From Kurt to Elvis, JFK and more, what movies did stars see just before they died? Culture | The Guardian

For Franz Kafka, it was The Kid. For Stanley Kubrick, it was the trailer to Eyes Wide Shut. But what about Cobain, Presley and Kennedy? Artist Stanley Schtinter talks us through his revelatory new project

Clad in black and wearing a cheeky-chappie grin, the artist and author Stanley Schtinter resembles Damon Albarn dressed as an undertaker. That suits his new book, Last Movies, which refracts cultural history through the prism of films watched by notable figures soon before their deaths. Stocking-fillers such as 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die are 10 a penny, but this is a more profound proposition: 28 Movies They Saw Before They Died. Bette Davis, Charlie Parker and Steve Jobs are among the cinema-goers attending this last picture show, which mixes fact with scintillating speculation. What parallels might Kurt Cobain have drawn, for instance, between the life he was about to leave and The Piano, the last film he saw, in which a woman is sold, brutalised and deprived of her beloved musical instrument?

“I wanted to see if I could remap the century of cinema based on something other than the usual categories or value judgments,” Schtinter explains over coffee at Close-Up, a London cafe, cinema and DVD library. His book opens with Franz Kafka bowing out in 1924 after watching Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy The Kid. The last film to unspool in front of Chaplin’s eyes, before his life flashed before them in 1977, was a print of Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick. (Chaplin “hated to send it back”, he wrote in a telegram to Kubrick.) That film-maker, in turn, watched the trailer for his own swansong, Eyes Wide Shut, right before his own eyes shut for good in 1999.

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