Make us your home page

Stanley Kubrick's eccentricities displayed at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Stanley Kubrick exhibit’s greatest focus is on The Shining. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it is the first art museum retrospective of the late director’s life and work.


The Stanley Kubrick exhibit’s greatest focus is on The Shining. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it is the first art museum retrospective of the late director’s life and work.


Stanley Kubrick never trusted Hollywood or got a star on its Walk of Fame, even after crafting some of the finest movies ever made.

So, it is with a fair amount of irony that Kubrick's career is being celebrated near movie studios he planned so meticulously to work around.

Irony and its creative cousins satire and mockery were always key elements in Kubrick's films: the War Room where fighting wasn't allowed in Dr. Strangelove; a brutal assault set to Singin' in the Rain in A Clockwork Orange; a computer's human survival instinct in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Although born in the Bronx and expatriated to England at his career's apex, Kubrick himself might have paradoxically chosen the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the North American debut of a definitive retrospective of his art.

Previously staged in Europe and Australia, the tribute continues through June 30 with no additional dates confirmed. Certainly it was my best $20 spent during a recent trip to L.A. (including admission to this vibrant museum's other galleries).

It's a small price to browse the mindset of a notoriously private artist, getting close to artifacts in some cases more iconic than the movies' stars: a black monolith, caveman costume and Star Child model from 2001; Pvt. Joker's combat helmet from Full Metal Jacket; lewd furniture from the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange.

Visitors enter and find Kubrick's wood and canvas director's chair, his name stenciled on an attached script box. From there it's literally into the trenches, with a wall-projected loop of footage from his World War I epic Paths of Glory, the camera dollying past soldiers warily staring into the lens.

The exhibit opens to a large foyer, one wall adorned by international movie posters — Spain's La naranja mecaníca (A Clockwork Orange) is a beauty — and others ringed with display cases for Kubrick's other passion, photo technology. Dozens of favored cameras and lenses are presented, including the hand-held Arriflex 35IIc that Kubrick personally used to the end with Eyes Wide Shut.

The best trivia nugget amid this display: Kubrick initially made his mark with a camera in 1945 when, at age 16, he photographed a newspaper vendor slumped next to the day's headline: "F.D.R. dead." Look magazine gave him $25 for the shot, outbidding Life and resulting in his first steady job.

Taking a left turn leads to the noirish roots of Kubrick's cinematic oeuvre and a section dedicated to his fascination with chess. That explains Kubrick's exasperating demand for inordinately multiple takes since he claimed the game teaches discipline to "control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good." Allusions to chess dot Kubrick's films, from games played in 2001 and Lolita to the design of a courtroom floor in Paths of Glory.

Everything so far is prologue to a startling collection of props, scripts, research, photos and costumes from Kubrick's classic films, another completed by Steven Spielberg after his friend's 1999 death (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) — and two more that never went before the cameras.

The latter projects are an untitled biography of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Holocaust drama Aryan Papers, each painstakingly researched before Kubrick abandoned them. In March, Spielberg announced his intention to produce a television miniseries based on Kubrick's Napoleon screenplay.

The Napoleon exhibit clearly evidences Kubrick's intensity of research: exhaustive notes kept on color-coded file cards, hundreds of books he read about the French emperor's era, and a handwritten chronology of scenes he would have filmed — 221 in all, from Napoleon's birth to unmarked grave, bookended by images of a child's stuffed bear. The Aryan Papers display is smaller by comparison, chiefly photographs and writings collected for set, prop and costume designs.

Choosing a favorite among rooms devoted to Kubrick's completed works is made easier simply by volume. There isn't much offered in Eyes Wide Shut and Full Metal Jacket displays, or surprisingly from Dr. Strangelove besides a model of the War Room. Barry Lyndon and Spartacus mostly show off costumes. Lolita is represented by Sue Lyon photos and letters from clergymen upset than Kubrick would film Vladimir Nabokov's jailbait novel in the early, uptight 1960s, including one from a Presbyterian pastor in Tampa.

The most bountiful collection celebrates The Shining, containing such treasures as its deranged novelist's "all work and no play . . ." typewriter, axes swung by star Jack Nicholson, the dead Grady twins' costumes and a model of the Overlook Hotel's hedge maze. Walls of memorabilia include continuity photos, an unused Stephen King screenplay oddly titled The Shine, and a letter from Kubrick's producer/brother-in-law Jan Harlan exalting "this new contraption for hand-held shots" that turned out to be the film's dread-inducing Steadicam.

Like Kubrick's films, there are insights and surprises nestled in every corner. All you must do is discover, and as the master himself declared, "Observation is a dying art." Unless inspired by this exhibit, in which case observation and its rewards are very much alive.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

>>if you go

The Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art continues through June 30. The museum is at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets are $20, which includes admission to all galleries. The museum is closed on Wednesdays. Visit for information.

Stanley Kubrick's eccentricities displayed at Los Angeles County Museum of Art 05/03/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 3, 2013 6:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  2. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground


    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23


    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22


    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/ 12/20/07
  5. Spring Hill to mark golden anniversary with celebration at Lake House



    It was 1967 when the Deltona Corp. began selling homes in western Hernando County, a rural area that previously had been little more than a vast forest of oak and pine trees.

    This photo, taken in 1967, shows Spring Hill’s signature waterfall at the intersection of Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19. The community will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 27.