When does a film director graduate to the rank of auteur?
That's a question for criticism classes to argue over ad infinitum, but we can all agree that a director becomes a legend when 1) his films go onto influence other filmmakers decades into the future 2) his shots, set-ups, and signature silences are much copied/homaged and 3) mere images, like twin girls standing in a hotel hallway or the red glowing eye of a spaceship computer, can make us jump, even after repeated viewings.
Stanley Kubrick is the auteur we're talking about, of course, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is set to debut a major exhibit celebrating his life and movies. It's the U.S. debut, we should say -- the show has been traveling the world -- and it bows to the general public on Thursday, Nov. 1.
It seems to us that even the most jam-packed of advanced film seminars face a sticky wicket when it comes to ably summarizing the one-of-a-kind work of Mr. Kubrick, who passed away in 1999. His movies include "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," "Eyes Wide Shut," "Lolita," and "The Shining." He often drew inspiration from other source material and then made the story very singularly, almost outrageously his own. His one-point perspective shots, his carefully placed silences, and his ghostly lighting techniques are instantly recognizable as being his. And Mr. Kubrick had a number of personal quirks that have entered the movie annals, like his precise control of all details of a film. And his unlove of flying, too, has been much discussed (a fact that meant the native New Yorker rarely left England, his later home).
The LACMA exhibit, which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is co-presenting, will examine those ideas and much, much more. On the much, much more front? Costumes, like the famous blue dresses from "The Shining," will be on view. Scripts covered in notes. Lenses, too, and posters. And Mr. Kubrick's canvas director's chair.
The Stanley Kubrick exhibit is on at the museum from Thursday, Nov. 1 through June 30; member preview days are Oct. 28-30. Films at the museum's Bing Theatre, and more Kubrickian displays at the Academy, are part of the larger milieu.
credits: "The Shining," directed by Stanley Kubrick (1980; GB/United States). The daughters of former caretaker Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
"2001: A Space Odyssey," directed by Stanley Kubrick (1965-1968; GB/United States). The astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) in the storage loft of the computer HAL. copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.