Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chanchow Goes Back to Basics #1: The Shining (1980)

I figured I should go way out of my comfort zone for my first movie review of the year, and The Shining seemed to fill that order (The Exorcist would have been better-- as I'm told it's much scarier-- but that movie wasn't available at the library yesterday). I'd seen snippets of The Shining, but never the whole thing.

The opening shots of Nicholson's character, Jack Torrance, driving the winding, snowy, mountainous road up to the Overlook Hotel are amazing (the scene was shot by helicopter in Glacier National Park). Torrance is going to the hotel to interview for the winter caretaker position. The interviewer tells him that the caretaker 10 winters ago went crazy and killed his wife and two daughters with an axe and then shot himself. Unfazed, Jack says he's looking for quiet and isolation, so that he can get some writing done. He gets the job and moves his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) into the hotel.

The movie was shot really well-- in addition to the opening shot, I liked the shots of Danny riding his big wheel around the hotel and the chase in the hedge maze. But that's all I can rave about. I thought Jack Nicholson was so-so. Playing a half-crazed (or, in this case, fully crazed) character seems almost customary for him, and I can't say that this performance was any better than the other movies where he does a lot of freaky staring.

Also, I was confused by all the ghosts. Who saw what? I thought that Danny was the only one who could see ghosts. I thought Jack was hallucinating about the bartenders until the end when the wife saw stuff, too. It seemed sloppy to me. And what's up with the ending? Was Jack really at the hotel in a past life or did the hotel integrate him into its history only after he went apeshit?

3 out of 5 stars.


MK said...

The danger when you're watching older movies that were revolutionary in their time, but which you missed when they orriginally came out, is that you just don't get what's supposed to be so revolutionary about it and it all seems stale because it's been redone and remade in so many ways since. (OK, that was a run-on.) EJ and I had a similar experience when we saw Breathless for the first time recently. Whatever was "nouvelle" about the nouvelle vague just didn't seem all that.

chanchow said...

That's true. It's hard to appreciate just what was so revolutionary at the time. I forgot to mention that I really liked the rolling opening credits and was surprised by the nudity (probably quite shocking for 1980). I also didn't find the movie very scary. I was expecting to be frightened for days, but happily I was hardly scared at all.

(I had a similar experience when I saw Breathless-- didn't see what the big deal was.)

Anonymous said...

I caught The Shining about two months ago on cable, the start time was after midnight so it was perfect. The thing I loved the most was the pacing and rhythm of it which is unique to Kubrick I think, he has a way of getting this unsettled stillness, like the last 30 mins of 2001, genius bordering on wtf.

Cheers to Chan from JC in NYC!!!