‘Festival of Stanley’: touring Kubrick exhibition heads to UK

04 October 2018, The Guardian

London to host 2019 tribute to film-maker behind The Shining and A Clockwork Orange

A Stanley Kubrick exhibition that has toured the world from Germany to Mexico to South Korea but never been to the country he called home is finally arriving in the UK.

The Design Museum in London has announced details of a exhibition next year that will be devoted to the film-maker. There will also be a Kubrick season at the BFI and programmes and films on BBC TV and radio.

Alan Yentob, the former BBC creative director and a friend of Kubrick who played a key role in getting the show to London, said next spring would be a “festival of Stanley”.

The show will mirror one which began at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt in 2004 and travelled to 16 cities across the world. It has never been to the UK, Kubrick’s adopted home and the place he made most of his films. The Vietnamese countryside around the Mekong Delta in Full Metal Jacket, for example, is the Norfolk Broads; the bombed out city of Hue was created at Beckton.

The exhibition will borrow heavily from the Kubrick archive at the University of the Arts London and is coming together with the support of Kubrick’s brother-in-law and executive producer on many of his films, Jan Harlan.

Harlan said what was special about Kubrick was that the work did not disappear. “His 13 films are all there. Paths of Glory is unrivalled, Dr Strangelove, unfortunately, is as current as it can be; 2001 [A Space Odyssey] … we are as ignorant as ever about what is there.”

He began working with Kubrick in 1969 on his unrealised film Napoleon. It has become known as the greatest movie never made, but Harlan said an HBO TV series based on Kubrick’s research for the film, masterminded by Steven Spielberg, directed by the recently appointed Bond 25 director Cary Fukunaga, and written by playwright David Auburn, was close.

“What fascinated Kubrick about Napoleon is that he is a modern character. Hugely charismatic, colossally successful, utterly vain and foolish. He ruined himself and there was nobody to blame but himself. Intelligence, talent, charisma is no guarantee of success. For Kubrick, it was a current affairs programme, not a history lesson.”

The new Napoleon may be different to Kubrick’s but that’s fine, said Harlan. “Of course it will be different. Cary Fukunaga is a different director but a very good one, he is a brilliant man.”

The London show will feature props, costumes, films and scripts and shine light on a director who was demanding and driven. It will explore his work with designers including Hardy Amies, Eliot Noyes, Ken Adam and Saul Bass, whose creations for The Shining poster went through 300 versions before Kubrick was happy.

Harlan said Kubrick was difficult, but he was more difficult on himself. There is a popular image of Kubrick as an obsessive recluse, secluded on his Hertfordshire estate near St Albans.

While that is not the whole story, Harlan revealed that Kubrick came to his New Year’s Eve party 20 years in a row because “he knew he would meet the same people. To be asked: ‘Oh I didn’t understand the ending of 2001’… that just embarrassed him.”

Many things in his films happened by chance, Harlan said. For example, Kubrick was hunting around for music for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Harlan randomly put Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra on the record player. Itbecame one of the most famous pieces of film music.

Yentob said serendipity also played a part in the Kubrick exhibition coming to London. He was seeing Harlan off at St Pancras train station and they were chatting about how crazy it was that the touring show had never been to the UK. Yentob said the Design Museum, in its new home at the former Commonwealth Institute in west London, would be perfect.

Within two minutes, by chance, Yentob said he bumped into the Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic, who was also at the station. He agreed straight away.

Yentob said Kubrick was not a megalomaniac. “He had an ability to distil the chaos, to find a way through, to ask the questions … he was always wanting to learn.”

To coincide with the exhibition, the BFI will present in April to May what it has called the “definitive Stanley Kubrick season” showing his films in celluloid using projectors. There will also be a new print of A Clockwork Orange.

Stanley Kubrick: the Exhibition will be at the Design Museum in London from 26 April until 17 September 2019.

The Guardian Article