Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cat's Away: The order I decided on

This is the third-to-last night (I'm starting to count down rather than count up now -- a telling sign) of yada yada yada film festival.

I hadn't yet seen Room 237, which has existed for nearly five years now, because I had long been torn on when to watch it relative to a rewatch of The Shining, and which one I would watch first. The argument was almost academic a couple years ago, when I started to watch the copy of The Shining in our collection during a pre-Halloween horror fest. But I promptly stop watching it upon discovering that the copy my wife had acquired was not letterboxed. Simple, simple girl.

The idea of which movie to watch first, which would have been settled had I gone through with that viewing, reemerged when I got the idea to use the extra viewing hours accorded me during my wife's trip to do the two films as a double feature.
My initial instinct was to watch Room 237 first. If there were going to be some oddball theories presented in it, I wanted to have them fresh in my mind to see if they held water as I watched the movie. It was only logical.

What ultimately caused me to reverse myself was the desire to have a "pure" rewatch of The Shining, rather than possibly being sick of the movie after a documentary devoted to it and just deciding to forego the viewing altogether. Besides, I was sure Room 237 would do a good enough job contextualizing its crackpot theories that I wouldn't have to do my own work trying to locate them. I was sure the documentary would spend ample time providing every bit of possible context for me, no matter how strained.

That settled, the next task was to determine how much of my evening this double feature would consume. Which led to the following statement on my part:


The answer is, of course, Stanley Kubrick. And it shouldn't surprise me, as his movies tend to be long.

But with the movie taking up nearly 150 minutes, and with me already being exhausted from a series of nights of shitty sleep, it was the documentary itself -- the main excuse for the double feature in the first place -- that threatened to fall by the wayside. Despite clocking in at a much more reasonable 104 minutes.

Of course, I could have just postponed the whole thing, but I'd already had both of the movies out from the library for a couple weeks (I even renewed Room 237), so I kind of wanted to just get this taken care of.

So what ended up happening? Well, I'll tell you.

I fit them both in. I was up until 1 a.m. on a school night, but I fit them both in.

And I cherished every minute of The Shining, not wanting it to be even a minute shorter than its 146. I suppose I knew I would, but I hadn't seen the movie in maybe 15 years and I had forgotten quite how much it had gripped me. Plus, the BluRay -- on which the aspect ratio was certainly correct -- looked crisp and magnificent. Hallelujah.

One thing I was really taken with on this viewing was the score. I hadn't remembered that being such an indispensable component of the movie's many expert elements, but indeed it's ethereal and haunting and moldering and dread-inducing. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind should be applauded.

I don't have a lot of additional takeaways of note to mention here, but maybe that means it's a good time to shift to Room 237 -- a movie whose whole purpose for existing is to take away extra-textual meanings from The Shining.

And in short, I didn't find that a very useful purpose. Oh, it could have been -- I'm not opposed to the idea at all. But the fools who have been given a soap box in this movie present some of the flimsiest alternate readings of this movie I could imagine someone producing. Most of them hold about as much water as if you decided to sit down with any random movie and compile a stack of circumstantial evidence that would support some given reading. In short, I think you could do this for almost any movie, and in those other instances the evidence would be no more or less compelling than it is for The Shining. It's like in that movie The Number 23 -- that number is everywhere if the number 23 is all you are looking for, and are willing to squint and twist logic in order to see it.

It's a shame, as I am on record saying that Rodney Ascher's follow-up film, The Nightmare, is the scariest documentary I have ever seen, and among the scariest films I've seen, period, in the past ten years. And to be fair, some useful stuff does come out of Room 237. For example, I think it was this film that first introduced us to the idea that the Overlook Hotel has an impossible floor plan, which I find kind of interesting -- even if it's just as likely to be a continuity error as a conscious choice. For the purposes of argument I'm willing to believe it's part of Kubrick's master plan to give the space a dreamy, surreal quality. I did know about that before seeing this film, however, so it wasn't a discovery of last night's viewing.

The majority of things that I found interesting were not philosophies on the themes the movie was trying to explore, which I almost always found unconvincing -- sometimes extremely so. (The whole thing where that woman talks about seeing a minotaur in the poster of a skier -- WTF. And the bit about Kubrick's face appearing in the clouds? No, didn't see that.) Most of the bits I found worthwhile involved people just pointing out cool techniques that were being used, things that I may not have appreciated but which have only a single interpretation that everyone would observe just by doing a close reading of the film. Anything that deviated from that -- like, the stuff about Native Americans and Kubrick's involvement in faking the moon landing -- just seemed like clutching at straws. And the stuff I found worthwhile I could have gotten from any 12-minute video essay on YouTube.

I did also find the experience of watching them consecutively interesting. It was a bit like watching the movie, then watching its DVD extras.

And yes, my choice for the sequence of watching them also proved to be the way to go.

Now that this festival finally includes a documentary, I think I've ticked all the usual film festival boxes, and will promptly begin my stagger to the finish line. Two more nights to go. Come home, my dear wife!

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