Friday 3 May 2019

Kubism, Kubrintermission:
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition

I realise I'm only 26.66 recurring percent through my game-changing overview of the films of Stanley Kubrick, but I thought it was time for an intermission so you could either go for a poo or read some waffle about the Design Museum's Stanley Kubrick exhibition. You could always do both I suppose, the toilet is the ideal reading location for this blog.

Anyway last week I was at the press launch for Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, which was no different from a standard visit except that instead of paying money I had to listen to Alan Yentob introducing it. I am well aware that Kubrick fans have a lot to thank Mr Yentob for, but I've been at two Kubrick events in the last month at which he appeared and I'm not entirely sure that public speaking is his forte.

So what can you expect to get for your £14.50, apart from a Yentob-free experience (unless he's also visiting on the same day as you, which would be unlucky)? Well, the first thing you'll notice is the entrance, which has been cleverly designed to mimic Kubrick's famous one-point perspective shooting style. If you've done any research on the exhibition online you'll expect to see something like this:
But what you'll actually see is something more like this:
Basically stop fannying about trying to get a cool photo of the entrance because there are hundreds of people trying to do the same thing and there's a shitload of stuff inside you need to crack on with.

The first room is a basic introduction to Stanley Kubrick and his working practices, including cameras and lenses, clapperboards, his Steenbeck editing desk, posters, a tonne of stuff relating to his unrealised Napoleon movie, and I've just realised that if I list everything in the room I'll be here until November, so let's just say there is a shitload of deeply cool Kubrick paraphernalia on display. My favourite thing in this room is his Oscar for VFX on 2001: A Space Odyssey, because the inscription plate on the base of the statue is slightly off centre and I bet it drove Kubrick fucking nuts. Hopefully Douglas Trumbull gets some enjoyment from that.

After that, the exhibition is split into areas dealing with each of his films. However, if you're going because you're a fan of any of his first three features you'll be disappointed: Fear And Desire, Killer's Kiss and The Killing are all glossed over in the first room. It's a bit of a shame to be honest, but given that probably not much stuff still exists from that time and that Kubrick himself virtually disowned his first two films, it's understandable.
While there's a clear route through the exhibition, the films are presented out of chronological sequence, which is mildly infuriating for twats like me but in fairness it does stop everyone bunching up in the middle where his best stuff would be. The first section deals with Kubrick's three most straightforward war films (Dr. Strangelove comes later): Paths Of Glory is a little under-represented, but costumes from Spartacus and Full Metal Jacket make up for it, as do Saul Bass's glorious Spartacus storyboards (which are hilariously contrasted with Kubrick's own scrawled versions) and a letter to Kubrick from Kirk Douglas, which he signs "Spartacus" for the avoidance of doubt.

More space is understandably given over to the more popular films: A Clockwork Orange brings you a giant phallus and the Korova Milk Bar's saucy tables; The Shining has a scale model of the Overlook Hotel maze, Jack Torrance's typewriter and his somewhat repetitive manuscript, and 2001 gets a small recreation of the Hilton Space Station's Howard Johnson Earthlight Room, as well as a huge amount of other props and models which I'll leave you to discover(y). Hint: look up.
If you're a Kubrick fan, don't plan to do anything silly like double-billing Spartacus and Barry Lyndon on the same day as visiting the exhibition because you'll want to give yourself several hours to pore over everything (although if you don't immediately want to watch at least one Kubrick film as soon as you leave then you're a monster). While there's an inevitable overlap between what's on display and what you might already know about The Kube, there are exhibits here that will give you chills you can't get from DVD extras. The whole exhibition has been thoughtfully curated to include just enough to satisfy but not overwhelm you, and given how much stuff is in the Kubrick archives that's no small feat of editing.

If you're not a Kubrick fan, you're an idiot, so go along anyway and educate yourself. You might not get nerdthrills from seeing the actual candles used to light Barry Lyndon like I did, but you might at least get some amusement from reading the angry letters Stan received about his more controversial films. You'll also see some of the original scripts, sketches, set photos, costumes, equipment and clips on big screens from some of the most innovative and downright smashingest films ever made, so show some respect and get your ass to the Design Museum in London before September 15th. Otherwise I'll send Alan Yentob round to convince you, and you do not want that.

Here is a link to buy tickets, tell them I sent you and you'll get a 0% discount.

And don't forget to read Kubism, my long-winded look at the films of Stanley Kubrick, because it's taking me ages and I need to know I'm not wasting my time.

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