On Saturday night I finally made it to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to see the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. I say finally, because I’d been planning on going for weeks now but, well… I really have no excuse; it just fell through the cracks of my social calendar floorboards. Still, the smell from the guilt of not yet having seen the genius of Kubrick’s life & craft lay festering below the floorboards, reminding me time and again with subtle wafts of remorse, that I must pay it some attention soon or continue to be plagued by the rotten aroma of procrastination until one day, the exhibit was gone and I would have to live in the filthy ruins of my own doing – so I got my shit together and went.
If you’ve never heard of Stanley Kubrick, that’s ok; if you’ve never heard of or seen one of his movies however, that’s a low down dirty shame and you should rectify this cinematic sacrilege immediately. Known for adapting novels and short stories, Kubrick thrived off of tackling pieces of literature that were conceptual, forward-thinking, controversial and dark. His style was sublime in that he could take intensely disturbing content matter and – without skirting the severity of the issue – add elements of humor, wit and breathtaking cinematography that would make it seem not ‘less disturbing’, but almost ‘whimsically disturbing’ – like coming across the body of a dead clown in a dark, abandoned fair ground… then noticing that its pants have fallen down and having a little chuckle.
Kubrick chose to make movies like Lolita (a film adaption of Vladimir Nabakov’s salaciously notorious novel from the 1950’s) that dealt with an older man’s sexual obsession over a 12-year old girl, or movies such as A Clockwork Orange that dealt with issues of psychopathic ‘ultra violence’ and the seedy underbelly of society that breeds the very psychopaths it’s afraid of. These controversial subjects were Kubrick’s playground – the more sensitive the subject or complicated the character, the stronger the magnifying glass with which to view Kubrick’s meticulous talents.
From my own, inexperienced, non-scholastic and elementary observation of Kubrick’s movies, I will say that he, unlike any other director I can summon to mind, was able to draw me into the mood or emotion of a scene or character, to the point of complete sensory immersion. In The Shining, when a maniacally delusional Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is stalking his wife (Shelley Duval) around the cavernous Overlook Hotel and proceeds to hack the bathroom door to pieces with an axe to get at her… the viewer feels like he/she is locked in the bathroom with Shelley’s psyche (victim) , but also in the lunatic mind of Jack’s psyche (killer)… and both feel good.
After visiting the exhibit and walking through the ‘Cinematic Odyssey’ that was Kubrick’s impressive career, it became immediately apparent that he was a fanatic perfectionist, a gifted visionary, an eccentric artist, an innovative cinematographer and is widely acknowledged as one of the most important figures in film history. The curator of this exhibit did an impressive job of capturing all aspects of Kubrick’s obsessively particular artistic process through letters between Kubrick and actors/novelists, meticulous scene sketches, development of new filming technologies, ridiculous set creations, projections of famous movie scenes, in-house set recreations and the list goes on. I was a big fan of Kubrick’s movies before I went to the exhibit, but now have a full understanding of (and am in complete agreement with) all the hype this film industry giant has garnered over the course of his exceptional career. Now, here are a few clips to whet your Kubrick palette:
The Shining – Here’s Johnny!
Full Metal Jacket – Drill Sargent
A Clockwork Orange – The Ludovico Transformer Treatment (Ultra Violence)