Thursday, December 22, 2005

Here's Johnny: a day in the mind of Kubrick

On Sunday I visited the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition at Federation Square. I was always going to be biased on the quality of the exhibition as Stanley is my favorite mainstream director. Director of Lolita, A clockwork orange, Dr Strangelove (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb), Full metal jacket and a whole host of other films, Kubrick constituted my cinematic diet as a child. You should have seen me, I was like a kid in a candy store. I looked Hal in the eye. Hal for Chrissakes! The name Hal, incidentally, is comprised of the three letters preceding IBM in the alphabet, an eerie coincidence if you consider that Hal, the AI computer in 2001 A space odyssey, was an evil, maniacal piece of technology.

I found out lots of interesting Kubrickisms at the exhibition. For example, I discovered that junior Stanley was quite the photographer, which explains why his direction of cinematography was so effective. I saw all the letters of condemnation that he received from the nutsoid Christian freaks who seemed unable to take Oscar Wilde’s advice that ’there is no moral or immoral art, there is only art that is poorly or excellently executed (not verbatim). I was amused to learn that there was a deleted scene in Dr Strangelove, one involving a pie fight between the leaders of Russia and the US; the scene was deemed to be a little too foolhardy, and likely to render the film a farcical vibe.

From the 60’s onwards, Kubrick developed an obsession with Napoleon, and longed dearly to make a movie about his life. Being a man of great passion - and, yes, obsession - Kubrick, in preparing his research for the film, managed to assemble the largest library of Napoleonic texts in the world! These texts were all on display at the exhibition, and I noticed with envy that some tomes the director collected were actually written during the life of the great French military leader, making them some 200 years old. I read with sadness that, due to a lack of studio backing, Stanley’s plan, despite his 30 year obsession, never came near to getting off the ground.

A one stage I wandered into a room set up like the bar that the Drogues attended in A clockwork orange, which was complete with pale naked lady chairs and fluorescent wordage adorning the walls. Eerie, utterly eerie. I touched the robes that Tom Cruise wore when attending the dark, ritualistic orgy in Eyes wide shut (Tom Crusie in a film with emotional depth, who’d have thunk it?). I giggled with glee as I played around with a scale model of the 2001 space station. The original coke bottle that Lolita seductively drank from was on display. And, I sat upon the missile that Peter Sellars rode rodeo style to his demise at the end of Dr. Strangelove.

The way the exhibition was laid out was excellent. It was divided into sections covering each individual film in chronological order of production. Every exhibit had a succinct explanation accompanying it, and a plethora of great, original props were on display. There was a lot of great footage on televisions scattered throughout the center, with commentary from actors past and present. 2 hours of unadulterated fun were had at Fed square, and I’d recommend that anyone in Melbourne get down and see it - it will be well worth the $12 door entry.


nuke said...

I haven't seen Eyes Wide Shut because I'm biased against Tom Cruise. I've just never seen him in a decent movie (even Legend, good movie...but with Tom...enh..), what did you think of it? I heard mixed reviews of it, but on the other hand...I also really loved FMJ, Clockwork, and Lolita. I'd hate to think I'd be letting my dislike of Cruise (and Kidman for that matter) keep me from watching a decent flick.

Don Quixote said...

The thing is - and I cringe saying this! - Tom Cruise's performance in Magnolia was, well, pretty damn good. I'm totally on board in terms of the Cruise wankerish vibe, but if he's cast in the right roll (which he was in Eyes Wide Shut), then you can look past it.

I think you'd really appreciate certain aspects of the film Estars.