The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, November 4-10

Woody Strode and Kirk Douglas in Stanley Kubrick’s SPARTACUS (1960). Courtesy Film Forum. Playing November 4-12.

Spartacus (1960)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Sure, Kubrick was technically a director-for-hire on Spartacus, and certainly there’s little evidence in it of the distinctive personality of the auteur that would later in the 1960s fashion an ironically lyrical montage out of mushroom clouds and send human beings through a light-show trip “beyond the infinite.” But if humanity—or, rather, the lack of it—could be said to be a consistent theme of Kubrick’s over the span of his career, it’s still present in this grand Hollywood spectacle. After all, the titular slave (Kirk Douglas) is essentially fighting to reclaim not only his own humanity, but that of the rest of his fellow slaves, especially from the cutthroat politicos (two of them played by Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton) in Rome who prefer to maintain the current dehumanizing social order. Sword-and-sandal epics may be out of style now, but Spartacus is still as stirring as ever—especially in light of the recent rise and fall of Occupy Wall Street movement, which suggests how vital the film’s liberal sympathies remain today. Kenji Fujishima (November 4-12 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)

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