Fear and Desire ★★½

James Agee's line to Kubrick after seeing this - "There are too many good things in it to call it 'arty'." - always kind of pissed me off a bit, as a fan of many film knocked for being "arty," and as someone usually finding Agee overrated anyway.

That said, Agee was right in this case. The film is arty in a young, overreaching manner, but there are many wonderful moments in it, and not all of them are visual (still SK's major strength at this point). Sometimes his beautiful shots are actually a distraction from the film around them, a tableau of dead bodies and spilled bowls of stew not matching anything in the footage around it, either visually or tonally, and so forth. But for the most part, this military allegory is a nice little proto-TWILIGHT ZONE story that is entertaining and lovely enough.

I can see why SK didn't want this shown publicly - it IS juvinalia, basically - but at the same time it seems no more so than KILLER'S KISS, which Kubrick allowed to be shown and released on video. I'd say it's better acted, smarter, more interesting, and more ambitious than KILLER'S KISS, but it's the last point that cuts both ways -- by reaching higher it also, frequently, falls short of the significance it's reaching for, and in that, crosses the thin line into pretension. Still, it's a lovely-looking and not-boring 68 minutes, and I'm glad I finally got around to it.