Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: ROOM 237- He Said/She Said

ROOM 237
Directed by: Rodney Ascher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, and Juli Kearns
Synopsis: A documentary dealing with different interpretations and hidden facts about Stanley Kubrick's classic Stephen King adaptation, THE SHINING.

Javi: To set up this movie, let's talk about our experiences with Stanley Kubrick. Mine has been mostly watching his movies at a younger age when I couldn't appreciate them nearly as much as I could if I was watching them right now. This has been one of the big parts of my shame list. In regards to THE SHINING, I've seen it twice; once when I was in high school, and the last time I was in college.

Jonesy: ::laughs:: I thought you were going to say that you were drunk.

Javi: Well, it was weird because that with my girlfriend at the time, we saw this movie when had come back from the lake. We were tired, and for some reason thought that THE SHINING was a good choice.

Jonesy: That reminds me of the time I watched I HEART HUCKABEES completely exhausted. But in regards to Kubrick, I've seen lots of pieces of most of his movies, but never really sat down and watched them all. I've only seen his version of THE SHINING once back in high school when I decided to see a lot of older scary movies, and I have seen the TV mini-series that was supposedly more faithful to the book but was terrible. I haven't sat down to watch this movie since about ten years ago.
So with this documentary it was interesting that there were five people, whose faces we never see ,and we see and hear all of their interpretations of THE SHINING through various diagrams and edited footage. And you can tell these people have seen the movies multiple times and some of the theories are a little crazier than others. After I saw the movie, I started to question how I saw movies as a critic/writer. In the first part of the movie, I really started to wonder if I am just not picking up on things that I should? Is there stuff in movies nowadays that I should be looking for and am completely missing? Which is possible; however, the extent that some of these individuals dwelled into their ideas seemed like it was gasping at straws. What did you think?

Javi:  What I really got out of this movie was that I was really inspired to revisit a movie that was well made, crafted, and well thought out. There were so many things that I never thought to even look for. For example, the three tricycle rides that the kid does in the movie all become stranger where he starts in one floor and ends up in the third floor. The architecture of the hotel and how impossible it is (the big example is the "elusive window" in the manager's room). And that made me think that even though the theories were insane, it was very inspiring to see that no matter what. There will always be a little bit of subtext to a movie. This is very important to people like you and I where we want to initiate discussion for movies, and it brought to light that you have to look at movies with different eyes, and it's very easy to forget that. So while the theories are crazy to me, I just saw what a bad argument or interpretation can look like.

Jonesy: What do you mean specifically?

Javi: I didn't want to take this segment away from you, but I hated the "Lunar Landing Guilt Trip" interpretation of the movie. Or weird things like someone saying that a cloud was done to look like Kubrick's signature for some reason.

Jonesy: With the Lunar Landing scenario, let's play along that Kubrick helped fake the moon landing.  Let's say we never went to the moon, and that the government wanted to have a filmmaker fake some footage. So the theory is that he felt so guilty about hiding that from his wife and he wanted to express that in the movie and he wanted to drop hints to that guilt. So if he did that, you don't think that any and all government agencies dealing with the potential cover up would shut his shit down if they got wind he wanted to at all expose the lunar landing? Any hints or connection to the moon would have the government keep Kubrick from doing anything with movies again. I don't believe that at all. Then wasn't there a thing where the "room number 237" key looked like "moon" in the movie?

Javi: Another theory that I didn't quite like was the Minotaur interpretation mostly because the lady who spoke about it was saying that she was inspired by a skiing poster that sort of maybe looked a like a minotaur. While the theory is slightly more sound, the way that it got started is dumb.

Jonesy: But she had more of case to back it up where Jack Nicholson could be seen by have all of these Minotaur qualities, and then having the set piece in the maze. I agree the poster was a stretch, and I even felt when she was talking, I had to squint at my screen to see what she meant. It felt like a college film school assignment, and maybe I don't have that eye for that stuff.

Javi:  But on the flip side I like the theory of the Native American/extermination theme, and the Holocaust imagery and allegory. There's the recurring theme of white dudes in a continuous cycle killing off minorities. There seems to be some sort of guilt there. I know you don't agree with that interpretation. Out of all of the ones they talked about it, that's the one I see the most. I don't believe that just because there's a can of Native American branded product

Jonesy: Or a specific typewriter...

Javi: Well, the typewriter could be a coincidence.

Jonesy: Not according to them.

Javi:  The only I reason I bring that up is because the typewriter changes throughout the movie so the brand and color are all deliberate points of the film. They made the conscious choice to get that brand of typewriter. Then we get into that territory where the interpreters want to forgive and excuse any and all errors. At first Kubrick wanted penis carpet, and then at the other, he wanted vagina carpet. Just stuff like that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Jonesy: That really bothered me. It just seemed like such an excuse and love up on Kubrick as someone who can't have any errors. Like the elusive window in the manager's office that doesn't match the hotel floor plan.

Javi: I love the architecture of the hotel, and how specific that was, and as I mentioned before Danny riding his bike around the hotel and ending up in different floors without needing the stairs. Which he does 3 times in the movie, yet each time he ends up in a crazier place.

Jonesy: A bogus excuse is the one where a chair disappears and that somehow means that it's meant to disappear. I hate when people say that a person cannot make any editing or continuity mistakes. Probably one of the weirdest theories is the one where THE SHINING has to be seen backwards and forwards at the same time. How in the world could you figure that out?

Javi: I just think that if we're looking at it from a film fan's POV. Imagine if Kubrick was enough of a pretentious prick to say, "I'm making a horror movie that's a Holocaust/Native American massacre and allegory/Minotaur. I create all of this crazy imagery and time it so that it can sync up when you play the movie backwards, which is a way that no one is really going to be able to do or have the motivation to do it?"

Jonesy: Especially whenever the SHINING was released, there's no way for fans to do this. I just think that it's a dick move to assume he would think that way. And the whole backwards and forwards thing is something that you could probably do with any film. I wonder if this documentary only showed the only really good images that come out of this weird mash up in the movie. The documentary itself was really well done. You never see who they interviewed, so they splice together footage from the movie and other Kubrick movies to allow them to tell their story. It's so well made and interesting that they made a documentary where the ideas take focus and not the talking heads. Obviously, I don't agree with most of their theories. Trusting that they have explored THE SHINING so many times, I trust them a bit, but seeing the movie I'm not sure if I understand where most of these people are coming from.

Javi: I like that all of the theories are so bat shit crazy that in a way to exemplify the themes of the movie, which was, "Hey, look at movies a different way." By telling us in the movie every interpretation theses people have ever had and back it up with "evidence" even though you and I don't believe it. It shows that there's not really "good way" of seeing a movie that there is only a "way." to see a movie. Everyone's truth is as real as the next persons and you can't take that away.

Jonesy: This movie motivated me to see THE SHINING in a different way that will hopefully be a better experience for me. However I am afraid that people's true enjoyment of movies will be diminished if they do nothing but just super analyze films instead of enjoying it.

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