2016: A Stanley Kubrick Odyssey: Legendary Filmmaker’s Work On Display at CJM
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, currently on display at Contemporary Jewish Museum through Oct 30th, underscores the late filmmaker’s brilliance. As you peruse this comprehensive tribute to the legendary auteur’s life and career, you might find yourself drawn into a small, self-contained room. Inside, scenes from the director’s groundbreaking and still envelope pushing political corruption/sci-fi masterpiece A Clockwork Orange play on a giant video monitor.
“There was me, that is Alex…..” intones Malcom MacDowell, the film’s star, during the opening moment of A Clockwork Orange . Kubrick’s camera pulls back to reveal nude, plastic figures of young women who dispense drinks out of their nipples in the Korova Milkbar. As the scene unfolds, you will no doubt notice two of these figures standing in repose on either side of the CJM’s video monitor.
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was a filmmaker who defied conventions and who refused to be confined to any genre or style. Audiences never knew what to expect from this brilliant visionary who jumped from genre to genre, often redefining each genre he explored. Stanley Kubrick: the Exhibition attempts to shine a light on Kubrick’s film making process and to give his audience a glimpse into what might have made him tick. Every film which bears the Kubrick stamp is represented in a show which includes film clips, props and costumes, production notes, personal correspondence, and even a few letters sent to the auteur from moviegoers.
The CJM goes all the way back to Kubrick’s early years in the Bronx, where his creative life began. At age 16 he sold his first photograph to Look Magazine–within the year he was the magazine’s staff photographer. A number of his photos from this period are on display in the exhibition–everything from his portraits of movie stars to his observations of New York City life of 65 years ago. These pictures reveal the future director’s eye for composition, and his ability to reveal a bit of his subject’s soul. The actual camera Kubrick used during his tenure at Look now sits in the CJM exhibition hall.
The bulk of the exhibition focuses on what Kubrick is best known for, his extraordinary filmography. When enter Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, the first thing you’ll see is a collection of theatrical release posters from Kubrick’s career. Seeing those unforgettable titles, Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, 2001, A Clockwork Orange (with an X rating–the film was later reclassified with an R), The Shining, and so many others lined up side-by-side underscores the magnitude of Kubrick’s contribution to cinema history, as well as the diversity of the stories he chose to tell.
Pieces on display include the legendary Starchild from 2001, actual costumes worn by cast members in Barry Lyndon, a camera that was used to shoot Barry Lyndon, and mock-ups of the ghostly twin girls who haunted The Shining.
Kubrick’s films always elicited strong reactions from viewers. A 1962 letter from a conservative Christian group decries the director’s Lolita, a then shocking tale of a middle aged man who fetishizes a seductive teenage vamp. The letter refers to the film’s “degenerate appeal.”
But a touching letter written to Kubrick by Lolita star Sue Lyon some three decades later tells a different story: Lyon, who left show biz in the early 70s after suffering from mental health issues, wanted her director to know that she was happily married and that she was fine.
Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between 3rd and 4th). Open daily 11am-5pm, and from 11am-8pm on Thursdays. Closed Wednesdays.
Kubrick In Color, a big-screen retrospective, can be seen at Alamo Drafthouse’s New Mission Theater throughout September. Highlights include Barry Lyndon (Sept 4), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Sept 18) and A Clockwork Orange (Sept 24).