Mar 28, 2017
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Kubrick Fans Go Gloopy Over Museum Show!
by Joanne Butcher
One of Stanley Kubrick's most iconic images, from '2001: A Space Odyssey .photo: courtesy S. Kubrick
KUBRICK FANATICS—AND I USE THAT
word intentionally—in the Bay Area are having the BEST time right now at the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s (CJM) current exhibit:
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition
. (In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to note that the Contemporary Jewish Museum is my all-time favorite museum, anywhere!)
The exhibition was first put together in 2004 by the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt am Main, German, with the assistance of Christiane Kubrick (Kubrick’s wife) and the Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London. It starts with his Look Magazine photos from the 40’s and the earliest films and goes into depth on his greatest works: “Spartacus” (1960), “Lolita” (1962), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), “Barry Lyndon” (1975), and, finally, the underrated but rather mystical and sexual “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999).
The show also explores two uncompleted Kubrick projects: “Napoleon” and “Aryan Papers”. Indeed, the exhibition does a great job of bringing together artifacts, papers, movie clips and photos in the main exhibition hall.
Jan Harlan, Kubrick's executive producer, did an incredible presentation on his creative partner. photo: courtesy CJM
There’s a model of the maze in “The Shining” (1980), arguably his most famous film, a mannequin striking a choreographed, ultra-violence pose from “A Clockwork Orange”, and an ape mask from “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
The show extends into the sound installation room. Here you can watch clips edited together to show stylistic patterns throughout Kubrick’s oeuvre, and ogle a collection of Kubrick’s favorite lenses and cameras. The director started out as a photographer and graduated to making films, but, according to Jan Harlan, executive producer to all of Kubrick’s films from “Barry Lyndon” onwards, he never went anywhere without a camera in his pocket.
In addition to the exhibition, the CJM has added documentary screenings, lectures and a curator-led walk through of the exhibition. Much fandome to be had!
I went to see a gallery talk by none other than Harlan. His awareness is informed by having worked on an enormous body of Kubrick’s work, as well as with Steven Spielberg, after Kubrick’s death in 1999, on “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”.
Indeed, I was very surprised to find out that “A.I.”—one of my favorite films—was originally a Kubrick project. Although uncredited, he created the concept and basic story. “Of course I knew that!” sniffed the friend with whom I was attending the show. And that’s when I learned that, although I may qualify as a Kubrick fan, I do not—as of yet—rate as a Kubrick fanatic.
And what rates a true fanatic? I met a young man, an aspiring filmmaker, who, at the age of 17, has seen all Kubrick’s films many, many, MANY times. He asked me if I had any advice as he embarks on making his first film and wondered if he should start by going to film school. I suggested that he’s already been to film school: The Kubrick School of Filmmaking. Can’t really get any better than that!
Mr. Harlan was a wonderful speaker and holder in the present of Kubrick’s work. When I asked him what the best relationship between a producer and director should be, he answered: “Get him [/her] what he needs. And succeed.”
Kubrick told George C. Scott, in 'Dr. Strangelove' (1964), to play it broad in warmup and then tricked him by using those takes.. photo: courtesy S. Kubrick
To illustrate the point he told the following story: “’On Full Metal Jacket’”  , Stanley needed some specific American tanks used in Vietnam. Well, after ‘Dr. Strangelove’  we were very unpopular with the American military! So we couldn’t ask them. “
“So I found that the Belgian military owned three of the tanks. So I contacted them and spoke to a general. It was a huge logistical and financial issue. And how much should they charge, etc. The general point blank said that the Belgian military was not in the business of renting tanks!”
“So after much back and forth, he finally said: ‘Just make sure you bring them back!’ And we milked those three tanks—they are used over and over again. THREE tanks! And ONE helicopter.”
Another story he told regarded getting music for “A Clockwork Orange”. Given the vicious criminal Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) is a fan of classical music and Beethoven’s 9th in particular, it is featured repeatedly. Harlan said that trying to record Beethoven’s 9th would have been extremely costly and beyond their skills.
In the end, he found a Deutsche Grammaphone recording by the Berlin Philharmonic for which he was able to acquire the rights for “only 3000 Marks!”—clearly that was a memory of huge triumph for Harlan.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum, one of this author's favorite museums anywhere, is on San Francisco's Mission Street. photo: courtesy CJM.
Kubrick’s daughter, Katharina Kubrick, Art Director of the incredible creatively art directed “The Shining” and many other of her father's films, also attended the screening. While it’s easy to be star-struck in the presence of such movie royalty, the most noticeable character/trait Harlan displayed in his talk was humility. It is precisely the character trait that allows the work of a great artist to be birthed into the world, as normally as possible, and now to be enjoyed as well as analyzed by ever-younger generations of Kubrick fanatics—including my 17 year-old acquaintance.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition runs from June 30 - Oct 30 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum located in San Francisco at 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA.
Joanne Butcher is a coach/consultant working with independent filmmakers to create critically successful films that make money! She can be reached at her
Posted on Jul 10, 2016 - 01:40 PM