The Shining Stanley Kubrick (USA 1980)

The Shining Stanley Kubrick (USA 1980)

The Shining
Stanley Kubrick (USA 1980) Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Viewed Cineworld Newcastle 31 11 2017; ticket £4.50

all jack and no work makes a dull play boy

I have to say I don’t worship at the shrine of Stanley K the great movie director. Strangelove is a ranking movie, but seeing The Shining confirmed my impression that he is fundamentally a stodgy movie wrangler. Over–rated by most contemporaries but exposed by time and tide.

Actually on release the Shining attracted mixed reviews and later pulled in a confirmed following. What immediately struck me about Kubrick’s film was how derivative it was. Kubrick seems to have watched Roeg’s Don’t Look Back with some interest and some of its key images and concepts are very similar. Recurring images of the twin girls in The Shining recall Roeg’s use of flash back and flash forewards to signify precognition. The couple situation in Don’t Look back is replicated by Kubrick as is the use of the colour red. The difference is that whereas Roeg is deft supple and inventive in his depictions, Kubrick is hammy, overstated and clumsy the film buckled in with unnecessary clutter such as what seem to be punched in superfluous surtitles telling us the day of the week. As if it made any difference; or anyone cared.

After the film I imagined a telephone talk between Stanley and Jack. In the which Stanley butters up Jack by saying to him: Hi Jack you know all those great faces you make in the mirror when you shave?…Well you can use them in my new movie if you want the part. Jack loves it. Which is to say the acting is so bad it’s good. You get all Jack’s silly faces and then Shelley Duvall, who most of the time looks like she has drifted on set thinking she’s in an Altman movie, also gets to make her faces.

The script doesn’t help matters for the characters. It is arch, ponderous, underlined dialogue, in particular Jack’s. In this much it matches the shooting scenario which structures the film graphically about slow tracking shots deliberately contrived to suggest a slow overwhelming of the characters by the forces of fate, the ex machina design of the Shining that moves to the inexorable logic that all those who are marked down to die, so do die. Only these slow tracking shots, with the admitted exception of Danny’s pedal car, are too invariant in employment and in effect slow the film down to their own ponderous pace.

The plot becomes a desperate effort at temporal attenuation and extension, as if the original story was too slight and needed padding out. For instance the series of scenes set in the hotel Gold Room add nothing to the film except another setting in which Jack can act out in a period setting and Joe Turkel gets to do his barman cameo.

The one sequence that had cinematic value was Wendy’s discovery of Jack’s writing. Those reams of paper repeating with endless typographic variations the old adage: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

This one coup doesn’t stop The Shining from being a rather dull movie. Nor are the tasty wallpaper designs and carpets enough the save the day. Adrin Neatrour

Author: Adrin Neatrour

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