Stephen King fans like myself have been waiting for years to see lovely Pennywise in the shivering flesh, as let’s face that 1990’s TV adaptation is not good. Finally he’s here to tell us ‘we all float down here’;
A couple of weeks ago I partied with and hosted some of my best friends here in Limehouse, and they presented me with a belated birthday present which was quite the Kubrickophile xerox relic – Awesome. Time moves on, the seasons slumber so a couple of days ago I conducted a little light admin of the flat and finally corrected myself by hanging this little heirloom up as befits such an affectionate gift. After arriving home following an atypical gruelling day at the typewriter I entered my flat to witness my TV ablaze, and I know for a fact that I was the only person to enter my domicile during that period. Weird. The morning after I awake and find my fucking front door unlocked, closed to the frame but still appealing to howling outside elements. I think tonight I may scurry away to a hotel;
Looks like I’ve found my honeymoon destination, just so I can finish my work. OK, there has been some Shining material floating around recently which I thought I should share, but I’m 100% serious on that weird fucking TV / front door oddness. If you’re fucking with me then bring it on Mr. Grady……
After all this Room 237 nonsense I reckon someone should get properly dedicated and identify the original source of that photo sans Jack – I’m sure it’s in the Elephant & Castle archives – and then perform some genealogical analysis on whom was actually in the original print, who they were and the situation of their descendants – now that could be an interesting hook for a documentary. What’s inspired this post? Well, its been a while since we’ve taken a stroll around recent Stanley discussions, and the recent crop is foisted by illiterate nutters as per usual, but it also just happens that 2014 sees a certain film achieve its 50 year anniversary and one has tickets to a special screening at the BFI – lovely. This is always worth a revisit;
Being busier than a very busy thing indeed I’ve not had time to catch up with much in the way of news or new trailers I’m afraid, but we are building up a small backlog of material to craft over the weekend – a gig last night, a BFI visit tonight with a darkly imperious special guest in attendance – I’m such a tease. In the meantime to keep things ‘fresh’ on the horror front here’s another remake to get your teeth into;
I’m not hugely fond of the original film so I’m hardly sweating blood in excitement, but to be fair the filmmakers have tried to make it clear that this is another adaption of Stephen Kings inaugural novel rather than a modern imprint of De Palma’s bloody nonsense – judging by the trailer I’d say they are being somewhat liberal with the truth. Piper Laurie’s take on the religiously fevered mother back in 1976 was quite a furiously frenzied turn and Spacek was quietly sympathetic in a title role which along with Badlands cemented her career, so Moore and Moretz have quite the apron strings to step into – and they’ll have to outgross the original’s swineful carnage strewn climax;
For us Kubrick fans, 2012 is shaping up to be a vintage year. Not only has a new digital print of his horror masterpiece The Shining been struck by the BFI, but the documentary Room 237 has also propelled critics and fans to re-examine his work and practices, inspired by the slavish devotion of the non-fictional Delbert Grady’s, obsessed and immersed in the haunted corridors of the Overlook hotel. The news of a sequel to the source novel was also announced by Stephen King, and the Kubrick Estate finally moved its Exhibition to the city of the angels he fled in artistic terror some fifty years ago, frustrated at the interference foisted upon his vision during the making of Spartacus. As I may have mentioned here I planned to revisit the film in its new digital print at the BFI last week alongside the usual context setting discussion, but alas I didn’t make it. I know, I know, call yourself a Kubrick fan Minty? What a disgusting lapse in effort etc etc. Well, in my defence the night before I stayed up either horrendously late of frighteningly early to watch the US election, and quite frankly once I’d retired and woken up the same day I was in no position to go anywhere, especially for a film that (and let’s be clear here) I’ve already seen through three times at the flicks, including prints of this so-called ‘unseen’ domestic cut, and the members of the discussion panel – Jan Harlan, Michel Ciment, Ben Wheatley and Kim Newman – are all figures I’ve seen before in one way or another. Yes I’m intrigued to see exactly how this new digital print looks but it’s not as if they managed to get on the real Holy Grail, a print with the excised Hospital intact, now that’s something I’d crawl through broken glass to see, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it and I simply wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I had made it over to the South Bank. That’s my excuse anyway….
I was also less than enthused in crafting a new review given that I think my original effort from 2008 still makes sense – see what you think here – but although you will be spared the terror of another in-depth analysis from yours truly on the picture which may be getting a little overexposed I couldn’t let the treasure trove of links and articles I’ve collected over the past eight months go to waste, so here is a starter for ten, then there is Jan Harlan’s vivid recollections which are expanded upon here, here’s some semiotics and dualism, here is Pixar director Lee Unkrich’s exhaustive website (he’s a collector of all things Shining, he recently acquired Danny’s Moonship jumper at auction), here’s some Zizek on Kubrick’s swan song, and of course finally here is that ultimate insane novel on the film, scribed by one of the lunatics of Room 237. I also like this and this is the most illuminating piece I’ve read on SK for years, its the first I’ve read of potential casting decisions such as Jon Voight playing Jack or more suprisingly Paul Newman was being considered for a role in 2001? Presumably Bowman I guess. Anyway, Rob Agers deconstruction are well-known in the community;
Well, he certainty has done his research eh? Whatever you make of his conclusions and assertions I enjoy these video essays for the sheer scale of obsessive detail, as much as I may violently disagree with some of the content they can be are fun viewing. These pieces however are somewhat more problematic;
That is just insane, these deluded publishers warping their preexisting paranoid theories to fit the film, rather than vice versa with the themes and readings emanating from the text as it stands. As I alluded to in my Room 237 review – and here is probably the best review of that film I’ve found – I’m actually becoming quite angry with the conspiracy theorists adoption of Kubrick, so I should probably refrain some posting them here for a while. So whilst we’re talking about insanity I’ve just started reading this which should be fun, now I have to find a film to go and see this week which is proving to be a frustrating task, it looks like a second look at The Master seems to be my only option at the local flickpit….
I was waiting for a trailer before potentially bringing this to your attention, as one doesn’t seem to be forthcoming let’s go with a clip from the movie;
As you can imagine, the prospect of a documentary on The Shining was warmly welcomed around these parts, I was however a little disappointed to see it would focus on some of the wilder translations and readings that have coalesced around the masterpiece over the past thirty-two years. The Native Americans metaphor is perfectly valid and correct, and has been mused upon and considered in light of the original references in the source novel and the fairly obvious littering of indigenous American symbols, icons and portraits throughout the films mise-en-scene, heck the fact that the Overlook repelled a few attacks during its construction is mentioned by Ullman in an early scene. It’s most of the other psuedo-conspiracy theories which are clearly absurdly mentalist, such as the numerology stuff (e.g. today is the 30th January 2012 , 30+1+2012 = 2043, 2 times 3 times 7=42 and OMG 42 minus 2043 is 2001, we’ve matched A Space Odyssey!! Get with the programme sheeple!!) and the truly insane Moon landing hoax stuff which really doesn’t warrant a single second of serious speculation. Then again, maybe that’s the documentaries main point, to look at the crazies and loonies that gravitate to the deeply embedded symbols and designs in Stan’s work, all of which were intended but seem to be translated or absorbed in quite different ways – the eye of the beholder and all that eh? As mentioned before Stan loathed ever explaining ‘what he meant’ in a film and that’s because he never meant his work to be that obvious, he just used every conceivable aspect of a film’s production and technique to craft a piece of art, then the onus was on the viewer to make of it what they would, or indeed could – send in the clowns;
It’s always the same with these theories, they take fragments of the truth – in this case a NASA sourced lens which he did utilise for Barry Lyndon and some pioneering special effects, and then leap into the abyss of total paranoid insanity. Here’s some more meanderings, here’s one of the more amusing deconstructions which I imagine emerged from a lonely apartment which is choked with notebooks akin to John Doe’s charming domicile in Se7en, and I thought I was obsessed with the great mans work – I was particularly amused at the counting of 21 pieces of mail in the hotel lobby and this being numerically significant, ‘all work and no play’ indeed….obligitory meme here;
My original 2009 review here, slightly amended but some of the links will probably be borked. So that’s another Kubrick fix out of the way, I’ll move on to some slightly more heartwarming fare tomorrow – Eraserhead.
And so finally part three, my last nerd-out for at least another year. Let’s start with a gods eye, ominous drift into the tale….
A mirror to the epilogue, but we’ll come back to that. As the Warner Bros. logo dissolved into the foreboding miasma of that breath-taking aerial montage I was pleased to note that this was a screening of the longer US domestic version of the film, a cut I recognised from the blue twinge to the credits as the shorter European cut has pure white colouration – yes, I think it’s fair to say that I know this film very well in both its incarnations. Truth be told I prefer the shorter version, the scenes with Lloyd the bartender are shorter and punchier, there is less unnecessary foreshadowing on Jack’s past which is explained in a couple of excised early scenes between Wendy and a child psychologist and the final scenes have some faintly silly scenes of cobweb shrouded skeletons in the hotel lobby which are not Kubrick’s finest hour. Still, it’s always nice to replay some of the scenes (I do have a Region 1 DVD copy of the film) and seeing the film on the big screen is always quite an experience in any format. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In one of his half dozen most iconic performances Jack Nicholson is the alcoholic, frustrated writer Jack Torrance who acquires a job as the winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, an auberge nestled deep in the Colorado mountains. Moving his family including his timid wife Wendy (a distraught Shelly Duvall) and his precocious son Danny to the hotel for the winter close-down Jack sanity explosively erodes as the hotels malevolent spirits become corporal and urge him to repeat past murderous tragedies that occurred on the hotels accursed grounds. Are these spirits stimulated into action by Danny’s ESP like gift of ‘shining’, of being able to see past events in places ‘just like pictures in a book’? Are the supernatural events imaginations in Jack’s deranged mind? What exactly is in Room 237?
The Shining was recently voted as the scariest film ever made and whilst I personally don’t find it ‘scary’ in any conventional sense it is certainly one of the most brilliant achievements in the horror genre. For me it much more the whole sense of foreboding and unease which is gently harnessed and developed before exploding in the films final movements that nails it for me, there are a half-dozen electrifying scenes which have entered popular culture and can therefore obfuscate any fresh analysis of the movie but lets see what we can draw together eh? As always with Kubrick there is a marriage of his unique cinematic style and imagination in The Shining, technical and structural experimentation coupled with a host of possible interpretations and historical references which elevate the film far beyond its formal generic trappings. Many critics sneered down their noses at Kubrick resorting to work in the ‘horror’ genre, slumming it with the exploitation and B-Movie side of the business but they evidently failed to recall the enormous success of the likes of The Exorcist (a project which Kubrick was allegedly offered and rejected to his subsequent dismay) and Rosemary’s Baby which achieved both critical kudos and financial returns, as I think I’ve mentioned before there was a strong vein of business acumen to the man, he fully embraced the financial possibilities of his films which is evident from his unique participation in his films marketing strategies and release patterns.
Certain things can be so subjective when it comes to the movies, I and some friends are of the opinion that this sequence isn’t in the slightest bit terrifying and maybe just a little bit naff, others find it deeply distressing and affecting. Go figure. I think we can all agree that the Twins are more than a little unsettling (more on them later) but one of the elements to The Shining I most admire is that it is an uncannily eerie horror film that is exposed in bright, beautifully composed excruciating sunlight, banishing the traditional Expressionist foundations of the Universal supernatural cycle, the ‘old dark house’ cliché inverted from the shadows into the light which makes it almost unique with viewers weaned on decades of genre trademarks. Like the scattered low-fi Bosch zombie landscapes of Romero it’s the uncanny and strange, unnerving and raw imagery on-screen that is detailed in such an exposed fashion which is why it strikes such a chord with viewers. The framing, pace and sound in the film achieve a very real aura of unearthliness, even the notoriously self cannibalizing horror genre has not matched its remarkable atmosphere – I’d welcome claims to the contrary.
The sound design is amazing when you see the film on the big screen, the discordant chimes of Penderaski, Ligetti and Bartok really do jar the spirit in conjunction with the arresting images on-screen – you really need to ramp up the volume on this picture to achieve a definitive viewing experience, you can almost sense those chittering spirits gnawing on the celluloid. Whilst it wasn’t the first movie to utilise the Steadicam system is was certainly the first to use the process to such an extensive extent, it’s that simple energy of movement which generates tension whilst providing a mental landscape for the films events in the labyrinthine Overlook hotel, an observation that leads me nicely to this astonishing sequence which to this day has foxed admiring cinematographers as to how this shot was achieved in 1980 with only ‘primitive’ matte and other pre-CGI rendering methods. As always Stan the Man was on the cutting edge, constantly seeking and employing technical breakthroughs to push the medium forward.
The classic scenes are this, this, the classic reveal and of course for my generation this, personally I’ve always found this and this (that’s Kubrick’s daughter Vivian with the bloody handprint on her posterior who causes Grady to stumble into Jack by the way) far more arresting but that’s just me, I love the extreme deep focus on the establishing cuts of those bar scenes in the Gold Room which generate an unusual visual plateau to unconsciously signal a shift in the films environment from the natural to supernatural, from the tangible to incorporeal. Also note the traditional genre under-lit yet typically Kubrickian source generated lighting in Jacks face from the bar fittings to tableau a rictous grin on his homicidal visage. Heh, that must be one of the most overwrought sentences I’ve constructed for quite a while eh?
There are many readings of the film of which have been gleaned from many of the motifs in the film embedded by the native American mise-en-scene and its genocidal history serving as the tableau for a dissection of the nuclear family, a more direct commentary on the limits of the imagination and its stresses on the human psyche or even a simple comparison between the tortured creative Jack Torrance and Kubrick himself who had reputedly isolated himself, Prospero style in St. Albans, obsessively immersing himself in his complex and increasingly textured yet impossible projects. Regardless, the elements of myth and history that Kubrick and fellow screenwriter Diane Johnson injected into Stephen King’s source material marks The Shining as one of the most cerebral and majestic entries in the genre, a testament to Kubrick’s skill in approaching by definition a moribund genre and taking it stratospheric heights – here is the core touchstone that served as one of the films primary inspirations, and here is what I believe is the eeriest scene in film history;
I can’t remember where I picked this up but I did read a wonderful commentary on the film connecting it to the birth of cinema itself, coinciding as it did in the late 19th century with a rebirth in spiritualism, of photographing fairies, seances, ouija boards and photographing the dead which of course film does in another sense, the supernatural therefore being a natural even essential subject for cinema itself. I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel a slight unease and sense of mortality when looking at some of the older silent movies, knowing for certain that 99% of the people involved have now passed on to some other place, for want of a better metaphor. I like Kubrick’s assertion that in the final analysis The Shining is actually a feel good movie, life after death being confirmed in the films closing moments and the speculation on spirits and an existence beyond the grave providing proof that ‘However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light‘.
Quite unexpectedly I got this in the post recently, a friend had decided to play a little joke on the Mint and sent me a copy of Jack Torrance’s challenging debut novel without any card or covering note which I have to say was quite entertaining, an appropriate gesture of revenge is being considered. I did like the humorous dust-jacket blurb on the book which proclaims that the novel is a treatise on a writer ‘heroically pitting himself against the Sisyphusean sentence’, I’m about half-way through and I have to say it is a little repetitive but I’m intrigued to see how it all comes together at the end. If you’re in any way interested in further details then here is a comprehensive FAQ which should fill in any gaps, I know I said I’d write-up my experience of the final Kubrick BFI discussion event in this post but I think this entry has already become a little unwieldy so I’ll slot that into a miscellaneous post I’m compiling along with some other film material I’ve collated over the past few months. Here’s the making of documentary. Let’s close with that beautiful final shot of the film, a penetration into the foundations and history of the hotel that mirrors the movies opening sequence, bringing the film a metaphoric full circle, from the panoramic to the individual.
In the interests of nostalgia coupled with my second birthday on this blog I recently had a look back at some old posts and was exceptionally embarrassed to see that my embryonic approaches to this whole blogging phenomenon were not great. Who’d have thought eh? I hope that my commitment, content and organisation has somewhat improved over the past 100 or so weeks thus have decided to publish a one link post just to sabotage any pretence of actually appearing to know what I’m doing. So here it is, a fantastic and for me fascinating interview with Stephen King and the alleged prescience of his best novel, ‘The Stand’. Nuff’ said.
Before we get started let me make this clear, I’ve scrutinised all the links and they are spoiler free for the film itself although some links to other movies do have some reveals and are tagged as such. Anything less would require cinematic seppuko on my part.
Well, after my feeble attempts to rectify my public persona what do I do? Go and see another horror film of course. I’ve been waiting to see ‘The Mist‘ since last year and I think we’re lucky that it got a cinema release at all in Europe given its failure in the States – there was talk of it simply going straight to DVD such was its critical reception and poor box office takings. Wiser sense has prevailed due to its praise amongst the genre fan press on the web who have all reveled in the films winning combination of solid B-Movie monster genre trappings and a quite remarkable finale which has to be the most distressing and jaw dropping conclusion to any mainstream film I’ve seen since (Spoilers) Se7en.
The film is based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name and unfolds in his frequently utilised native Maine. After a brutal overnight storm David Drayton and his son Nathan make a trip into town to acquire some materials to repair their damaged home, leaving his wife to begin patching up the tumultuous damage. An ominous, unexplained mist swiftly envelops the town’s convenience store severing all communications with the authorities, with family, friends and the trappings of the outside world. It soon becomes apparent that the mist harbours a Lovecraftian coterie of terrifying creatures who mercilessly devour any souls foolish enough to abandon the fragile safety of the building. As the hours pass the tension and body count escalates, straining the veneer of civilised society as some of the more unhinged victims begin to speak of the end of days, a final Armageddon that has finally materialised upon the earth…
As the man says, civilisation is only three square meals from anarchy and barbarism. Director Frank Darabont wastes no time getting into things and augments the action and hostility throughout the films two hour running time, a duration quite unusual for what is essentially an old-school creature feature. There’s some able support from talent in the form of Toby Jones, Francis Sternhagen, a chilling Marcia Gay Harden as the movies fundamentalist troublemaker and most exciting for me, Homicide’s Lt. Pembleton who is always a strong presence.
I think its quite telling that someone who could deliver one of the most loved films in the past twenty years, with its final affirmation of (Spoiler) redemption and hope could turn and say something quite so spectacularly bleak and shocking. I read that Darabont was offered twice the money to do the film with an alternative ending but he stuck to his guns and you have to admire him for that. Treading carefully, it follows the short story 100% faithfully and I quite smugly thought I had worked out what was going to happen next when the film continued past the source material – boy was I wrong. It has all the requisite jumpy moments which are perfectly executed and even the criticised monster CGI wasn’t honestly that bad and fits the films B movie inspiration (there’s also talk of a Universal inspired black & white cut on the DVD) considering Darabont’s early pedigree. Shot on the fly with the same crew that Darabont employed for his recent ‘Shield‘ episodes the film is a very intelligent, contemporary horror picture with another incidental attack on the religious fundamentalists which like ‘Teeth’ blasts all the American horror genres recent tiresome ironic and ‘torture porn‘ pictures out of the water.
Finally, a couple of exciting pieces of film news. Firstly, missing reels of the incredible ‘Metropolis‘ have been unearthed in Brazil. This is a major, major find and will result in the full restoration of one of the indisputably most influential dozen or so films ever made, regardless of genre. Lang is one of my most admired old-school directors (this is probably my favorite film noir) and without ‘Metropolis‘ there would be no ‘Blade Runner’ let alone all the other cinema spectaculars made since 1927. Yes that’s 1927 for fucks sake – Outstanding.
Can you imagine my excitement at the prospect of a new Kubrick documentary, especially one made by long time Kubrick aficionado Jon Ronson who was one of the few journalists granted access to the Chidwickbury estate following Stan’s death in 1999? A rarity these days, Channel 4 have actually produced something worthwhile in the form of a season trailer emulating the making of ‘The Shining’ including very specific fan boy references not only to the film itself, but also the seminal ‘Making Of‘ documentary directed by his daughter Vivian which is the only historical evidence of the great man at work. Can’t wait.