Rodney Ascher – Room 237
Ascher’s documentary is like no film I’ve seen before or am apt to see again. To put it as simply as I can, Ascher allows seven obsessive fans of The Shining to spin out their theories about the hidden meanings Kubrick imbedded in the film, as he plays appropriate footage from The Shining and tons of other movies under their narration. The striking visual idea here is enough to make me sit up and take notice. It’s a documentary made up entirely of pre-existing footage from other movies; the new material is all in voice over – we never even see the people that we spend the entire running time of the movie listening to. And that is what we do; there are no interviewers or omniscient narrators. It’s just these seven people and their insane theories; is The Shining really about Kubrick revealing that he faked the moon landing footage? Or is it about the genocide of the Native Americans? Is that a minotaur on that poster and not a skier as we’ve always thought? What happens when you play The Shining backwards & forwards at the same time, superimposed over each other? This is one of the most relentlessly entertaining films I’ve seen this year and Ascher’s strange vision is arresting and wonderful. Is he validating their opinions? Even if only by letting them be heard? Is he mocking them? Is he mocking the audience? Is he warning the audience about the extremes of film love? Is he paying homage to one of Kubrick’s best late films? What in the hell is actually going on here? I don’t know, but when the backwards/forwards section of the film syncs up two blood spatters in one scene with a close up of Jacks’ face in another so perfectly that he appears to be weeping blood or when Shelley Duvall shouts to Danny that the last one to the maze has to “keep America clean,” and the film smashcuts to the weeping Indian commercial against littering, well, you know that Ascher has a lot on the ball. Can’t wait to see what he does next.
Next time, the director helmed a foreign film that’s been out for over ten years; I’d missed it up to now, but thank God I finally caught up to it.