Stanley Kubrick Exhibition: Melbourne 2006
An True Story that in the telling, became oddly resonant.
Copyright (c) Alex Rieneck 2006. All Rights Reserved.

In February of this year, 2006, I learnt at the last minute that there was an exhibition on Stanley Kubrick at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image in Melbourne. What can I say? I live under a rock. Melbourne is the second largest and the most cultured city in Australia, though I am afraid that that is not saying much in the great scale of things. All in all, Australia is a bit of a desert where culture is concerned, particularly under its present regime of squinting Christian retards. But I digress. I found out about the exhibition at the last minute, and after some frantic phone calls discovered that the exhibition was not coming to Sydney, where I live. Under my rock. That was not really a surprise. Sydney thinks that "Art" means property deeds hanging on a wall, and that "sculpture" is some dead bastards cricket bat. I'm digressing again, aren't I? It guess it must be the memory of what happened next.

It was just before the beginning of a long weekend, at no notice. To cut a long depressing story short, I got on a long distance bus for the 1000 KM overnight journey to Melbourne. It was a "Firefly" coach and what with it being the long weekend it was quickly packed. I got jammed up between the window and this guy who had done the dishes with his clothes before he left home. He had apparently then let his clothes dry on him. He had a habit of running around in his sleep. In front of me, behind me and indeed filling the entire back of the upstairs of the bus was a vast family of happy Asians. They were on a big adventure. While they had decided to leave their chickens at home, I heard some weird damn noises from back there. They were very loud people. Ten hours. Ten hours in a plane would have gotten me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Anyway, the bus wended its third world down the highway towards Melbourne. I read my book. Just out of Bumhole, the air-conditioning died. Within minutes the guy next to me started sweating, greasily. About an hour and a half later the bus stopped at Ghoulburn. There was oxygen on planet Ghoulburn. It was great. The rest of the journey, all four hours of it, was completed without air-conditioning. The bus arrived at Spencer Street at five in the morning. I couldn't check into my hotel until ten. I got coffee, and breakfast on Swanston Street. Then I sat around in a park reading until ten.

The hotel was locked. I waited. At 11 some people came out. They looked like recently paroled rural junkies. They told me that the night before a huge drunken party had taken place and the Police had arrived at 3am and the the desk clerk was hung over and still too angry to open up because someone had bashed him during the big fight before the Police had arrived. I sat on the steps and I thought nostalgically about my deposit and how they had my credit card number, and other black thoughts. About 12 pm this murderous looking Irish guy started evicting people from the hotel. Everybody ejected from the place without exception told me that the place was "fucked" and that the desk clerk guy was a "fucking cunt." After the first four, I concluded a few things. Most of them had *lived* in this hotel (shudder) and unless there had been some sort prior consultation, their choice of epithetage in relation to the hotel and to the desk clerk was the sort of thing of which doctoral thesis' are made. I saw clear evidence of either Areal lingusitic units or telepathic phenomena. On reflection, I decided that what with the lack of raw materials telepathy was the less likely explanation. I was left with the image of two unutterably filthy bone-thin junkies raddling their pathetic belongings up the street in an old shopping trolley screaming abuse at the world and each other. Such is Australia in the twenty-first century under John Howard.

The desk clerk guy was actually quite nice, perhaps unsurprisingly. My room was not. Perhaps unsurprisingly. The Victoria Hall Hotel (now gone, apparently) was across the road from Old Melbourne Jail and had started life as a low rise office block. The building occupied a corner and the corridors curved around the shape of the street outside so that each room had a large window that would not open and and air-conditioning that kept everything cool and stuffy at the same time. The carpets were stained the walls were marked and the door of my room looked like it had been given a really good kicking at some time in the past. Their website had made special mention of the places cleanliness. There were very small blood spots on the white laminex of the bedside table next to the bed head. The sort of blood spots people get when they clean a hypodermic syringe or pop a vein. I was staying for three nights. The room itself was nice enough, grey, spartan and it had a desk. I made myself at home. I had a shower and headed out towards the Kubrick exhibition.

Two blocks down the street four men in a Holden Commodore somewhat-correctly identified me as a "fucking poofter." They shouted this and other things at me which I have since forgotten at me until the lights changed. They were too far out of range to hit me with their spit, but they tried, manfully. Then they drove off. The locals in the street were apparently used to such displays and ignored it. Melbourne is, after all, "Australia's number two tourist city" and a "cosmopolitan and world class metropolis" ready to "take its place on the world stage." I got to queue at the exhibition, and then they managed to fuck my ticket up, by giving me so many bullshit pamphlets that my ticket was left on the desk. At 2.54pm, about twenty-one hours forty minutes after I left home, I entered the exhibition.

Within minutes I had forgotten that I hadn't slept for 48 hours, and that my back felt like it had been used as tram tracks, and that I hadn't eaten anything more substantial than a Subway sandwich all day. The exhibition simply swamped my mind with stuff, with thoughts that crowded into my mind, one on top of the other almost too fast to grasp. There was everything. Starting from black-and-white images taken by Kubrick in his early formative years, the exhibition formed a patchy timeline hat covered each of Kubrick's major works including the projects which never took flight. It was an assault of ... stuff. There were pictures from the making of Barry Lyndon (Probably my all time favourite film) and actual costumes from that film. There were masks from "Eyes Wide Shut" including, in pride of place, in its own case, under a special spotlight, the mask that (*gasp*) Tom Cruise wore. That exhibit was noticeably popular with large numbers of fertile, egg-bearing women. There were bits and pieces of everything from genuine scripts and props for "Full Metal Jacket" to vast trunk loads of original research materials for the Napoleon film that never was. There was "Clockwork Orange" and there was "The Shining" there was astonishingly large amounts of stuff from "2001: A Space Odyssey" the room as silent except for a continual low murmur of human voices and occasional snatches of music from the multimedia displays. I was in my element. I stayed all day.

When I went back the next day (the last of the exhibition) I took pictures with my mobile phone. As you'd expect, the quality is low but they should do as illustration to some points I found interesting. First and perhaps most visceral,

Kubrick's home-made camera chariot.


Built out of an old wheelchair, this unit, heavily weighted was capable of supporting an arriflex and a camera operator for long tracking shots. The thing looked functional and jerry built and strong, and it underscored the essentially home made nature of all films, something that it very easily forgotten in the face of the oceans of mindless gloss that the industry generates. The wisdom I extracted from this thing is simple. What is on screen is what matters, the tawdry embarrassing shambles behind the camera is beside the point.

Bowman's forgotten helmet.


When Bowman leaves the Discovery in his attempt to rescue Poole, he leaves his helmet behind, allowing HAL to think that he can lock Bowman out. This is the helmet that Bowman should have had with him. The image does not do it justice, this prop is of exceptional build quality, far above anything that I saw at say, the "Star Wars" exhibition. This is not surprising given the difference in the way that Kubrick and Lucas shoot things. This was a truly wonderful thing, this helmet was.



I have seen a few film stars in my life. I saw a "tired and emotional" Rutger Hauer once. I saw Holly Hunter. But I have never squatted on a floor and gazed at a filmstars head up for the best part of half-an-hour before, up really, really close. It was weird. When you see filmstars in the flesh, they move and blush and say things. Moonwatcher stayed utterly still and I stared at each individual hair follicle. It was as if someone had cut off a major stars head and put it in a box and let me look at it. I *knew* this guy! Each surface of his face is as familiar to me as my own, or Sean Connery's. I could see through the eye sockets into the empty head behind, and I still found myself seeing a real person, and not a mask. Wisdom extracted: Real is real is real.

Audrey Hepburn.

reject hepburn2k1

Kubrick wanted Audrey Hepburn to star in his film of "Napoleon." It would have been utterly inspired casting. Hepburn knocked him back. She was too tired. This is her knock back letter. The film never got made. Wisdom extracted: Sometimes it just doesn't fly. Who knows why?

Kubrick's Flying Book


Long ago I read somewhere that Kubrick's assistant said that Kubrick had decided that he wanted to make a horror film next. The assistant said that Kubrick, as was his wont, bought every horror novel on the market and started reading them looking for the one that he wanted to make. The assistant was working in the next room and he said that, every few minutes he would hear this loud "bonk" as Kubrick would throw the book at the wall behind the assistants head. There were a lot of "bonks" because Kubrick though that horror books, by-and-large, were shit. He said so and, by-and-large I have to agree with him. Suddenly the assistant realised that he hadn't heard a "bonk" for a long while. He got up and went and looked, Kubrick was completely engrossed in a book. It was "The Shining" by Stephen King. It was undoubtedly this very copy, complete with Kubrick's scrawling notes throughout.

Zoom In.


This is a detail of Page 86 of Kubrick's copy of "The Shining." Kubrick has highlighted the line, "People who shine can sometimes see things that are going to happen, sometimes they can see things that DID happen." He has then written in the margin, "I think maybe that is the kind of thing I've seen."

It was like my head stopped still. Not "think I have seen" not "people say they have seen" but "I have" when suddenly exposed to proof that someone who one has profound respect for has had "Doris Stokes" moments, one stops to think. Instantly, some of the weirder things I have seen gained untold levels of validation in my mind. There was, after all, no doubt in Kubrick's mind when he wrote "I have seen" he trusted his perceptions. After all, they were all that he (or anyone else for that matter) has. Kubrick was patently a wise man and obviously an exceptionally intelligent one, and he made his living and his reputation trusting his perceptions above the perceptions of all around him. His perceptions have stood the test of time, and validate themselves again with every showing and every DVD rental. My mind instantly and concretely said to itself "if this plastic view of reality was good enough for Kubrick" it is good enough for me.... and then I found that some part inside me had relaxed, as if I had released a breath that I had been holding for a long, long, time.

Then, hard on the heels of that thought came another. Why write this in a margin? After all, Kubrick knows. Who is this message FOR? Does the fact that it is a message from Kubricks mind, to another, some other mind, make it more or less likely to be true? Kubrick was after all, a showman as well as being, in another way, a shaman. Here we have Stephen King saying, through the mouth of a fictional character, things that are undoubtedly based on some filtered form of King's real experience, being edited, printed, read by Kubrick, underlined, annotated, put in a glass case and seen by me years after the director's death.

I asked myself again, "Who was this message for?" and try as hard as I could all I could feel was the glass of the glass case and somehow half-see or perhaps half-smell the person who had made the notes in the book. And then, suddenly, I actually got the point. I laughed quietly to myself, and two days later, went home on the train. It was alright. Three hours late, but alright.

Alex Rieneck
5 October 2006

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2006
All Rights reserved.
No reproduction without prior written approval from the author.