Archive for November 17, 2022

Catalogue of Cruelty

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2022 by dcairns

I picked up secondhand Blu-rays of THE SHINING and PSYCHO and decided to look at the extra features, even though I think they’re basically the same as the unwatched ones I had on my DVDs. Well, I’d watched Vivian Kubrick’s The Making of The Shining. But not with her commentary.

I blame Tom Cruise for getting Vivian “Squirt” Kubrick into Scientology, and I blame Scientology for her now getting into crazy rightwing memes including antisemitic shit. If you want to have The Great Stanley K’s most misanthropic views confirmed, just look at how short a span it took for the progeny of JEW SUSS director Veit Harlan to get back into Nazism — two generations. With a Jewish son/dad in between. [CORRECTION – Stanley married Veit’s niece.]

In her commentary, VK sounds incredibly young, which she was when she made the doc — just finished school — but couldn’t have been when she recorded the VO. So maybe she’s just preternaturally and eternally young and naive. Whatever, she’s gone down a very nasty rabbithole (or into a sinister maze) since then. Her commentary is fairly informative.

Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown’s commentary on the main feature is super-informative — it really illuminates SK’s process, in a sympathetic way. Kubrick (and everyone else) biography John Baxter’s part of it is less so. He starts off by asserting that the rolling credits are an oft-used Kubrick trope — I struggle to think of any mature Kubrick film outside of THE SHINING that uses them.

I *think* Brown may be mistaken when he explains the impossible high-angle shot of Wendy and Danny in the maze. I’d long puzzled over this, and found the explanation in a later SHINING doc not on this disc — Kubrick moved the entire full-scale maze to a plaza in front of a nearby tower block. Brown claims instead that he only moved the centre of the maze, and optically inserted it into a shot of the miniature. This is what a reasonable person might do, but I don’t see strong evidence that Kubrick was entirely reasonable.

Firstly, the model maze Jack’s looking at does not resemble the maze in the aerial shot. Apart from the fact that it’s clearly been rotated 90 degrees, it’s just a different maze. Totally different layout. Which ties in with the geographic tricksiness of the Overlook sets and lends weight to those who see the “bad continuity” as part of a deliberate scheme, its origins and purpose still a total mystery. (It would not have been more work to ensure the model of the maze matched the full-scale one. The map of the maze is completely different also.)

To zoom in on an optically combined model and life-sized maze, Kubrick would have had to optically enlarge the film, with resulting increase of grain (which would already have been amplified by the necessary duping) which I don’t see. The matching of the shadows is perfect — well, Kubrick would certainly have gone to that trouble. But since he had built a full-size maze out of wooden frames and chicken wire and real leaves, moving it to another location would not be hugely expensive or difficult, so I can easily imagine him doing it. Sure, it’s an insane amount of work for one shot, but Stanley’s not the one doing the work. And the shot is worth it.

Seeing Wendy Carlos and her cats was fun, and hearing unused tracks from THE SHINING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was illuminating — one piece, “Boulderado”, written in advance of the shoot, intended to convey the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, has a Miklos Rozsa BEN-HUR feel (only on the Moog) wholly out step with the finished film. Delightful.

But my favourite extra was the documentary View from the Overlook — costume designer Milena Canonero says something that genuinely made me see the film anew. Kubrick didn’t want a lot of wear and tear on the costumes, which good designers usually apply to make them look used. She got the sense that he wanted a sort of catalogue model look.

Somehow it’s there. You can’t unsee it. THE SHINING takes place in a leisurewear universe. This mainly feels true of the early scenes, before the Torrences take up residence.

Oh, Vivian Kubrick points out the nasty seventies carpets in the Gold Room (along with her own presence as extra, the girl in black to the left of Jack’s butt, below). Which raises a point. The carpet is still there when Nicholson strolls into a party from the 1920s. And when Wendy sees the party comprised of skeletons. So the room hasn’t reverted to the past, which would be one possible interpretation of what’s going on. THE SHINING projects a kind of time-warp vibe, all but confirmed in the closing shot (top). But here we see the room populated by celebrants of a bygone era, but the room itself is anachronistically late-70s. It ties in with Kubrick staging Alex’s biblical fantasies in CLOCKWORK ORANGE in cheesy Hollywood manner, down to Alex’s centurion speaking in an American accent, “because I thought that’s how he’d imagine it.” So the Midnight and the Stars and You party imports a whole crowd scene of bygone guests and staff, but doesn’t remember to redesign the carpet, because Jack wouldn’t think of that detail.

Or, you know, you can consider it an oversight. At the Overlook.

I might have something to say about PSYCHO’s extras too…