TIFF's new Stanley Kubrick exhibition – titled, naturally, Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition – is an official history of the odd and obsessive filmmaker. Walking through its interlocking rooms, each more or less given over to a specific film, from early features, such as the 1955 noir Killer's Kiss (tagline: "Her soft mouth was the road to sin-smeared violence!") through to 1999's Eyes Wide Shut (also boasting plenty of soft mouths and sin-smeared violence), is like walking though a fat, glossy coffee table book.
At a media preview this week, Kubrick's long-time producer (and brother-in-law) Jan Harlan spoke of "the secret" of Kubrick's cinema – the proverbial figure in the carpet that unifies his work. TIFF's exhibition, originally mounted by the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, may not reveal that secret. But it's certainly a fine tribute to Kubrick, as meticulously organized and detail-oriented as the man that TIFF's director of film programs describes as "one of the most enigmatic and essential artists of the 20th century."
Here are a few highlights of the show's 1,000-plus artifacts.
Paths of Glory shooting schedule
Kubrick's grisly, grave 1957 Great War movie was a key turning point in his career. For one, it sparked the sort of controversy that would dog many of his films (see also: Lolita, A Clockwork Orange). The movie's lacerating criticism of the French military saw it suppressed in that nation until 1975. The film also marked Kubrick's first collaboration with star Kirk Douglas, whom Kubrick would direct in the 1960 blockbuster Spartacus. The film's shooting schedule, a dense and detailed graph of charts-within-charts, speaks to the care and fastidiousness Kubrick brought to the production, as seen in his organizing and compartmentalizing the shoot with near military precision.
Angry Lolita letters
That Kubrick's 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's pedophilic novel got made at all is something of a miracle. The response to its making, meanwhile, is flat out hilarious. Given the notoriety of the book, many balked at the prospect of the motion picture, with the Catholic League of Decency proclaiming that seeing the movie was a mortal sin. The exhibition collects a handful of these appalled letters, decrying Lolita's "degenerate" nature and "deleterious effect upon our society," yet still cheerily amended with sign-offs like "Cordially yours."
Alternative Dr. Strangelove titles
The 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has one of the longest titles in movie history, right up there with Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. So it's no surprise that the filmmakers toyed with shorter (and weirder) titles. A bunch of these, such as "Wonderful Bomb" and "Dr. Strangelove's Secret Uses of Uranus," can be seen scrawled on a notepad in Kubrick's handwriting.
Overlook Hotel carpeting
And speaking of figures in the carpet, TIFF reproduced something like 55 square metres of the garish, brown and orange carpet traversed by the Torrance family in 1980's The Shining. Even better, the TIFF gift shop is selling toques of the same design, a handy way of expressing the sentiment, "I am a fan of the movie The Shining. Also: I bought a toque." The Shining wing of the exhibition includes a replica of the film's hedge maze – see if you can find a way out! – and original props, such as the dresses worn by the ghostly dead sisters (still stained with prop blood) and the typewriter at which Jack Nicholson's drunk, possessed, wannabe novelist sits typing the phrase, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
A crash course
Costumes, letters and props are one thing. But the 17-minute video essay Perpetual Check, curated by TIFF's Jesse Wente, functions as a crash course on the aesthetics of Kubrick's cinema. Pairing scenes from across his films – such as Kirk Douglas taking stock of his bruised troops as he stalks the World War One trenches in Paths of Glory with R. Lee Ermey dressing down his Vietnam-era recruits in Full Metal Jacket – the essay calls attention to recurring images in the director's movies, as well as favoured camera angles, movements and editing rhythms (or non-editing rhythms, in the case of those famous long-takes).
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition runs Oct. 31 – Jan. 25, 2015 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.