After all, it's just a ride….

Kubrick BFI Season – Events


Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Stanley Kubrick. I hope you are all in appropriate mourning attire and intend to watch at least one of his magnum opus this evening as a mark of respect, I’m seeing ‘Watchmen’ in IMAX today but will be making penance with the test drive of my ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ Blu-Ray that I’m itching to fire up tomorrow night. As well as the films I’ve seen and been blogging about the BFI and partners have also been hosting a number of events and installations to mark the anniversary of his passing, here is my round-up of what else I’ve managed to attend over the past few weeks in order to commemorate this auspicious occasion.

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I really didn’t have much of an idea of exactly what on earth would be involved in a ‘Kubrick Study Day‘, it sounded a little bit too much like school for my liking. I needn’t have feared, what the BFI had actually managed to do was get together a collection of Kubrick’s artistic colleagues, academics, biographers and archivists to deliver a number of presentations, speeches, anecdotes and general discussions on his work and the efforts to preserve his legacy. The day kicked off with the ubiquitous Jan Harlan taking us through a personal recollection of the days leading up to Stan’s death and funeral including an amusing image of the bemused staff at Luton Airport suddenly being besieged with a phalanx of private jets from LA. This was followed with an explanation of the creative decisions made to complete ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ from answer to final distribution print and concluded on the rather disappointing news that no-one in either Kubrick’s native New York or adopted home of London have approached the family or estate with any projects to install any permanent exhibits in either city. Next up was the corporate marketing video for the touring archive exhibit which was interesting, there was some previously unseen footage from the making of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ that made me happy, any new footage is always a treat. 

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Above are couple of photos from the mezzanine exhibit at the BFI with a shooting script and design sketches from ‘Lyndon’. Next up was a brief presentation from the curators of the Kubrick Archive at London’s University Of The Arts which was interesting, they are a mere 60% of the way through archiving all the material that was donated by the estate as seen in last years documentary. I really should get round to making an appointment and having a look at what they’ve got, it’s based in Elephant & Castle which really isn’t that difficult for me to visit. This was appropriately followed by a comparison exercise by screenwriter Cassius Matthias on the different, evolving versions of the script for ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ (yes, isn’t that the apes again?) which are contained in the archive, an exercise that arose as Cassius was performing research on his own ‘youth in contemporary Britain’ screenplay that he’s working on, naturally he decided to check out the relics of one of the best teen/youth themed films ever made. He also made a few nice general observations on Kubrick’s work, comparing the seduction scene in the liberated 1970’s of ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ to the post AID’s paranoia attempted seduction scene in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ in the 1990’s (yes I know it’s in Spanish but take a look at 2:32  and you’ll see what I mean, I’ve spent half an hour trying to find that in English and life’s too short) for example, a nice inversion and the sort of comparison you can tease out of many of Kubrick’s body of work. 

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After lunch events proceded with Alison Castle, the author of the most incredibly detailed and luxurious Kubrick book on the market.  She took us through some of her favourite photos that she had collated for the book, themed by Kubrick on-set (including some rare colour prints from ‘Strangelove’), deleted scenes (the decapitation from the end of ‘Jacket’) and some details of the materials collected for her upcoming lavish book on ‘Napoleon‘, the ‘greatest film never made’, a bargain at £300 eh? Next was a meandering speech on Stanley’s love of technology from his personnel assistant of twenty years, Anthony Frewin. This was actually quite amusing, Frewin recounted how they were amongst the first people in the country to get fax machines and of course a behemoth of a computer which cost them £17K back in the early 1970’s, Stanley insisting on the exorbitant expense as the technology was of course the ‘future’. He did get a big laugh with his observation that ‘That’s the thing about Stanley, one minute he’d be quoting Wittgenstein, the next complaining that Waitrose granary bread cost 10p more than Tesco granary bread which was of a higher quality’. He closed with some speculation on what Stan would have made of the Internet and more pertinently digital photography, alas he shall never know. 


The penultimate section was a panel discussion on ‘Barry Lyndon‘ including Gay Hamilton and assistant director Brian Cook, along with Frewin and Jan Harlan. The usual anecdotes were expressed confirming that Kubrick was was actually a very collaborative director, entertaining actors and other crew members ideas and input, dispelling the myth of the legendary control freak director. Best of all for me was the revelation of a film which Kubrick loved which may have been influenced by the film, Andrej Wajda’s ‘Danton‘, suffice to say I am on the case courtesy of The best was saved until last as the day concluded with a full hour Q&A session with the panel including all the aforementioned speakers and Kubrick’s daughter Katarina who made the most impressive statement of the day. She wrapped the entire event up nicely by briefly talking through how wounded and distressed the family had been immediately after her fathers death due to the blatant lies that were printed in the likes of the Daily Mail and Daily Express, propagating the misogynist, misanthrope delusion which was utterly absurd (A man with three daughters and a forty year marriage hates women? And as Frewin said ‘making a film is perhaps the most gregarious profession to have’), bursting with enthusiasm Katarina explained just how humbled and thrilled her father would have been at an event such as this, a superb conclusion to a thoroughly excellent (albeit tiring) day. I should also mention that the rumor that ‘Eraserhead‘ was his favourite film was finally put to rest, he liked it and it was screened to crew and cast before shooting on ‘The Shining’ commenced, but that was all.

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Throughout the two month season a curious installation has been on display at the NFT, a video piece titled ‘Unfolding The Aryan Papers‘ which is a visual essay put together by artisits Jane & Louise Wilson following a two week research period through the Kubrick archives. The installation is essentially a twenty minute video comprised of screen and camera tests taken from the uncompleted project ‘The Aryan Papers’, overlaid with the verbal reminiscences of actress Johanna ter Steege who was cast as the female lead, transmitted on a double sided 4 by 3 metre screen, flanked by mirrors in a darkened space to produce an infinity effect. Quite honestly everything that needs to be said about it is reported here, I’ll just add the obvious remark that it’s almost painful to see an elusive glimpse of what may have been. 


There would have been a third event to talk about but alas it’s actually three days away and I really wanted to get a post up to celebrate the anniversary of Stan’s passing, therefore we’ll just have to wait until I’ve completed my final Kubrick film review as I’ll incorporate details into that post. The final event is a a panel discussion chaired by Sight & Sound’s Nick James and is entitled ‘Kubrick’s Critical Odyssey’, it looks like a forum intended to discuss Kubrick’s legacy, influence and to reassess in particular his last movie ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. All well and good, what really appeals to me about this is the anticipated attendance of  Michel Ciment, French critic and one of (if not the premier) Kubrick specialist, this book is a absolutely essential for any budding Kubrickophile.

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Ten years man. I remember very clearly where I was when I heard he had gone, a friend rang me and simply said ‘put on the BBC’ and I instinctively knew what happened before the TV even flared into action, it’s scary to think that was a decade ago. Still, you know they say that you should never meet your heroes as you are bound to be disappointed, so perhaps it’s for the best eh? I still think its weird that of all the places in the world he could have settled and worked in he was ensconced a short drive from where I grew up. Hey, who knows, maybe we’ll ‘meet one again one sunny day’?


2 responses

  1. Hello
    Thank you for putting up such a good report on the study day. It was tiring wasn’t it?
    I was very impressed by the attendance and the total respect for Stanley’s work.
    Now all we need to do is get somebody to host the SK exhibition in the US!!
    regards, Katharina

    March 12, 2009 at 12:41 PM

  2. nice report, thanks for sharing it…

    March 23, 2009 at 11:12 PM

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