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“A Gentile’s House”: Lolita and the Holocaust

Along with stories of illicit sex and human derangement, Stanley Kubrick and Vladimir Nabokov both dreamed of making art about the Holocaust.

Nabokov, a three-time refugee from totalitarian governments, famously rejected literature bearing social messages. Yet at the end of his seventh decade, he vowed to his first biographer that he would one day tackle Nazi terror. “I will go to those German camps and look at those places and write a terrible indictment.”1 Decades later Kubrick made real progress toward his goal: he drafted a script, cast lead actors, and scouted a location in the Czech Republic for a film with the working title Aryan Papers. Yet neither man would complete his project.

Lolita, their only collaboration, somehow survived the censors, despite a plot centered on a professor’s cross-country travel and multi-year sexual abuse of his stepdaughter. While the subject of the movie stands at some distance from genocide, Nabokov’s 1955 novel and Kubrick’s 1962 film each play with coy and explicit Holocaust references, and hint at why neither man would ever produce a masterwork exploring the tragedy.

A Conversation with Kota Ezawa

"Much Ado About Nothing"—work in progress, Kota Ezawa studio, Oakland, CA. Photo by Pierre-François Galpin.

A couple months ago, The CJM Assistant Curator Pierre-François Galpin visited artist Kota Ezawa in his Oakland studio and talked about his next project at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, part of the In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art ongoing series. Then a work in progress, the three-channel video Much Ado About Nothing is a collaboration between Ezawa and contemporary dancer James Kirby Rogers, San Francisco-native and now part of the Kansas City Ballet. The installation opened to the public on July 28, 2016 and will be on view through July 2, 2017.

Pierre-François Galpin (PFG): The Havruta project re-interprets the Jewish tradition of dialogue and etymologically means friendship. Could you tell me a little about your relationship with James [Kirby Rogers] and describe how the video shoot went in January?

Kota Ezawa (KE): James and I lived in the same neighborhood in San Francisco for a number of years. His mother and I are colleagues, teaching at California College of the Arts. I’ve probably known James since he was 12 years old or so. James always struck me as an unusual, brave, and cheerful young man. I admire the fire with which he pursues his dancing career.

The video shoot went exceptionally well. Being an animator I had no real experience working with dancers or with camera equipment. We pretty much improvised for the entire 2 hours, experimenting with different music, camera angles, and dance moves. The result had little to do with what we set up to shoot but it pushed the project into an exiting direction.

Stanley Kubrick: A Jewish Story

Stanley Kubrick with his viewfinder during the production of Lolita (GB/United States; 1960-62). © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Stanley Kubrick with his viewfinder during the production of Lolita (GB/United States; 1960-62).
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 

Stanley Kubrick was born in 1928 into a middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx. Though he was not raised in a religious family, Kubrick grew up immersed in a strongly Jewish context. [1] The West Bronx, where his father Jacob Kubrick was a physician, was home to a growing Jewish middle class in the 1920s. Here, Kubrick first encountered many of the Jewish people who would have profound influences on his film career. This included Marvin Traub, who introduced Kubrick to photography; Alexander Singer, cinematographer for Kubrick’s first film Day of the Fight; Gerald Fried, who composed the score for his first five films; writer Howard Sackler, who wrote an early screenplay for Kubrick; and Weegee, the tabloid crime photojournalist, who was born Arthur Fellig. In 1949, Kubrick moved to Greenwich Village where his proximity to a generation of young Jewish writers, like Howard Sackler and Paul Mazursky, influenced his early screenwriting and directing.

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition on view at The Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick (GB/United States; 1978-1980). The daughters of former caretaker Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros.
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick (GB/United States; 1978-1980). 
The daughters of former caretaker Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros. 

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is pleased to present Stanley Kubrick an exhibition by the Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Christiane Kubrick, and The Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London. In 2003, Stanley Kubrick’s personal estate was, for the first time, made accessible and evaluated. This exhibition gathers together a representative selection of these objects: annotated scripts, production photography, lenses and cameras, set models, costumes, and props, in order to document the directors entire career, beginning with his early photography and short documentaries and ending with his last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). In addition, the exhibition explores Napoleon and Aryan Papers, two projects that Kubrick never completed, as well as the technological advances developed and utilized by Kubrick and his team. This exhibition has been traveling internationally for 10 years and has been presented at 14 institutions. It was curated by Hans-Peter Reichmann, senior curator, and Tim Heptner, curator and touring manager. 

We All Need the Human Touch: Ray Harryhausen's The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

And how many times have we had Clarke's Third Law cited by the pro-tech contingent? San Francisco has been at the epicenter of a new tech boom. When programming cultural events centered on technology for Bay Area arts organizations, it may be impossible not to consider the social and political issues surrounding it.