‘Stanley Kubrick’ opens today at LACMA

Director Stanley Kubrick sits in the interior of the space ship Discovery from “2001.” © Warner Bros. Entertainment

Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s storytelling sometimes leaves me cold, but I’ve always admired his arresting images and balletic camera. I think his best movies are his classic noir and neo-noir titles – “Killer’s Kiss,” “The Killing,” “Lolita,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Shining.”

Born in New York in 1928, Kubrick began as a photographer. He had his first photograph published in Look magazine when he was 16 (he was paid $25). Later, as a Look staffer, he shot on city streets, often swathes of nighttime blackness pierced by patches of light. His desire for precision and painstaking quest for technical innovation started early and stayed with him for the next 55 years.

The range and richness of his art are explored in the first U.S. retrospective of his work, co-presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Railroad station, Chicago 1949. Stanley Kubrick photo for Look magazine/Library of Congress

The exhibition highlights Kubrick’s bond with film noir, noting: “In the title of his first feature film, ‘Fear and Desire’ (1953), Kubrick declared two themes that he would return to throughout his career. The atmosphere of film noir – its claustrophobia, paranoia and hopelessness – creates a worldview made more tangible through style: low-key lighting, high-contrast and silhouetted images, the blackest shadows. These characteristics of noir, together with the camera movements that would soon be identified with the director, were coherently articulated in Kubrick’s three early features.”

And later: “What Kubrick began with ‘Lolita’ (1962) – disrupting the conventions of film noir – he accomplished completely with “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Kubrick made the decision to treat the story as nightmare comedy.”

Kubrick’s films, including “Paths of Glory,” “Spartacus,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” among others, are represented through archival material, annotated scripts, photography, costumes, cameras and equipment, set models, original promotional materials and props.

Sue Lyon stars in “Lolita,” based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

In one of several letters rebuking Kubrick over the making of “Lolita,” the Bible Presbyterian Church of Tampa, Fla., decries that the movie “is based upon sex appeal. And that appeal is quite degenerate in its nature.”

There are also sections on Kubrick’s special effects and an alternate beginning to “2001” as well as displays about projects that Kubrick never completed (“Napoleon” and “The Aryan Papers”).

Kubrick died in 1999 in England, at the age of 70. He garnered 13 Academy Award nominations and “2001” (1968) won the Best Effects Oscar.

The exhibition, which runs through June 30, 2013, will be accompanied by a film retrospective at LACMA’s Bing Theater beginning this month.

From “The Shining” (1980): The daughters of Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros. Entertainment

To kick off the film retrospective, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Academy will present an evening of clips and tributes to honor Kubrick, hosted by actor Malcolm McDowell. The event will also launch the Academy’s Kubrick exhibition, which will be open to the public through February 2013.

As for the LACMA/Academy collaboration: “It is a taste of things to come when we open the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the historic Wilshire May Company building on the LACMA campus,” said Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO.

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Free stuff: Win ‘The Killing’ and try Cafecito Organico

The winner of the August reader giveaway has been selected. For September, I am giving away a copy of Criterion’s new DVD release of “The Killing” (1956).

Stanley Kubrick directed this racetrack-robbery noir; pulp novelist Jim Thompson wrote dialogue. The impressive cast includes Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Timothy Carey, Elisha Cook Jr., and Marie Windsor.

Criterion’s new digital restoration features a slew of great special features, namely:

*a new interview with producer James B. Harris

*excerpted interviews with Hayden from the French TV series “Cinéma cinemas”

*a new interview with author Robert Polito about Thompson

*restored high-definition digital transfer of Kubrick’s 1955 noir feature “Killer’s Kiss” and a video appreciation of “Killer’s Kiss” featuring film critic Geoffrey O’Brien

*trailers and a booklet featuring an essay by film historian Haden Guest as well as a reprinted interview with Windsor.

Additionally, I am giving away a T-shirt and 12-ounce bag of Espresso Clandestino from Los Angeles-based Cafecito Organico. Their coffee is sustainably grown and locally roasted, which results in a rich, robust flavor that’s also uncommonly smooth – there’s no trace of bitterness or harsh acidity.

Perfecting summing up how many noir denizens feel first thing in the morning, Cafecito’s motto is Café o Muerte (Coffee or Death).

To enter the September giveaway, just leave a comment on any FNB post from Sept. 1-30. The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early October. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared. Good luck!

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