Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest film innovators of all time. He made masterpieces, just fifteen in 48 years, and each blasted into new cinematic territories fully realised, beautiful, majestic, provocative, and game-changing. 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Spartacus, Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut are his best known. Kubrick was an auteur of the “New Hollywood” – he didn’t trust the studio system and abandoned it, and America to live and work in England. He held his films close to the chest, writing, producing, directing, editing and scoring them until he was good and ready to hand them over for release. When Kubrick died in 1999 he left a legacy that remains unparalleled. TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto will show them all in a massive exhibition opening Hallowe’en day. We spoke with Jesse Wente, Director of Film Programmes at Lightbox, who co-organised the event running October 31th to January 25th.
Jesse Wente – The exhibition has been touring around the world for ten years or so. Our interest in it extends pretty far back, it’s the most requested exhibition we had since the building opened in 2010. It made a very big splash in LA a couple of years ago, garnered a lot of attention here in North America.
How would you say Kubrick changed film as an artist and innovator?
The thing that defines Kubrick I would say is the marriage of real artistry and intellectual thought with remarkable technological innovations. For 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick and Doug Turnbull really invented modern sci-fi filmmaking on the spot. There were no techniques when they did the movie that I think ultimately led to Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner and Close Encounters, all the films that reinvigorated sci-fi and established a block buster theme. None of it would have been possible without 2001, and the marriage of visionary artist who is also a technician. He manufactured lenses to achieve the effects, he used a lens made for NASA to film Dark Side of the Moon, and he used candlelight in Barry Lyndon. Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam and he used it for one shot in a movie. Kubrick flew that guy to London to explain and show him how it worked and he used it endlessly in The Shining, the boy biking around the hotel on the Big Wheel. When you look at modern filmmakers like Chris Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo Del Toro, Spielberg, Scorsese, and gather then all, they wold universally say as much, that they owe a huge debt to Kubrick. He laid that pat, you’re not just a supreme artist but you learn and create the technology. That speaks to contemporary filmmaking as a modern business. He himself was utterly and by choice, removed from the epicentre of the industry but his work now resides in films like Interstellar and Gravity.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Who influenced him?
It’s clear he was an intellectual growing up in NYC who was fascinated by movies, especially art house screenings in theatres around his neighbourhood, like the Cinematheque at MoMA where he saw the films of Max Ophuls and the classics. He was an avid filmgoer his entire career. 2001 he would have watched every science fiction movies ever made while he was preparing, he had an array of influences but none were the visionary he was. You see the photographs he shot as a teenaged professional for Look magazine. Even as a teenager in high school, the composition and narratives in a single frame of film show us the filmmaker he was to become. All these influences, but the time he got to filmmaking bizarre developed, by the time you get to his third feature The Killing it’s already a masterful movie. It’s so brilliant. And with Paths of Glory he wasn’t even 30. .....
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