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Killing, The

The Killing is about a race-track robbery which is planned with clockwork precision but founders through human fallibility. A fatalistic narrator oversees the events and Kubrick’s camera traps its characters in a behavioural pattern that is ultimately to scatter their paper-thin hopes to the wind. The film’s suspense comes not from the robbery but from the certainty of the characters’ tragic fate.
One of the most distinctive features of the film is its unconventional treatment of time. The Killing does not build its narrative in strict chronological sequence but individually follows the characters as they separately approach the crucial hour of the robbery in their different ways. The effect is to heighten an awareness of time itself as an identity in the film, as it plays with characters who are ‘killing’ time prior to their bid for a new life and for whom time is, unbeknown to them, running out. For criminals and non-criminals alike, time is man’s ultimate prison. Another oft-criticised but crucial detail of the film is the runaway lapdog which is to stray disastrously across Sterling Hayden’s path at the end. It is a symbol of blind chance which, in Kubrick’s films, invariably upsets man’s best laid plans. It is also an impish reminder of Elisha’s Cook’s lapdog husband, whose hapless humanity is the weak link in the chain of an otherwise perfect crime
U.S.A., 1956.
Black and white.
83 mins.

Flying Padre
A documentary account of a priest in New Mexico who covers his 4,000 square mile parish in a single-engine plane. Combining coyness and solemnity in a rather risible Look at Life style, the film remains interesting for the way Kubrick attempts to turn the priest’s mundane schedule into the building blocks of a limited-time-span narrative, and for one or two images which signal things to come. Is the priest alone in his plane, captured in some bizarre low-angle shots, the star-tripper of his own universe?
U.S.A., 1951.
Black and white.
9 mins.

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