6 April 2007 | ackstasis
"There's no brass band here, no cheering crowds, no newspaper men clamouring for a headline just an ambulance driver, an anxious mother, a sick baby and their priest."
In an attempt to experience absolutely everything that Stanley Kubrick has to offer, I have set my sights towards his three early documentary shorts (though, admittedly, I also still have a couple of feature films to go). 'Flying Padre' seemed as good a place as any to start. I'd say that I was slightly disappointed with the film, but I really couldn't have expected much better from the director's first effort. This being his first project, Kubrick would most likely have lacked any creative control, and he would have been expected to simply do things by the book. Just four years later, given complete artistic control (and a shoestring budget), the mastery of this master director would begin to shine through with 'Killer's Kiss.'
'Flying Padre' is a cheery nine-minute documentary detailing the kind-hearted exploits of a priest in an isolated country region. Equipped with his $2000, single-motor plane, The Spirit of St. Joseph, this "flying padre" is able to spread his compassion and goodwill across a 1200 mile expanse, never asking anything in return for his unwavering commitment to society. The film follows the priest across two "ordinary days," as he attends to such diverse errands as a country funeral, a child bully, a sick baby and looking after his flock of breeding canaries.
If it hadn't been for a tiny director credit at the beginning of the film, I would never have guessed that Kubrick was involved in any way. The acting is quite poor and, despite the narrator's assurances that all these adventures are happening spontaneously, it's obvious that most of the shots have been pre-planned. How, otherwise, can they explain that the cameraman reached the house of the sick baby long before the padre ever did?! On a side note, however, I did enjoy the very final shot of the film, as the ambulance carrying the sick baby accelerates away from the priest standing beside his plane. From the retreating car's point of view, we watch as the humble padre and his beloved Spirit of St. Joseph diminish into the distance.