Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Re-visiting The Shining

I've no great interest in the Stephen King oeuvre - I've never read his books or watched the mini series based on them.  And as for the movies based on his novels - I am usually seriously underwhelmed, if I see them at all.

The one exception: The Shining, which I re-watched for the first time in 35 years last weekend.

I had forgotten how magnificently creepy and disturbing it could be.  I love the formalism and effectiveness of Kubrick's direction here - apart from following the cycling boy, the camera is often determinedly stationary, and the editing leisurely, in a way that itself feels otherworldly.  (Not sure if that was the intention - from memory, Kubrick did just like keeping the camera steady for long periods in whatever he was making.)  Jack Nicholson was at the peak of his career and simply couldn't have been better. 

I remember that the film did not win over everyone:  Pauline Kael was no great fan.   And it's true - I wouldn't call it a perfect film; but then again, I don't know that I ever categorise films that way.  In this case, sure I can understand criticism that Nicholson's descent into ghost addled madness and aggression started too quickly; and at some points the (largely) creepily effective score was being just too obvious.

But overall, I think it's a great film. 

Interestingly, I see that King never liked it, and didn't appreciate the underwriting of the wife's character (although I think Shelley Duvall does well with the material), as well as other substantial changes from the book.   But hey, if you had Kubrick writing and directing, you don't really expect warm, well-rounded characterisation on the screen; that's just a given.  But it is, I think, probably Kubrick's most accessible film, in the sense that it works at an emotional level, rather than being just coolly cerebral, like most of his other work. 

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