Arts & Culture

Decoding the Kubrick exhibit

‘The Shining’ room at the LACMA exhibit shows costumes, the typewriter, a knife (on the table) and axes from the film embedded in the wall.
‘The Shining’ room at the LACMA exhibit shows costumes, the typewriter, a knife (on the table) and axes from the film embedded in the wall. Los Angeles County Museum Art -

These are great times indeed for us Stanley Kubrick nut cases. Since the 20th century claimed its greatest filmmaker in March 1999, longtime Kubrick aficionados have seen a wealth of riches: Bluray discs of his films, biographies, interpretive books, reissues — even a chance to own part of his personal print of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

And now, in Los Angeles, we can rummage through his attic.

“Stanley Kubrick: Inside the Mind of a Visionary Filmmaker” is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through June 30. It is making its first appearance in the United States, having started in 2004 in Germany and moved through Australia and back to Europe.

Kubrick’s films have fascinated moviegoers for decades. “Paths of Glory,” his fourth feature, is among the greatest anti-war films; “Lolita” was considered unfilmable; “Dr. Strangelove” may be the darkest movie ever; “A Clockwork Orange” was blamed for copycat crime in Britain, so much that Kubrick took it out of circulation there; “The Shining” has inspired endless speculation; and “2001: A Space Odyssey” is considered by many critics as the greatest film ever.

Kubrick fought for creative control for most of his work, and was involved in every bit of his productions.

The exhibit covers his Look magazine photography career, two documentaries and 13 completed theatrical films. And there are exhibits on the two projects he abandoned, “The Aryan Papers” and “Napoleon,” and for “A.I.,” which Steven Spielberg finished.

American Kubrickians have been following the path of this exhibit to the U.S. much like children will watch NORAD track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

The top delights?

Kubrick’s camera equipment, including the NASA lens used to film candlelit scenes in “Barry Lyndon.” This item is the subject of the longstanding conspiracy theory that NASA rewarded Kubrick with the lens after he supposedly filmed the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The Starchild prop from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” On the screen it is way bigger than life. Bigger than Earth. At the museum, reclined in a display between a hominid mask and a space suit, the large-eyed prop still has some wallop. Its skull is cleaved, though, most likely because at some museums it was hung upright by a pole stuck in its head. It is not cleaved because it got too close to the “Shining” room.

The typewriter, axes and knife from “The Shining.” The axes are embedded in the wall inches from a mural-size picture of the unfortunate Grady daughters before their evisceration. Who says museums don’t have a sense of humor?

The female-form furniture from “A Clockwork Orange.” After 40 years, these still have the power to shock.

A full-length costume of the hominid called Moonwatcher from “Odyssey.” He appears harmless after tossing his femur weapon.

Every room has something to detain the Kubrick fan: space helmets, furniture and models; a diorama of the Louis XIV bedroom found on Jupiter; a scale-model maze from the Overlook Hotel; the helmet worn by Private Joker (Matthew Modine) in “Full Metal Jacket”; clapboards from several films; masks from “Eyes Wide Shut”; and dozens of photos of actor Sue Lyon from “Lolita.”

Fascinating as it is, the exhibit has some noticeable absences: No HAL models, except for the fish eye lens meant to show what the malicious computer was seeing; no Danny Torrance tricycle; no Steadicam; no Lolita heart-shaped sunglasses; no mannequin parts from “Killer’s Kiss” — and where are the tridents from “Spartacus”?

Of course, there are movies. Screens in several rooms show clips from the films or from documentaries about the films.

Viewing for the exhibit must be reserved by the half-hour, but that doesn’t mean the museum will kick you out after 30 minutes. I spent two hours and I’m ready to go back for more.

Richard Atkinson is a senior copy editor for The Tribune and a 49-year fan of Stanley Kubrick.