Saturday 15 June 2013

Double Bill Mini Musings: Theories and Deliveries...

Room 237:
What's it about?
Documentary considering some of the deeper meanings behind Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"; a mixture of the downright bizarre and improbable, to the decidedly convincing, that can be just as intriguing as it can be frustrating.
Who would I recognise in it?
Nobody beyond the film clips - not even the interviewees are shown on-camera.
Like conspiracy theories, Room 237 is polarising. Made of up firmly held ideas by those who 'discovered'/'created' them, it can go from providing convincing arguments about the background portrayal of the slaughter of Native Americans, the 'number 7 theory', and the Holocaust (including the number 42), to proffering absolutely far-reaching bullshit theories based on phantom shreds of nothing. The idea that "Room No. 237" equals "Moon Room" and that (without offering any evidence whatsoever) "237" was the stage number where Kubrick 'faked the moon landings' induce grandiose eye-rolls. Other readings are less grand, but lack conviction (the Minotaur theory, for one) - even with Kubrick's microscopic attention to detail, you doubt that there is any actual deeper meaning behind a couple of posters on a wall in one single room. That feels too small-scale to be believable - but on the other hand there are theories based on large-scale, up-front ideas (such as the aforementioned issue of the Holocaust, or even more specifically the Native Americans).

Click "READ MORE" below for more out-there theories, and a movie about bicycling...

One large-scale theory, which - incredibly - is barely even considered in this documentary (but is covered brilliantly on YouTube - Part One, Part Two), is the very evidential 'impossible set design' of the hotel. Too many room doors down the corridors, the impossible window in the manager's office (that one is mentioned, briefly, in the documentary), corridors that lead to and/or from nowhere, the shifting layout of the hotel (e.g. during the tour of the kitchen). That theory - as seen in those videos on YouTube by Collative Learning - isn't really a theory: it's fact, and as such it's the most compelling thing to point out about the entire film.

Presentation wise, Room 237 continues to be a mixed bag. We never see the faces of the people talking to us (it's all voice over interviews), and the use of other films (e.g. Eyes Wide Shut, All The President's Men, and even - strangely - Demons 1 & 2) can at times prove to be distracting. Specially-filmed reconstructions would have stitched together better than a patchwork of unconnected films posing as reconstructions. At least the interviews are clear - except for one - which is frequently utilised throughout, but features muddy audio and an interviewee who can barely string a coherent sentence together (when he's not chuckling at damn-near everything he says). By the end of the film I'd absolutely had it with that one interviewee in particular - even more so because the filmmakers never bothered to trim his rambling down, so that each point he was making would reach the viewer quicker and more coherently.

While some of the theories are ultimately just fanciful, or happenstance (seeing key moments from the film as it is simultaneously played forwards and backwards is good fun, but none of the joins were ever intended), there are, conversely, a handful of theories that are genuine and based on solid, hard, and abundant evidence. The latter help further understand the complexities of Kubrick's disorientating masterpiece - but with the International version of the film being shorter than the American version, the validity of some of the more fanciful ideas put forth begin to look more like forced readings. A mix of good and bad - in all respects - Room 237 is both fascinating and frustrating. Good.

Premium Rush:
What's it about?
David Koepp's swiftly paced action/thriller about a New York bike messenger who gets caught up in a cat-and-mouse chase with a dodgy cop who's after the package he's been hired to deliver.
Who would I recognise in it?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi.
In lesser hands this could have been a real bore-fest - but Koepp's lean pacing and arresting visuals (such as the SatNav/Sim City-like presentation of New York), mixed with pulse-pounding music and crisp editing, keeps everything moving along at a fair old lick. You barely notice that the plot is fairly thin and the macguffin is just an excuse to show as much dare-devil bike messenger-ing as possible. The cast also elevate the relatively simple material - JGL is always worth watching, and Shannon is all-at-once terrifying and hilarious. Ruddy good entertainment all-round. Good.

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