LACMA's Muse Costume Ball has become one of the hot ticket events for Halloween in Los Angeles, a night spent wandering through the museum halls with costumed people every bit as eye-catching as the work hanging from the walls. This year, the ninth annual fete also served as a sneak preview for “Stanley Kubrick,” a large retrospective of the late, legendary filmmaker's work, which opens to the public today. With Kubrick's films giving the party an instant theme, there was no shortage of awe-inspiring costumes.
The droogs were out in force, popping in and out of ultraviolent poses whenever a camera came near. It's expected that A Clockwork Orange, a film that inspired so many band names, would be the most popular point of reference at the event. Alex, the character made famous by Malcolm McDowell, is already a costume party staple. Eyes Wide Shut, the last film Kubrick directed before his death in 1999, inspired just as many costumes at the ball, with cloaked figures and Carnival masks dotting the line at the bar. But that wasn't all — The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lolita and even Barry Lyndon provided the source material for many of the costumes at the event. One guy, dressed as Danny from The Shining, rode in on a Big Wheel. He was accompanied by two girls dressed as the Grady twins. Unfortunately for Dr. Strangelove fans, I didn't see Major T.J. Kong ride in on a bomb.
The exhibition itself is packed with so much insight into Kubrick's career that will probably take multiple visits to LACMA to understand the full scope of what he did. It opens with a video presentation, a compilation of clips from all of his films. After that, guests travel between rooms that will immerse you into his work. There's something for everyone here. Camera nerds will want to check out his gear, which is carefully displayed. Writers will likely want read through the letters and portions of scripts that appear throughout the exhibition. There's a good amount of production art, photographs from shoots and even some of the props and costumes. I probably wasn't the only one drooling over the hot pink chairs from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
As easy as it is to geek out over seeing the details of Kubrick's most famous films up close, that's not necessarily the most interesting part of the exhibition. There are displays dedicated to Kubrick's work that never hit the theaters, like his attempt at making a movie based on the life of Napoleon. Having the chance to explore a Kubrick project that never came to life gives a stunning insight into the struggles of an artist. Also on display is work from A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which was made by Steven Spielberg after Kubrick's death, but follows much of the work that Kubrick had already done for the project.
The costumes added another layer to an exhibition that merges big screen fantasy with the real world. It can also lead to some unusual moments that would never happen in a museum under normal circumstances, like when I was watching the Kubrick video in my Wendy Torrance costume (Shelley Duvall's character from The Shining) and turned my head to realize that the girl next to me was dressed as little Danny Torrance. Next to her was Jack, complete with his rage face popping out of a hole in a door. Inside the exhibition, throngs of people dressed as Kubrick's stylized characters posed for photos in front of the displays from his films.
This is all a testament to Kubrick's legacy. His movies are a part of our lives. Certainly, many of us at the party could tell you about the first time we saw A Clockwork Orange or Dr. Strangelove. We may also recall the nightmares we got from The Shining. It's been more than a decade since the director's death, but his work still lives on film and in the fans.