-films-the-other-cinema/


About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in Documentaries, Film, Film Reviews, movie reviews, Movies, Reviews, short films, sports, Stanley Kurbick and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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