Killer's Kiss ★★★

Stanley Kubrick's second feature film is a narratively trite noir thriller, yet the then 26-year-old's visionary approach to filmmaking can be seen so fully formed already. Truly an auteur picture, director, writer, photographer and editor Kubrick had a level of artistic control unheard of in Hollywood at the time, foreshadowing the French New Wave movement with which his film shares many similarities, namely the plot taking second billing to the art of filmmaking itself.

Making the most of a shoestring budget, he experiments and breaks cinematic conventions in ways that just hadn't been done before. Much of the story is told via flashback with narration during the present day scenes, which is a bit of a genre trope but works just fine within the limited runtime of Killer's Kiss. The techniques used are wide ranging and sometimes downright bizarre, Kubrick's experience as a stills photographer gives him a keen eye for composition, each frame packed with interesting details and the offbeat camera angles boost the oppressive atmosphere of the seedy city underbelly.

It features a dream sequence within a flashback, an extended ballet dance, a shot in which a character throws something at the camera and literally cracks the lens, but by far the strangest and most memorable scene is the final showdown in a warehouse full of hideous mannequins, which is prolonged to the extent of suggesting satire, an early instance of Kubrick's dark humour coming through perhaps.

A big step up from Fear and Desire, this still isn't Kubrick at his best but it offers moments of brilliance and remains a fascinating entry in a remarkable filmography, a diamond in the rough so to speak, that paves the way for The Killing and beyond.

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