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04 February 2010

Did you see the same movie that the director made? [spoilers] Amazingly detailed film deconstructions. Rob Ager shows how Mulholland Drive has a coherent, linear narrative that Lynch purposefully rearranged and how Kubrick gave visual and sonic clues in The Shining that all paranormal activities were actually dreams or delusions. Example: Jack Nicholson, waiting for the job interview, reads a copy of Playgirl with an article on parental incest. He freely admits some of his theories are hard to swallow, so he doesn't come off as a complete nutter.
Wow, I could spend all day on The Shining alone! I do love reading this kind of detailed analysis of film minutiae, even if it often seems the writer is pulling things out of his ass. It reminds me of dorm room bullshitting sessions.
posted by Atom Eyes 04 February | 12:58
I have been reading The Shining analysis for three days in small doses. I was one of those King fans who hated the movie the first time I saw it but loved it the second time. I had long suspected that Kubrick's surface narrative was camouflaging another story, but I never had the time to dig into it.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 13:07
What a find! I LOVE this kind of stuff. His take on The Exorcist is disturbing as all get-out.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 13:41
I'm quite enjoying the Mullholland Dr. analysis. (1) Surprising because that movie scares the shit out of me, and (2) I like that he doesn't just throw his hands up like lots of my contemporaries do. Lynch has been pretty explicit about the fact that the movie is very meticulously logical, and has even given several clues that "unlock" the movie.

On the topic of Lynch, I just finished watching Twin Peaks and the movie that went along with it, and I'm having that sort of end-of-series let-down that happens with well-constructed fictional worlds. I wish Lynch and Kyle MacLaughlin had made more films together - between Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, I'm absolutely in love.
posted by muddgirl 04 February | 13:43
I've read [some of/most of/all of] the linked site over the past months; I got there by googling something like "the shining" kubrick spatial confusion, so obviously the subject aligns with my preconceptions.

I've been watching and rewatching The Shining with a careful eye for months now, and I find it captivating how Kubrick uses the space to create a subtle sense of things being utterly awry. The hallways and doorways and windows don't make sense, but you have to be paying close attention to notice most of the spatial disorientation consciously.

And the maze! The tabletop 3-d maze map, the flat maze map outside the maze, and the aerial view of Danny and Wendy in the maze all show different configurations. I've been trying to write coherently about the use of space in the film, but it comes out like "Look! See? Weird, huh?"

The Shining and Mulholland Drive are two of the movies I can watch over and over and over again without diminishing my sense of wonder and tension.

Surprising because that movie scares the shit out of me

Agreed, muddgirl: there's a scene at the end of MD that gives me the late-night shudders. Yikes.
posted by Elsa 04 February | 14:13
Thanks, ardiril, this is cool.
posted by gaspode 04 February | 15:14
They guy gives a lot of import to the continuity errors in The Shining when I'm pretty sure that most of them are due to Kubrick's filming techniques. He did scores of takes of each shot and encouraged the actors to improvise a lot making continuity really hard to maintain. I really doubt that there's much symbolic meaning to take out the fact that chairs move around a bit between shots.
posted by octothorpe 04 February | 16:53
I should add that it's always fun to read over-thought bean-plating about Kubrick movies even if I don't buy 50% of it.
posted by octothorpe 04 February | 16:59
I agree with you on both points, octothorpe! I see a lot of overreaching and over-interpretation on that site, but some really interesting visual analysis, too.
posted by Elsa 04 February | 17:04
I still do not get his reading the slaughter of American natives in the subtext of The Shining. As for the chairs, I agree that giving import to those scenes where chairs are displaced only a few inches is too much, however scenes where specific chairs move significantly as a set is certainly in keeping with Kubrick's methods.

Also, Ager missed a very important point when he was examining the number 42 and how it related to Jack's sexually abusing Danny: The prime factors of 42 are 2, 3, and 7, or 237. I already emailed Ager on that one. One other discrepancy I found, in his analysis of the bear suit, is the meaning of 'bear' among American gays.

Sure, I know that this is often similar to looking for clues that Paul is dead, but I find it a much more entertaining exercise than word search puzzles.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 17:22
I love the shining window detective bits, I was so disoriented when I first saw the movie (hiding under the covers scared witless) that I almost felt seasick. Which made the whole film even scarier.
posted by dabitch 04 February | 17:38
I still do not get his reading the slaughter of American natives in the subtext of The Shining.

I don't see it myself, but I know Ager isn't alone in that interpretation. You might be interested in Bill Blakemore's essay The Family of Man. In my view, this interpretation requires an unreasonably biiiiiiig stretch on the part of the viewer.
posted by Elsa 04 February | 18:03
"an unreasonably biiiiiiig stretch on the part of the viewer"

Very true that, however not necessarily on the part of the writer. Our problem is old Stan took his secrets to his grave. heheh
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 18:27
I don't buy that The Shining is intended as a grand overarching metaphor for the Native American genocide, but I do believe the spectre of that history is intended to haunt the film and the many allusions to Native American imagery were intended to place that at the edge of viewer's consciousness. In other words, I don't think it's big stretch to suggest that Kubrik might have intended for us to watch the horror unfold against/within that wider historical narrative. I do think it's a big stretch to say that's what the film "is really about."

Also, I really like his analysis on Hellraiser. He touched on many of the reasons that film scared the fucking crap out of me when I saw it as a (gay, closeted, Christian fundie) teenager (with an already-budding interest in BDSM).

That said, there's something that rubs me the wrong way in this author's treatment of sexual minorities -- he talks about S&M subsculture like a repulsed-but-fascinated anthropologist, and further implies that everyone involved it is using it escape the emotional pain of a void within, having exhausted all possibility of meaningful pleasure by taking hedonism too far. That, and the bear reference in The Shining. I mean why not say it's a Furry reference? That makes just about as much as much sense (i.e., none).
posted by treepour 04 February | 21:18
I like articles like this because they just throw ideas into the mix. Sometimes there's an insight I keep; often I either find it ambiguous or end up rejecting it, but I enjoy having multiple ways to think about movies that I like a lot (or any work of art that I enjoy, really, though this level of analysis really only seems to happen for film).

On this site I've really enjoyed the Hellraiser, Pulp Fiction, and Exorcist articles, so far. I can't wait to see the article about The Shining that everybody is talking about.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 21:57
there's a scene at the end of MD that gives me the late-night shudders. Yikes.

Elsa, was it the little people crawling under the door? Because that may be the only time I ever actually yelled in a theater. I have goosebumps running up my back just thinking about it.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 22:23
The interesting point for me in the article for The Exorcist is that when I first saw the movie, I jumped to the conclusion that Burke had messed with Megan when Chris had that exchange with Sharon about leaving him to babysit. I assumed that it was so explicit everyone in the audience would get that.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 22:30
As for Mulholland Drive, I am surprised that Ager missed all the parallels with The Wizard of Oz, especially the recasting of characters in dreams.

Also, what do you think of the idea that the homeless guy behind the dumpster is Bob? Lots of red curtains hanging around, and while making Twin Peaks, Lynch was considering a spin-off with Audrey going to Hollywood.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 22:37
Elsa, was it the little people crawling under the door? Because that may be the only time I ever actually yelled in a theater.

A. Yes, that's the moment.

B. Just seeing my name* attached to that moment in a sentence gave me an unpleasant little jolt. This should give you an idea how horrific I find the scene.

*Jeez, and not even my proper name, just my online name, and it still has that potent an effect on me. That movie got in under my skin. I should really stop watching it every few weeks or months, I guess.
posted by Elsa 04 February | 23:13
I knew it.

Also, I should say (and I don't mean this in a "nyah nyah" way at all) I totally got the storyline of Mulholland Dr. the very first time I saw it in the theater. So did my partner, who HATED it. He didn't get pissed off at the structure- he was furious at the tragic-ness of the story, and that Lynch had so thoroughly perverted Betty's hopes and dreams. (Which is the point, yes.)

I never understood why that movie got the reputation for being so confusing, when it made a lot more narrative sense than some of Lynch's other stuff, like Lost Highway or Fire Walk With Me. Those were both flicks I had to ponder over and see again before I really got what was going on.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 23:25
I do have to say how much I love The Shining. I love how it works even though it shouldn't; it's way too long, too brightly lit for a horror movie and nothing really happens for the first 1/2 of the movie. I love that the scariest scene in the movie is where she reads his "All work and no play" pages. That's the point of no return in the movie, when Duval's character finally catches up with the audience.
posted by octothorpe 05 February | 07:55
Sometimes wingnutty beanplating, but fun! Thanks!
posted by Eideteker 07 February | 15:20
While reading through some of his wackier theories, I formed one of my own. Directors like Kubrick were feeding their production designers ideas so as to form a more cohesive story. Genocide of native americans or the Illuminati conspiracy may have nothing whatsoever to do Kubrick's plot for The Shining, but those themes would be invaluable as guides for set building and dressing.
posted by Ardiril 07 February | 16:29
Second City alumni, when they were young || These kids reeeeally enjoy tumbleweeds.