Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is currently on at TIFF Bell Lightbox until January 25th. You know it’s a happening when you see people dressed in special costumes.
When the droog is actually a polite gentleman sharing quips with no threats of violence you know you’re in a special place.
I am a great admirer of Stanley Kubrick, a film-maker whose influence is under-estimated in my opinion. As a student & scholar of film-music I believe he is the single most important director of the 20th Century, a pioneer and a great artist. Where Bernard Herrmann is perhaps the most revolutionary composer of the first century of music in the cinema, Kubrick outdoes him with his insights as a director, reinventing film music in the process. Come to my film music course and I’ll be happy to explain in detail.
Kubrick’s background as a still photographer in his youth followed by documentary film was important groundwork for his unique style. Part of the exhibit shows us his work at Look Magazine, a career that began amazingly enough at the age of 17. Yes he was clearly a prodigy, a brilliant young nerd before we had even invented the werd… er i mean word.
Walking through one encounters his work chronologically, a combination of informal still photographs, drawings, paintings, models, story-boards and other artefacts alongside examples from the films themselves.
It’s highly immersive, as each successive film & its world grabs you, alongside pictures of the actors and the director sharing a laugh or smoking a cigarette between takes.
Whether or not you’re a fan, you’ll learn more than you expected. I didn’t know, for instance, that Sterling Hayden –the General in Dr Strangelove –also stars in The Killing from a few years previous. I knew about AI, the unfinished idea that Steven Spielberg concluded with the approval of Kubrick’s widow. I didn’t know about the unfinished Napoleon project –which we see diagrammed in detail—that was shot down by studios due to the failure of Sergei Bondarchuk’s Waterloo. I had no idea Kubrick had a holocaust project in mind –again illustrated and explained—that he had to abandon when Spielberg made his own film.
It’s a very densely packed show, with more imagery & information per square foot than you’d normally find at, for example the AGO. I believe art galleries want us to have space to meditate and experience the art, whereas this space is much tighter, with music from (for example) 2001 or A Clockwork Orange seeping into your current space from the room around the corner, unavoidably. I suspect that’s more of an issue for me because I am more aural than visual. Yet it works brilliantly, the way previous films by a director stay in our eyes and ears to impact our current film experience.
It’s a fabulous show, brilliantly curated. I’d like to think they’d do as brilliantly with any director, but let’s not forget that Kubrick’s work is above and beyond. See it while you can.
And in the meantime we’re having a Kubrick festival at home the next few days. Spartacus. Lolita. Dr. Strangelove. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clockwork Orange. Barry Lyndon. The Shining. Eyes Wide Shut.