The Legacy of Stanley Kubrick at LACMA
Article and Pictures by Leonardo Flores
What can I say about Stanley Kubrick that has not been said before? His thirteen films communicate his message and artistry the best so it is just best to sit down and watch them all in order from Fear and Desire to Eyes Wide Shut. They are some of the finest imagery, music and drama ever photographed and shown on the screen.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has brought together many personal artifacts, props and equipment from the Stanley Kubrick archives spanning his early career starting with when he was a teenage photographer working for Look Magazine, through his critically acclaimed films, to his unproduced films Napoleon and Aryan Papers and his final project A.I.
This exhibition was an incredible experience for Kubrick fans such as myself as it brought together many of the props used in his iconic films and film camera equipment that I have only read about since I was young. Seeing these items up close and personal gave a new perspective and appreciation to his films and how he crafted them.
The exhibition route followed the order of his career from his early projects to his final films. The start of the exhibit displays an incredible collection of original and rare posters from each film.
Kubrick started his career as a teenage staff photographer for Look Magazine and it was incredible to see his Speed Graphic camera on display as well his WWII era hand held 35mm camera he used for many of his projects throughout his career.
Sadly not too many props exists of his early films (Fear & Desire, The Killer’s Kiss, The Killing, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, and Lolita) but many of the scripts and other business related materials to these films were on display as well as large stills from each film with stories about each photograph. Kubrick was known to destroy props on purpose after production so they would not show up in other films. What I observed through the rest of the exhibit was a treat for me, as I did not know what which props had survived. I will discuss each display in order of film release.
Dr. Strangelove , or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb display featured a scale model of the War Room set and the infamous Airmen Survival kit prop that Slim Pickens humorously lists the contents in the film.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire exhibition is the 2001: A Space Odyssey room. This was the first Kubrick film I watched when I was a kid and it made a huge impression on me that has lasted to this very day and influenced me to get my degree in Film.
There were dozens of incredible artifacts from 2001 including the lens for HALS “eye”, an ape and astronaut costume and various other props such as the futuristic culinary set that is used as the end of the film.
Most importantly there were many set photograph stills of scenes that were not used in the film such as the kid’s nursery playground aboard the space station.
Incredibly enough there was Bowman’s helmet prop from the film with an inventive projection of Keir Dullea face going through the gate at the end of the film. The 2001 portion was worth the price of admission alone.
A Clockwork Orange was had a lot of great artifacts from the film, including the Milk Bar dispensers and tables, Alex’s vinyl turntable (suitable for violence and Beethoven), and various close-ups of the magazines props used in the film. Sadly Alex’s costume does not exist anymore but a great recreation using the original cane prop was on display.
Napoleon was suppose to be his follow up to 2001 and Clockwork Orange but was not produced due to two Napoleon films that were produced around the same time. Sadly we will never see what Kubrick had planned for the film but it was extremely educational in seeing how he manages the writing of the screenplay by using a numbering system and card catalog. I am personally studying and researching a WWII battle myself for I screenplay I plan to write later on and it was great seeing how Kubrick handled the issues of so many people’s histories and interaction and narrowing them down to a final screenplay.
Kubrick’s next project would be Barry Lyndon, a 18th century film on the rise and fall of a Irish cad. What was innovative about this film was he filmed the interior scenes with candlelight. This was a major technical achievement that has never been reproduced in any film before or since. Kubrick took an obscure back light camera and used a lens that NASA used to photograph the moon with and mated them together in order to get enough light to expose the film. It also flattened the image and made it look like a 18th century painting. The resulting image is a haunting and historically accurate image of what the 18th century interiors might have looked like.
So I was blown away to see the actually camera and lens used to create this effect. Costumes from the film were also present.
The Shinning was his next film and featured the typewriter used by Jack Nicolson and the twins’ costume, which are still eerie to look at.
His film Full Medal Jacket would be his next film and in certain ways one of the most disappointing displays at LACMA. It was great seeing the books and scripts used in the film, including Jokers eyeglasses but who ever approved putting Joker’s Helmet so high and not under glass like Bowman’s Helmet from 2001 was not the best decision. As a WWI through Viet Nam era Militaria collector and it was very disappointing to not get a good look at such an iconic helmet and film prop. They could have done better with that one.
Aryan Paper’s would have been Kubrick’s next project in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (as a teenager in High School I remember when the film was announced). Sadly it was not produced due to Spielberg producing Schindler’s List and Kubrick personally being bothered with the subject matter. But what was unknown to me and screened at the museum was the test film shots of the actress who was cast in the role of the lead of the film. I must have watched that reel 10 times as it was Kubrick footage I had never seen before.
Finally A.I and Eyes Wide Shut were represented. A.I. was more concept drawings that were later used when Spielberg took over the production of the film. But Eye’s Wide Shut had a handful of the haunting and cryptic masks used in the film.
Overall I was beyond impressed with this exhibit, which will be exhibited at LACMA until early June. If you a Kubrick fan or a fan of Horror, Sci-Fi and War film genres there is no reason why you should not visit this exhibition and homage to one of Cinema’s most highly esteemed visionaries. The only letdown is there will not be any more new films to add to this exhibition.
©2013 Review and Photos by Leonardo Flores and CollectionDX