Close up on Stanley Kubrick: the exhibition

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In Paris to visit a Stanley Kubrick exhibition in Paris, Mark Salisbury asks the late director’s brother-in-law when it’s coming to London…

In the 12 years since Stanley Kubrick’s death, fans of the legendary filmmaker have been treated to several lavish books and revealing films regarding his career and legacy, most recently Taschen’s ‘The Greatest Movie Never Made’, a 2,874-page tome on the director’s unrealised Napoleon project.

And now we have Stanley Kubrick the exhibition which, after trips to Frankfurt, Berlin, Melbourne, Zurich, Ghent and Rome, has fetched up in Paris until July 31. Arranged over two floors, at the Frank Gehry-designed Cinémathèque Française, the exhibition – ‘Le Visionnaire Absolu’ – is a must-see for devotees, film scholars and movie-lovers alike.

‘He was an artist,’ says Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law, producer and one of the show’s organisers. ‘The great thing about the exhibition is his films do not disappear. “Paths of Glory” is as great a war film as there ever was. “Dr Strangelove” is more modern than it was at the time. His films are always up to date.’

The exhibition operates almost as a time machine, taking the visitor back to an era of pens, paper and Polaroids. It traces Kubrick’s career from his days as a photographer for Look magazine in New York, through his short films, his 1953 debut, ‘Fear and Desire’, and beyond. There are missives and memos, letters of complaint and production budgets, storyboards scribbled on whatever was to hand. Each film has an area, with visual and audio installations as well as props and costumes, including Alex’s ‘droog’ suit and cane from ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and Jack Torrance’s typewriter from ‘The Shining’. There’s even Kubrick’s director’s chair and the chess set he played with between shots.

History is everywhere. There’s a framed invitation card to a ‘Dr Strangelove’ preview that never was, on which Kubrick scrawled: ‘Never Held. The day Kennedy was shot.’ A series of photos taken by Weegee on the set of ‘Dr Strangelove’ record the filming of the custard pie fight in the War Room that was cut after test screenings. A handwritten letter from Audrey Hepburn declines an offer of work. A notebook kept during production on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ details a ‘Malcolm McDowell cold report’. The exhibition concludes with unrealised projects, among them ‘AI’, which Kubrick developed for years before it was directed by Steven Spielberg whose ‘Schindler’s List’ scuppered Kubrick’s Holocaust drama ‘Aryan Papers’.

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As you wander – and you’ll need several hours to fully appreciate the exhibition – it’s evident Kubrick was as meticulous as legend had it. There’s an index card cabinet devoted to documenting all the people involved with Napoleon, arranged month by month, year by year. As for the man himself, there’s little beyond the work, apart from a small gallery featuring one large oil painting and several watercolours by his widow, Christine, with titles such as ‘Watching TV, 1963’ or ‘Living room at Childwickbury, 1992’.

For now, Harlan says, there are no plans for the exhibition to come to London, which already houses a Kubrick archive at the University of the Arts. ‘I tried many times, but I haven’t succeeded yet,’ he reveals. ‘The latest conversation is with the V&A. They were in Paris and looked at the exhibition. I think they liked it…’

So far, Paris has seen 90,000 visitors, with six weeks left. ‘I am astonished how many young people are crowding into this exhibition,’ Harlan continues. ‘I don’t know why. I have no answer, but I’m happy.’

Stanley Kubrick: the exhibiton is at La Cinématheque Francaise, Paris, until July 31

Author: Mark Salisbury



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