With an abundance of time on Saturday and no new movie begging for my attention, I decided to plug an embarrassing cultural blindspot: Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining.
The crazy thing was how little it felt like a blind spot. So much of the film has seeped into the wider culture as just touchstones that seem to have always existed.
Here’s Johnny! Redrum. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
It’s fair to wonder if it’s even possible to get the as-intended experience when viewing a film in that nature. Citizen Kane is another version of that, but perhaps more understandable due to how long ago it premiered and how it revolutionized Hollywood and movies going forward.
For the record, I’ve never read the Stephen King novel that inspired the film (nor have I read any of King’s writing except for On Writing). Not that this is particularly relevant, since Kubrick’s version is, at best, a light adaptation, and one that King didn’t even like.
While perhaps more straightforward than some of his other films, Kubrick’s restrained but still terrifying film has numerous room for uncertainty and head-scratching and wondering “What the hell did I just watch?”
On Monday, I got an email newsletter that, for no discernible reason other than the universe lines up like that sometimes, there was a link in which a Japanese man is granted a phone call with Kubrick. The man asks about the ending of 2001: A Space Odessey, perhaps one of Kubrick’s most inscrutable.
Apparently contrary to his norm, Kubrick gives a fairly long and thoughtful answer to the question.
In the way that we fans are never satisfied when granted an audience with our heroes, the man asks if he ask one more question: What’s up with the end of The Shining?
It’s a shorter answer from Kubrick, but still pretty awesome to hear the man himself discuss his films.
One of the top YouTube comments says: “Get this guy on the phone with David Lynch,” which I couldn’t help but smile at, because, yeah, I’d love some answers from Lynch as well.
It’s fun to speculate and wonder why Kubrick was willing to be so forthcoming to this man. Maybe it because he seemed to want to take the information back to fellow fans in Japan. Maybe it was because it seemed private (I have no idea if the video on the man’s end was known to Kubrick at the time of the call).
It’s fun to hear any director talk about his or her work, but especially directors who like to have viewers make their own meaning out the films.
In addition to this charming video, I took a deep dive into supplementary Shining content, namely podcasts from some of my faves.
Blank Check: What a fun episode in the midst of the guys’ mini-series on Kubrick. They share the mic with Timothy Simons (Jonah from Veep), and they all go in on the opinion that Shelley Duvall is the MVP of the film. I honestly don’t know if I can co-sign on that one; I’ll have to watch the film again, but I found her so awkward, so ungainly, so off-putting, despite feeling incredibly bad thinking that with full knowledge of how Kubrick basically drove her insane over the course of filming so the breakdown would add to the later stages of the film.
Unspooled: Paul and Amy get into some super interesting theories and interpretations, the most interesting being [SPOILER WARNING FOR PLOT DETAILS OF THE SHINING, A MOVIE NOW MORE THAN 40 YEARS OLD] speculation around the physical abuse of Danny that’s addressed in the film might actually be sexual abuse by Jack, a closeted homosexual, based on the scene where Jack, upon just arriving to the hotel for the winter, is waiting in the lobby and reading an issue of Playgirl that, on its cover, advertises an article about incest. This discussion picks up around minute 25:00 in the podcast. Some of the other theories are also great, including some of the wackadoo theories that make up the basis of the documentary Room 237, which posits that Kubrick made The Shining as a coded apology for staging and filming the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Rewatchables: Bill, Sean, and Chris apply their trusty categories to Kubrick’s classic, Bill unleashes quite a number of Nicholson impersonations, and Sean geeks out on the marvel of the Steadicam shots that follow Danny on his Big Wheel. [Here’s a pretty awesome history of the Steadicam and a compilation video essay of scenes shot with it (spoiler: Danny on the Big Wheel doesn’t show up until minute 8).]