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Stanley Kubrick Pal Dismisses 'Room 237' Theories, Armond White Says Film Is "End Of Cinephilia"

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by Charlie Schmidlin
March 28, 2013 9:03 AM
10 Comments
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Some details from within a film production serve to heighten the project's legend overall: the genius of “Jaws” only increased when the film's original gameplan -- a fully functional shark -- failed to manifest itself for Steven Spielberg and co. But the opposite has been true with Stanley Kubrick's “The Shining,” as now another crewmember has come to debunk the myriad theories and meanings behind the director's film -- starting with those featured in Rodney Ascher's upcoming documentary “Room 237.”

With the shadow in the opening credits to the horror classic already clarified by the film's helicopter camera operator, now a source even closer to the production has come out to address the various conspiracy theory claims presented in “Room 237.” Leon Vitali, first glimpsed by Kubrick as an actor in “Barry Lyndon” and then brought up to be the director's assistant, has called the majority of Ascher's Sundance hit “pure gibberish.” And says he was “falling about laughing most of the time” while watching it, adding, “there are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.”

At first glance, you can see the source of the humor. Ascher's film hands the narrative reins over to “The Shining” obsessives for their hypotheses about Kubrick's intent and message overall. From the film decrying the slaughter of American Indians to exposing Kubrick's role in supposedly faking the moon landing, the arguments are certainly eccentric.

Vitali, though, is eager to set the record straight. What about Jack Nicholson's recitation of “Three Little Pigs” as one of the many ties of the film's apparent nods to the Holocaust? Vitali says the detail was an improv, and that Kubrick called up the mother of child actor Danny Lloyd (who plays Danny Torrance) for suggestions for "a few lines for Jack that would make him sound threatening and nasty,” and that “she had the words to 'Three Little Pigs' right there." Danny's sweater showing the Apollo 11 rocket? “It was just the sort of thing that a kid that age would have liked,” Vitali told The New York Times.

Each argument presented in “Room 237” carries a tough journey toward credibility anyway, but Vitali's comments make that leap extra difficult indeed. Also, another voice has joined the melee, and this one is a bit more expected: critic Armond White reviewed the film (via NYFCC), calling it “another confirmation of the end of cinephilia,” and slamming the “Kubrick cult” that has sprung up around the filmmaker. 

"Reverence for Stanley Kubrick overwhelms any understanding of 'The Shining.' It is symptomatic of today’s celebrity veneration—the flip-side of the feeling of nothingness that makes nerds bow down to the likes of Nolan, Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Soderbergh and Kubrick. So they fantasize about 'The Shining''s supposed profundity...," White writes. "...they don’t know the difference between literary and cinematic erudition. These 'Shining' geeks don’t even know the hotel story of Alain Resnais’ 'Last Year at Marienbad,' a truly profound expression of memory and desire."

Of course, all this is arguably beside the point. The film is not necessarily endorsing these conspiracy theories, but instead examining obsessives and their theories. Perhaps it's just as much a movie about crackpots as it is about devotion to "The Shining." Agree or disagree, you'll finally have the chance to check out “Room 237” yourself when it hits select theaters this Friday.

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10 Comments

  • Keyser | October 5, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    The most unintentionally funny "documentary" I've seen in many years. It feels like a practical joke that the director is playing on the participants, giving them more than enough rope to hang themselves. Repeatedly.

  • Brett Smith | March 28, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    I love The Shining and all, but Marienbad is the best movie ever committed to celluloid.

  • I hated that movie. | March 29, 2013 3:12 AM

    That's the one where they are in a mansion or something. It was annoying. The music was annoying.

  • Tyler | March 28, 2013 3:09 PMReply

    I enjoyed the doc, but I also went into it looking for laughs and not insight.

  • Monica1ag | March 28, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    As Steve said, Stanley Kubrick is the best.

  • Corey | March 28, 2013 10:51 AMReply

    The problem is, Vitali is the same man who lied and completely got wrong "Kubrick's wishes for the Barry Lyndon aspect ratio".

    Obviously Room 237 is a terrible movie which mocks The Shining, but this is not to say that The Shining itself isnt a deeply symbolic work with many layers, one of which is genuinely touched upon in Room 237 - the film being about a history of overlooked and repressed genocides. Unfortunately Room 237's filmmakers are idiots who sought out idiots in order to demean the film. There is much genuine, intelligent scholarship (and fanboyism!) out there on The Shining, none of which is captured in Room 237.

    Armond White's rant is sad. He's always strawmanning, demeaning Kubrick fans because of 4 nutcases in a documentary made by nutcases. And yes Armond, we've seen Resnais' films. There are fanboys, believe it or not, far more cine-literate than you.

  • bob | March 28, 2013 10:38 AMReply

    Armond White:

    Stanley Kubrick films = The Shits

    "Norbit" = Cinematic Masterpiece

    Nuff said!

  • Glass | March 28, 2013 10:19 AMReply

    This doc seems like a pretty good look at people like that. I agree with White, and I think art suffers when you replace critical thinking with... whatever you can call this unchecked conspiracy theory horseshit.

  • No | March 28, 2013 9:31 AMReply

    "These 'Shining' geeks don’t even know the hotel story of Alain Resnais’ 'Last Year at Marienbad,' a truly profound expression of memory and desire."

    Yeah, and one of the most boring films in cinematic film history.

  • brett | March 28, 2013 3:53 PM

    lies

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