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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.

Artful Picks: Hanukkah Edition

We've rounded up our best Hanukkah gifts from The CJM Storewith picks from Executive Director Lori Starr, Chief Curator Renny Pritikin, and Store Director Kevin Grenon! From boldly colored toys to the "notoriously awaited" RGB book, there's something for everyone—so give from the heART this year.

Lori Starr, Executive Director
"With chapters like, 'Been In This Game For Years' and 'Your Words Just Hypnotize Me,' this charming and informative book would be a wonderful gift for any bright young woman interested in Jewish jurisprudence and the impact of RBG on our collective psyche. I recommend the 'How to Be Like RBG' appendix!"

Lori Starr, Executive Director

"I remember the magic of first playing a harmonica. It was so fun, and a little addictive. This one is beautifully designed, and so bright it will be easy to find in the yard after a day of music and games outside with friends."

Renny Pritikin, Chief Curator

"This is the first book CJM Executive Director Lori Starr gave me, and it was influential in my coming to the museum. It explores how the evolution of the Yiddish language shapes Jewish identity and vice versa. No matter how good things are, people will still kvetch! Anyone interested in linguistics and Jewish history will love this funny, fascinating book."

Kevin Grenon, Museum Store Director

“Kids will love the feeling of this animal-themed, smooth silicone placemat, which comes with four no-toxic dry-erase markers. I especially like the drawing of the whale and that sneaky-looking raccoon. I wish I were still allowed to draw at holiday dinners!”

Kevin Grenon, Museum Store Director

“We have many beautiful dreidels, but this one has always been my favorite. It’s special not just because it’s handcrafted gold, but also because oak and acorn, both significant in the Torah, are gracefully incorporated into its lovely design.”



The Contemporary Jewish Museum Store, the Bay Area’s destination for modern Judaica, offers a range of unique products that enhance the visitor experience and support The Museum’s mission. Discover our selection of exhibition-inspired merchandise, art books, contemporary jewelry, hand-crafted accessories, innovative design objects, and educational kids’ toys and books. All proceeds support The Museum’s programs and exhibitions. 

The Fountain: A Low-Tech Epic

Image courtesy of the writer.
As a prompt for an entry on The CJM's blog, your writer was asked to consider what makes a good movie. My usual short answer to this question is that a good, nay, a GREAT movie, allows multiple ways in. If a movie's creative team is firing on all cylinders, if the movie delivers on story, performances, design, mood, music, then you've got a classic on your hands. But even a movie that falters in one of these departments can be elevated by its other elements.

Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain (screening Thursday at The CJM as part of the CLEAT: Cinematic Lo-fi Experiments in Art and Technology) was intended to be Aronofsky's grandest, most ambitious work yet, telling the story of lovers whose relationship spans three time periods. But the movie wound up compromised by a halved budget (from $70 million to $35) that demanded radical changes to the scope and the story. With months to make a movie that had been years in the making, the resulting movie lost many viewers, who found the story rushed and difficult to follow.

Image courtesy of the writer.
And yet to get lost in the movie and discard it for this reason is to deliberately ignore so much of what makes the movie of interest, even in this compromised form. If we cast our attention to other aspects of the movie we find an abundance of rewards. The compelling and fully believable performances of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a couple whose love transcends death and time. The non-digital macro photography used to create the vivid outer space settings of the movie's future storyline. The achingly gorgeous score by longtime Aronofsky associate Clint Mansell, working with Scots post-rock combo Mogwai and San Francisco's Kronos Quartet to deliver moods both intimate and awe-inspiring.

And it isn't hard to suss out a fourth plotline amid The Fountain's three-front narrative: that of a dedicated film artist, battling like hell to realize a unique and insane vision against crippling odds. Perhaps it's that blunt passion that turned off viewers in 2006; I'd argue that it's the same reason the movie has endured as a cult favorite. And if you feel that Aronofsky's ambition exceeded his budget, that his single-minded passion roughens and overrides his story, then I gotta ask you: how often do you see that happen in a Hollywood movie these days? For all of the things that The Fountain has going for it, it's the passion of its maker, for his story, for his characters, for a love outside time, that makes the movie truly great.

About the Writer

Photo by Michael Guillen.
Cinephile-at-large David Robson holds a degree in theatre from the University of Virginia. A long-time fixture on San Francisco's film scene, David has worked as the Artist-in-Residence Program Coordinator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (where he worked extensively with CJM Chief Curator Renny Pritikin) and, more recently, as Editorial Director for movie recommendation site He has written on film aesthetics and history for a number of online sources—the best place to start would be his own irregularly-updated fantasy film blog The House of Sparrows or, if you're feeling weird, with those adorable simian cinephiles at the Tumblr site Monkeys Go To Movies.