Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

What the hell? It says here that I'm about to review "The Shining." That can't be right. Wait, did Jess Franco direct this? No, I don't think he did. So... What gives? Actually, I think everyone knows "what gives." This movie, not directed by Jess Franco, but by Stanley Kubrick, happens to feature what I consider to be the greatest depiction of motherhood in the history of cinema. And, of course, that mother is played by none other than Shelley Duvall. (Um, sorry to burst your bubble, but isn't Shelley's Mrs. Torrence a needy, chain-smoking dolt who dresses like a deranged kindergarten teacher/beet farmer?) I guess. But none of the things you mention take away from the fact that she is an amazing mother. Well, I suppose exposing your child to toxic clouds of secondhand smoke is kind of negligent. Though, it should be noted that kids loved secondhand smoke back in 1980. In fact, it was their favourite thing right behind lead paint and asbestos. Anyway, I think most people will agree that Winifred "Wendy" Torrence's biggest test as a mother comes when she has to deal with her psychotic husband, a surly author who snaps while acting as the off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a massive hotel located in the snowy wilds of Colorado. Hold on a second. Did I just describe the plot of The Shining? Ewww, I think I just did. Speaking of ewww, am I currently reviewing a Stanley Kubrick film? (It looks that way.) That's fucking gross.


Well, at least I'm reviewing the only one of his films that's halfway decent. Just kidding, sort of. (You mean to tell me you don't like A Clockwork Orange?) Yeah, I like it... but only the first thirty or forty minutes. Let's get back to Shelley Duvall, shall we? I mean, let's be honest, she's the only reason any of us are here right now.


Of course, I'm sure there are a lot people who think she's completely miscast, not conventionally attractive, and just plain annoying. But those people are, let's face it, just plain wrong.


Miscast? What does that even mean? Who would you cast instead? Dolly Parton? Of course not... Actually, I'd watch The Shining if it starred Dolly Parton, in a motherfucking heartbeat. That's a bad example. Whatever, hey, call me old fashion, but if Jack Torrence is trying to hack down a door with a fire axe, I want Shelley Duvall on the other side of that door screaming at the top of her lungs in a purple bathrobe and taupe-ish turtleneck sweater.


Not conventionally attractive? Again, what does that even mean? "Conventionally attractive"? That has got to be one of the worst expressions out there. Not to get all social justice warriory on you, but that's cisnormative nonsense at its most cis-heinous. Call me two cans short of a six pack, but if I'm looking into my wife's eyes for comfort, they had better be the size of freakin' saucers. (And Shelley Duvall's eyes meet with these standards?) You're joking, right? They're glimmering dinner plates festooned with ocular splendicity.


Just plain annoying? Yeah, I can sort of see this. However, it should be noted that her husband is unhinged. (Yeah, the hotel makes him go crazy.) Does it, though? I thought Jack seemed a little unhinged right from the get-go. What I think I'm trying to say is, you'd be annoying too if you had to deal with the amount of hyper-masculine codswallop she puts up with in this movie.


By the way, the look on Shelley Duvall's face when Jack tells her to "get the fuck out of there" breaks my heart every time.



If you think about it, Jack Nicholson is the one of who's miscast. I didn't buy for a second that Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson), the guy who runs the Overlook Hotel, would hire Jack Nicholson's version of Jack Torrence as the joint's off-season caretaker. I did buy, however, Wendy and Jack as a couple, as their body language when they're being lead on a tour of the hotel practically screamed loving heterosexual married couple circa 1980.


(You're just saying that because you secretly wish that it was you who was married to Wendy.) Yeah, so. Who wouldn't want to married to Wendy? (A lot of people, apparently.) Well, what do they know?


Okay, now that I've established, without a shadow of a doubt, that Shelley Duvall is the epitome of the bee's knees. Let's shift our attention to the film's most controversial aspect. And that is, Shelley Duvall's eccentric wardrobe.


Unique to the point of distraction, everything Shelley Duvall's character wears in this movie makes a statement. I know, you're probably thinking to yourself: How does wearing an olive overall dress make a statement? Trust me, they just do. The same goes for the gingham dress she wears over a red onesie.


It also helps that Shelley Duvall has the grace of a worn out a rag-doll. While this sounds like a bad thing. It actually tricks the audience into thinking that she will be a push over when rivers of blood start flowing down the hallways. That reminds me, isn't the hallway blood effect the coolest? What's that, you think the creepy little girls and the old lady in the bathtub scenes are the coolest. Actually, the film is chock-full of scenes that are pretty fucking cool.


Hell, even the shot of  little Danny (Danny Lloyd), Jack and Wendy's "very willful boy," riding his low-riding tricycle down the hallways is pretty fucking cool (the way the sound of the plastic wheels is suddenly muffled by the hotel's distinctive, and, dare I say, iconic carpet is strangely therapeutic - it's like audio bubble-wrap).


Speaking of "very willful boys," in terms of acting and overall creepiness, my absolute favourite scene is the one where Jack and Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) chat in the (very red) men's room. I don't know, there's something about the way Philip Stone delivers his lines that is very appealing to me. And, if I may be so bold, I especially like the way his character says the word "corrected."


The same can be said about Jack's interactions with Joe Turkel's Lloyd the Bartender. I liked the way Jack's demented brand of playfulness and Lloyd's uber-calm demeanor meshed with one another. Now that I think about it, the film is essentially one amazing scene after another (all set to this wonderfully sinister music - Wendy Carlos, yo). And the great thing about these so-called amazing scenes, is that no matter how many times you watch them, you always manage to see something new. So, yeah, The Shining is without a doubt my favourite Stanley Kubrick film. And it's definitely the one I've seen the most. I don't know, I think I must have seen it at least twenty times. And each time, no matter what, I keep rooting for Scatman Crothers to save the day... but we all know how that turns out.


Oh, and I watched Room 237... It was awful. I hope it doesn't taint future viewings of the movie itself.

On a personal note. I was asked just recently by my counselor/clinician what kind of woman do I envision myself being. And, I, without hesitation, said Shelley Duvall in The Shining. I know, talk about your easy questions. I mean, yeah.


9 comments:

  1. Very pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning and find THE SHINING getting the Yum Yum treatment. I know what you mean about the audio bubble-wrap! And I agree, Jack was essentially a frothing maniac all along, as is obvious when they have that wonderful little conversation about the Donner party on their scenic drive to the hotel.

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    1. Part of Jack's Donner party spiel is sampled by Skinny Puppy on "Fritter (Stella's Home)."

      "It's ok, he saw it on the television."

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  2. absolutely. she has always been an inspiration to me

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    1. That's awesome. It's great to know that they're others who find inspiration in strong women. And, in my mind, there's no one stronger than Wendy Torrence.

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  3. I've heard that Duvall's scenes where she's "acting" stressed and at the end of her rope weren't actually acting; Kubrick apparently did everything he could to get her as stressed and upset as possible. On an unrelated note, I actually had the pleasure of seeing this in a theatre a few years back and I still find it one of the most dead frightening movies I've ever come across.

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    1. I would love to see The Shining in a theatre with the volume cranked to eleven.

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  4. I knew you and I were kindred spirits. Except I would probably want to be the Shelley Duvall in "Three Women."

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    1. I'm probably gonna watch "Three Women" soon... and "Popeye."

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    2. I saw both "The Shining" and "Popeye" when I was very young. I think "Popeye" left a bigger psychic scar....

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