by Jim Ridley
I've been envious of Belcourt program director Toby Leonard ever since he got back from Sundance last week and told me he got to see the documentary I want to see most in 2012, Room 237. Turns out there are cults of people who see hidden messages threaded throughout Stanley Kubrick's movie version of The Shining, and director Rodney Ascher's film consists of various interview subjects laying out their theories over clips from the movie. (Check out Robert Ito's article from last Sunday's Times.)
One subject sees an allegory of genocide against American Indians (keep your eye out for those Calumet baking-powder cans). Another sees a coded statement about the Holocaust. Still another — Leonard's favorite — makes an elaborate case for the movie as Kubrick's mea culpa to his wife for having helped to stage ... the faked NASA moon landing! (Which makes some sense — you wouldn't entrust a cover-up on that scale to the dude who made Moon Zero Two.)
The clipreel-as-essay-film is one of my favorite movie subgenres, exemplified by Thom Andersen's revelatory Los Angeles Plays Itself. (The long-awaited DVD of Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema looms on payday.)
Alas, the very thing that makes these films so appealing — their use of recontextualized film clips — makes them all but unreleasable, as their rights clearances are a logistical nightmare. (Bye-bye, Joe Dante's legendary four-and-a-half-hour The Movie Orgy.) But hope springs that we'll get to see Room 237 in Nashville, preferably in combination with The Shining. Oh, and while we're wishing — we love the idea (not ours) of a film series built around this monster.