Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition
Design Museum, London Until Sep 15
I’m an insane Stanley Kubrick fan. Barry Lyndon, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey are among my favourite films. But it’s only having seen the new exhibition of his work at the Design Museum, celebrating 20 years since his death, that I understand exactly why I love them.
Each of his films has a room devoted to its making, and the reason his movies are so good is not luck, or nepotism, or winging it, or CGI. They are good because of an inhuman amount of work and obsession with detail.
Take the room dedicated to his never-made Napoleon. It’s an analogue Wikipedia. Endlessly rewritten scripts. A card index with each scene detailed in ink. The shooting schedule on a spread sheet.
Like Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick story-boarded each scene. He constructed models of the centrifuge aboard 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Discovery One
Every biography ever written. He left absolutely nothing to chance.
Like Hitchcock, Kubrick story-boarded each scene. He constructed models: of the maze for The Shining, the centrifuge aboard 2001’s Discovery One. For a battle scene in the epic Spartacus, a photo was taken of the extras; each was given a number on the photo so the director could yell: ‘Number 224. Look more dead!’
Kubrick hated real locations, preferring to keep near his home in Hertfordshire (he was born in New York in 1928 but moved here to work for 40 years). He felt using locations meant a loss of control, which means I’m shocked to learn that the Overlook Hotel from The Shining was actually in Elstree!
Stanley Kubrick, shown here with actor Matthew Modine on the set of Full Metal Jacket, hated real locations, preferring to keep near his home in Hertfordshire
An exception was when he made Barry Lyndon in 1975, decamping to Chatsworth, Castle Howard et al to recreate the 18th century, filming entirely by candlelight. I knew that he had used candles, as I once interviewed Barbara Daly, the Vogue make-up artist whom he hired to create that unique Marisa Berenson face, a look copied by every schoolgirl in the land.
What I didn’t know until this exhibition was that Kubrick had the candles specially made, with three wicks in each to make them burn brighter.
There is so much fascinating detail here: the axe wielded by Jack Nicholson in The Shining had no fewer than 12 stand-ins. Shelley Duvall’s knife is here, too, and a short video where she recounts what a tyrant Kubrick was to work for.
There is so much fascinating detail here: the axe wielded by Jack Nicholson in The Shining had no fewer than 12 stand-ins. Shelley Duvall’s knife is here, too
There is the eerily prescient tablet, used to watch the BBC in 2001: A Space Odyssey; remember, this film was conceived in the late Sixties.
Kubrick never won an Oscar for his directing (his only gold statue is here, for special effects on 2001…), and not all his films were well received. There is a newspaper clipping of a review of Lolita, with the headline: ‘A sick, sick movie.’
Kubrick never won an Oscar for his directing in films like A Clockwork Orange starring Malcolm McDowell, and not all his films were well received
But my favourite relic is in the room chronicling his failed ambition to make Napoleon: a hand-written letter from Audrey Hepburn, whom he’d begged to play Josephine.
‘Dear Mr Kubrick,’ she wrote in 1968. ‘I don’t want to work for a while, so cannot commit.’
It’s heartening to learn that you can be rejected, even when you are clearly a genius.
2019 Sony World Photography Awards
Somerset House, London Until May 6
This year’s judges had to whittle down 327,000 entries from across the globe to the 800 works on show at Somerset House. The Sony World Photography Awards are now in their 12th edition – and, as in previous years, there are a bewildering number of different categories.
Unless you’re related to one of the winners, my advice is to treat this simply as an ordinary exhibition. There are plenty of impressive photos to look at. For example, Rory Doyle’s series of black cowboys and cowgirls in the Mississippi Delta (Doyle estimates that, in the late 19th century, one in four cowboys was African-American.)
Just as eye-catching are Stephan Zirwes’s photos of German swimming pools taken by drones, offering an array of rich blues and quirky shapes.
Federico Borella is a worthy winner of Photographer of the Year. His series charts the rise in suicide rates among farmers in India as a result of droughts connected to climate change
The photos in this show all date from last year, and many duly have a topical feel. That by Mustafa Hassona, for instance, of a bare-chested Palestinian protester on the Gaza Strip.
In one hand, he wields a sling he’s about to hurl at Israeli border forces; in the other, he holds a flag of Palestine. The shot is perhaps the most memorable image in this exhibition.
There are plenty of impressive photos to look at like Rory Doyle’s series of black cowboys and cowgirls in the Mississippi Delta
Italy’s Federico Borella is a worthy winner of Photographer of the Year. His series, Five Degrees, charts the rise in suicide rates among farmers in India as a result of droughts connected to climate change.
Subjects for his shots include farmers’ widows and bone-dry fields.
Photography may now be an everyday medium thanks to smartphones, but Borella proves it can still be artistic, disturbing and highly relevant too.