If you have any interest in movies and 'film,' in what constitutes genius...or even a curiosity about what it takes to become an icon of creativity in the cinematic world, then you have just a few weeks - until June 30th - to visit the amazing Stanley Kubrick exhibit in the Art in the Americas Building at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd, near LaCienega, (323) 857-6000, with valet and underground parking. $15 general admission, www.lacma.org, closed Wednesday). The exhibit is being jointly co-sponsored with AMPAS, the Academy (my own organization, you may recall), and it features more than a a thousand items covering the breadth of the legendry Stanley's extraordinary life....from his early days as a Look magazine photographer, which began when he was 16 in 1945 on the day that President Roosevelt died, when the magazine published his first shot of a distraught newspaper vendor (and when I first met him in New York, as he lived down the street and regularly visited me to photograph my two monkeys)...to the late 1990s. His films are represented in many ways, from annotated scripts, production photography, lenses and cameras, set models, costumes and props. I was especially interested in the exploration of his never-made "Napoleon" movie, which he had to abandon in 1969 due to budget and production problems. . Even Stanley's personal chess set is here, tucked away in a transparent box. (Chess was a favorite past time of the late director, and he he often played matches in between takes on a set.)
Stanley Kubrick behind the camera.
The movies are all here in some form...from the early 50s' war film, "Fear and Desire" (in which Paul Mazursky had a small role) and "Killer's Kiss," (robbing the racetrack) which were produced by my old friend and partner, Jimmy Harris, to "Paths of Glory" (Kirk Douglas in World War I, which "examines ambitions which lure men to sacrifice their fellow men") to "Spartacus (Kubrick' first film in color, which I recently reviewed for Huffington at its Academy screening, as I did his controversial 1971 "A Clockwork Orange") ...to "Lolita," (there's a letter from the young actress, Sue Lyons, to Kubrick: "I will always believe that the only reason I had any success was because of you." See the famed photo of her looking over her sunglasses), "Dr. Strangelove," (yes, the Peter Sellers one, with Slim Pickens riding the bomb), "2001, A Space Odyssey"(remember 'Hal'? And the ape throwing up the bone?), on to "Barry Lyndon,"(1975 period epic, filmed much in candlelight, due to his technological advances using a 50 mm Zeiss camera lens developed for NASA satellite photography. Many of the shots in it are direct representations of 18th century paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, Hogarth and others), "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson holding an axe in that scary hotel), "Full Metal Jacket," (Matthew Modine as Private Joker in this penultimate 1987 Vietnam War film, Stanley's vision of war's madness), and his last film, "Eyes Wide Shut," the one with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, released four months after his death. (This is the film which I have seen twice, and feel is his most disappointing....somewhat confused, yet spectacular in some of its intimate scenes. And Nicole is sensuously stunning.) I have been back to the exhibit twice, and intend to visit at least once more before it closes...it is too much to absorb in one visit....but is also the most rewarding couple of hours one can spend marveling at the wonder of this unique human mind. His films dealt with human vanity and frailty, and with the fact that we tend to be governed more by our emotions than by reason in situations of despair and threat.
Stanley on the set in Spain of Sparticus, his first film in color.
The director's brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, told me by email that he pulled most of the material from 800 boxes in which Stanley stored almost everything from his life and movies. "He never threw anything away" (Join the club!). "What is ironic that he was the most private of people, shunning any personal publicity or contacts with the press. Yet here we are laying bare his entire life. What Christiane and I want to illustrate is how difficult it is to make a good film, how much work it is." His humor was quiet but self-evident. There is a quote from Stanley in the video montage: "A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical view of human nature, but who still has the optimism to make some sort of a joke out of it. However brutal that joke might be."
Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange"
This 13-time Academy Award-nominated director, writer and producer (who also won an Oscar for Special Visual Effects for '2001'), was probably the most successfully innovative, operatic, and intellectually challenging filmmaker of all time. He expanded the boundaries of visual storytelling with his humor, style, intelligence and daring. Long tracking shots, the use of orchestral music, the use of new lenses, all utilized restlessly by him. He died on his English estate in 1999 at the age of 70, and his widow, Christiane, helped bring this first U.S. exhibition about. (Old friend Steve Tisch contributed financially to its showing, and I understand that former Warners exec Terry Semel was also instrumental in getting it here, having seen a smaller version in Europe." In our generation, Stanley would be the one person we would want to know more about and see more about," says Terry. LACMA's Michael Govan hired film and TV production designer Patty Podesta to whip the exhibit into shape, and she did a spectacular job.
The "Dr. Strangelove" wall exhibit.
As a film producer, I am constantly in awe of what he imagined and then conceived. When I recently wrote on Huffington about the necessity of all of us "Thinking outside of the box," Kubrick is a perfect example of that. This exhibit is something of a dry run for the forthcoming Academy Museum, which hopefully will debut in 2016 with the amazing 1000-seat globe-theatre behind the old May Co. building. A taste of things to come, it's where many future such exhibits will be held. (I can only dream that a small exhibit from my successful production of the Billie Holiday biofilm, "Lady Sings The Blues," (Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor) will someday show there. Yes, I can dream.)
Kubrick, at the end, said: "Watching a film is like having a dream. It operates on portions of your mind that are only reached by dreams or dramas, and there you explore things without any responsibility of serious ego or conscience." Amen.
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