Friday, 29 June 2012

Go see Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at EYE!!!

A happy accident occurred whilst visiting Amsterdam last week, in that my time in the Netherlands coincided with the beginning of a really excellent Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the EYE Institute near the city centre (well, a short ferry crossing from the back of Central Station). There are few things on Earth I love more than the films of Stanley Kubrick, so I made sure to check it out - and was thrilled by what I saw.

Running until September 9th, the exhibition features props, costumes, vintage promotional materials, documentary clips and more relating to twelve of the master's thirteen feature films (nothing on the disowned 'Fear and Desire'), presented with their own dedicated space and positioned in chronological order. The focal point of each section is a large screen upon which clips of that particular movie are projected. Apart from the fact that this gives you the chance to watch key scenes from everything from 'The Killing' to 'Eyes Wide Shut' on a proper screen (a considerable boon considering how rare screenings of these films are), a winsome side-effect is that it's possible to turn 360 degrees on one spot and take in the sights (and sounds) of 'Barry Lyndon', 'The Shining', 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Eyes Wide Shut'.

Before you get to his feature films, at the entrance there's a room dedicated to the filmmaker's early newsreel shorts - with clips of both 'Day of the Fight' and 'The Flying Padre' - and still photography, with an additional room (fittingly enough positioned near the middle) looking at the great unrealised projects of his career: 'Napoleon' and 'The Aryan Papers'. The fact that these two spaces are included means that, provided they read the descriptions as they progress, even those with little knowledge on the subject going in should leave with a pretty good overview of his career from his teenage years in the 1940s up to his untimely death in 1999.

To give you some idea of the array of treats on show, the exhibition includes: original storyboards for 'Spartacus' drawn by the legendary Saul Bass, spaceship models from '2001', Malcolm McDowell's iconic droog outfit from 'A Clockwork Orange', Tom Cruise's Venetian mask from 'Eyes Wide Shut' (above), Jack Nicholson's famous wood-chopping axe from 'The Shining', the "Born to Kill" helmet from 'Full Metal Jacket' (complete with peace badge) and the special Oscar statuette the director received for special effects in 1968. Each of those items should be enough to entice people with a decent general interest in movies, regardless of their feelings for Kubrick specifically - with each being an instantly recognisable piece of film history.

Hardcore fans of the director will also be pleased to find materials that go a little deeper. For instance, they will delight at the simple pleasure of being able to flick through one of Kubrick's index card filled drawers used to collate his extensive Napoleon research, as well as the chance to look at the pioneering Steadicam used on 'The Shining' and the equally ground-breaking lens used to shoot the candle light sequences in 'Barry Lyndon'.

There are also numerous interesting bits of archive material throughout, including correspondence between the director and some of his collaborators (for instance 'Lolita' writer Vladimir Nabokov and 'Paths of Glory' star Kirk Douglas), pages detailing the breakdown of the production budget for 'Killer's Kiss', and an invitation card to the cancelled premiere for 'Dr. Strangelove' upon which the director has scrawled, with zero detectable sentiment: "NEVER HELD. THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SHOT."

To compliment this exhibition EYE are also screening all of Kubrick's movies over the period of the event, with a discount of a few Euros offered if you buy a movie ticket at the same time as paying the entrance fee (entrance: €12, movie ticket €10, combined ticket €18). I saw '2001' on the big screen for the first time thanks to this offer and, aside from some grating projection issues (the house lights were on for the first 5 minutes, whilst the aspect ratio and focus were being modified well into the opening 20 minutes), it was well worth the price of admission.

If you're a UK based Kubrick fan, it's well worth noting that you can fly to Amsterdam pretty cheaply these days on budget airlines (the round-trip can cost under £50 if you go in the week) and - with the flights only taking 45 minutes from Gatwick to Amsterdam Schipol - it's feasibly something you could do as a day trip without feeling unduly excessive. This exhibition has been touring Europe since 2004 and - as I understand it - there are currently no plans to bring it to the UK, so Amsterdam seems as good a place as any to venture if you're a big fan. Especially since its next planned stop is Los Angeles.

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