Posted by: daveed | July 19, 2008

On permanent rotation II: Dr. Strangelove

This blackest of comedies miraculously manages to not sacrifice satire for the sake of propaganda, and make even nuclear war funny. An absurdist’s dream-film, Dr. Strangelove put Kubrick firmly on the map and gave much-deserved international recognition to Peter Sellers for his outstanding work in three separate roles.

The first time I saw this was in my college video library. Lots of old top-loading VCRs that seemed bigger than xerox machines, crummy, uncomfortable furniture, lousy headphones. And I was laughing hysterically (in a library, mind you) for nearly the entire film, right to the Vera Miles song at the end that accompanied stunning shots of actual atomic explosions.

One of the strengths of this film, unlike most from this era, is that it’s Cold War-themed story does not seem outdated. Kubrick leaves most of the politics on the sidelines to focus on the absurdity, and to let the satire ring brilliantly.

Yes it’s a left-leaning film, but it’s also very damn funny and never self-righteous—it’s much more intelligent than that. Kubrick’s merciless portrayal of the military could be offensive to those who refuse to understand what satire truly is.

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Responses

  1. Funny, I also saw this film for the first time in uncomfortable circumstances–1990, hung over in my brother’s tiny apartment in Worms, Germany, in the middle of the summer with no air conditioner. But I laughed through the whole thing, amazing that some old black-and-white war movie could have such incisive dialogue.

    You’re very right about this not being preachy. Kubrick was too smart to succumb to didacticism. Which is probably why he’s a genius and most people are not. Nice overview of a timeless favorite.


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