Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Room 237 [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Chicago SunTimes (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
AVClub (N. Murray) review
Chicago SunTimes (J. Emerson) review

Room 237 [2012] (directed by Rodney Ascher) is a truly "mind blowing" nervous-smiling ;-) documentary about folks who've spent a lot of time watching Stanley Kubrick's Jack Nicholson starring horror classic The Shining [1980] (Kubrick's film of course having been a not altogether faithful adaptation of Stephen King's novel by the same name).

The hermeneutic of the interviewees in this documentary is basically this: Stanley Kubrick was a master. Hence Kubrick made no mistakes in The Shining [1980] and truly every single item or aspect in this film was intentional.

Hence the seemingly stock "ooooh, scary" mood-setting throw-away line in Kubrick's film by the "Overlook Hotel's" manager informing Jack Nicholson's character (and viewers) that the hotel was "built on top of an Indian burial ground," was not merely a stock "oooh, scary" mood-setting throw away line but a signal that the film was actually a coded essay about America's genocide of the indigenous American Indian population that's, well LARGELY OVERLOOKED by most Americans today.  How else could one further explain the odd "Calumet Baking Powder" cans (Of all the cans in all the world, why those...?) that show-up somewhat prominently (especially if one's looking for them...) in the scenes filmed in the hotel's pantry.  Then "Calumet" happens to mean "pipe" as in "peace pipe" in Norman French (and the French were probably the most traveled among the Native Americans throughout North America in the early period of European exploration).  Yet American-Europeans came to smoke the "peace pipe" with all kinds of Native American tribes and then proceeded to slaughter them ... Hence why should one be surprised then with the visions of rivers of blood flowing out of the hotel's elevators and down its corridors in the later stages of the movie?

Another interviewee fixed his attention on the apparent prominence of the number "42" in the film.  Now 1942 was the year of the infamous Wansee Conference which set in motion the Nazi Holocaust of Europe's Jews and apparently Stanley Kubrick had long wanted to make a movie about the Nazi Holocaust but never was able figure-out how to go about it (and then Steven Spielberg beat him to the punch with Schindler's List [1993]). Thus those rivers of blood flowing out of the hotel's elevators and down its corridors were (also?) expressive of this horror, the Nazi Holocaust.

My personal favorite theory proposed (and honestly, this one's now burned in my head and I'll want that part of my memory back again soon... ;-) is that the film was Kubrick's coded admission that he was "the Hollywood director" recruited by the American government to fake the imagery broadcast to the world (and to American viewers) of the Apollo moon landings ;-).

How could one possibly concoct this kind of theory?  WELL, Stanley Kubrick made 2001: A Space Oddysey [1968] (a year before Apollo 11's landing on the moon ... ;-).  By near universal acclamation, Kubrick's cinematography of the SPACE SCENES and EVEN THE MOON SCENES was simply OUTSTANDING.  SO ... IF ONE WERE TO FAKE THE MOON LANDINGS, then Kubrick (and his 2001 team) would have been THE OBVIOUS PEOPLE TO GO TO.  Indeed, PERHAPS "2001" was commissioned to serve as "the dry run" for this massive government conspiracy...

Okay, how does this relate to Kubrick's The Shining [1980]?  Well the Hotel has this mysterious Room 237.  (In Stephen King's original novel it was Room 217 but it was oddly changed to 237 in the movie. Honestly, I now ask why? ;-).  This is the room into which Jack Nicholson's character gets Corrupted and passes into Hell.  (That's where he gets seduced first by a naked woman and then finds to his horror that the naked woman starts to decay/fall-apart in his arms).  Initially Danny, Jack Nicholson's character's kid, isn't allowed into that room.  It's strangely forbidden.  He asks an amiable African American staff member about the room, and is told "not to go there."  THEN ONE TIME when he's playing in the corridor outside the room, the door is suddenly open. DANNY GETS UP and walks toward the room. What does Danny have on?  A sweater with A REPLICA OF APOLLO 11 STITCHED ON IT.

Now the number 237.  What possibly could it mean?  Well the average distance between the earth and the moon is apparently 237,000 miles.  As Danny approaches the door, the room key is in the door.  The camera focuses on the hotel room key on which is written "Room No. 237."  "What are the only words that can be spelled out of those letters?  Room and MOON. So Room 237 is the Moon Room."

Finally, the coup de grace (or still more likely ... "slight of hand") that makes the "moon conspiracy theory" more palatable comes with the interviewee promoting this theory declaring: "I'm not saying that we didn't go to the moon in 1969 or land on the moon in 1969.  I'm just saying that the images that we saw of the moon landings were faked" (and presumably made on the set of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddysey [1968]).

What makes this "moon conspiracy theory" SO SEDUCTIVE to me NOW is that IF I WERE TO PICK A HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR TO "FAKE THE MOON LANDINGS" I'd now probably pick Stanley Kubrick because I'VE BEEN REMINDED OF THE AWESOME JOB the he did with "2001" ;-) ;-)

So, in truth, even if it's all nonsense, I have to say that I just loved this movie ;-).  Not all cinema is linear.  Whether or not Kubrik's The Shining [1980] is as "coded" as the interviewees in this documentary suggest, I have no doubt that it's at least partly "coded" (That's why serious film-makers make horror movies.  There's always "something" underneath).  Then this "documentary" itself is certainly intended at least in part to be FUN.  It's intended to make viewers scratch their heads, laugh nervously and ask themselves: "No, that can't be!  Dear Mother of God that can't be." ;-)

Andy Kaufman er "Tony Clifton" (about whom another lifelong iconoclast/jokester Milos Forman [IMDb] made his film MAN ON THE MOON [1999] ;-) must be laughing ... that's if he's not dead ;-).

ADDENDUM (4/10/2013 ;-):

A quite comprehensive presentation and rebuttal of the argument that the Apollo landings were faked can be found on the wikipedia article on the subject.

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  1. I can make the word "moron" from "Room No. 237." But I have evil powers.