LOS ANGELES – If LA film lovers are looking for something to do this holiday, look no further than the Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A touring treasure trove of artifacts from the famed filmmaker’s career that has already made stops all over the world, from Frankfurt to Berlin, Melbourne to Ghent, Zurich to Rome, Paris to Amsterdam, it has set up shop in LA through June 30, 2013 and is well worth the $20 admission price.
As soon as you walk through the giant glass doors you’re met with a career spanning three shorts and 16 features, including the uncompleted “Napoleon” and “Aryan Papers,” as well as the Steven Spielberg-directed “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” which Kubrick developed. A pair of video walls in a dark room greet you first, with clips from a number of films to get you in the right frame of mind. Then the journey really begins.
There is a separate room or wing dedicated to most of the features. A brief wall with elements from the shorts and “Killer’s Kiss,” as well as a glass case featuring “The Killing” soon gives way to the first considerable presentation: 1957’s brilliant “Paths of Glory.” Twisting and turning through the exhibit you’re met with costumes from “Spartacus,” miniature models from “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” bright white statues from the Korova Milk Bar of “A Clockwork Orange,” art department elements from “2001: A Space Odyssey” including a simian costume and the star child model, the giant, NASA-developed lens used to capture mere candle light for “Barry Lyndon” and much, much more.
Off in one alcove is a thoughtful presentation of Kubrick’s use of pre-existing music to sometimes eerie, often visceral effect in films like “The Shining” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” There you’ll hear the sounds of György Ligeti’s “Atmospheres” or Krzysytof Penderecki’s “De Natura Sonoris No. 1” and “No. 2.” Another detour offers pre-production imagery and an interview with a would-be star of “Aryan Papers.”
Screenplay drafts, notes, production boards, sketches and models litter the expansive collection. One case is dedicated to Kubrick’s many cameras and lenses, while another wall features numerous posters from his (relatively) small but potent portfolio of work.
Most arresting is a scale model of the bedroom suite from the finale of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” wonderfully lit and impeccably detailed. Though a major stand-out is the vast collection of “Napoleon” materials. It would be the most extensively researched film of Kubrick’s career, with a pre-production boasting so much that Taschen dedicated a coffee table book to it. Yet it would never be made, and Kubrick would use the natural light cinematography techniques he was developing for the film on “Barry Lyndon” instead.
Also intriguing are the many informative elements regarding production design. Whether it’s Anton Furst’s creation of a bombed-out Vietnamese town at a strategically detonated factory in England for “Full Metal Jacket” or the gimbal rig used for the space station sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Kubrick’s films were marvels of design, and that isn’t lost on the exhibit. You could spend countless minutes peering into the scale model of the hedge maze from “The Shining.” (The room for Kubrick’s Stephen King adaptation features Jack Torrance’s typewriter bearing one of the countless pages indicating his descent into insanity, as well as the framed photo of the Overlook Hotel’s July 4th ball that eerily closes the film.)
Further to all of that, there is an entire wall dedicated specifically to the director’s use of the color red throughout his career: the eye of HAL-900 in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the redcoats of “Barry Lyndon,” Gomer Pyle’s post-suicide blood splatter from “Full Metal Jacket,” it’s all thoroughly, fascinatingly analyzed.
As you walk through the final areas featuring elements from “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Aryan Papers,” past a wall of film markers from the set of a handful of films, you might heed the security guard’s warning: “If you go out here it’s exit only.” I humbly suggest turning around and going right back through the exhibit on your way out the entrance, because for Kubrick fans — indeed, for fans of cinema — once truly isn’t enough.
Check out a gallery of sights from the exhibit below.
The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA opened November 1 and runs through June 30, 2013.