Making ‘The Shining’

I more or less stumbled onto this fascinating short film directed by Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Vivian.

It’s not a terribly original sentiment to consider Kubrick as a favorite filmmaker, but he is a figure I hold in almost singular esteem. I’ve read a couple of books recently about how he put his films together, both of them from the perspective of screenwriters: Michael Herr’s highly recommended Kubrick, and Frederic Raphael’s less impressive but still compelling Eyes Wide Open. Being so intrigued by Kubrick’s process, it’s a huge treat to see short but revealing glimpses for myself – in fact, I’m fairly certain this was the first time I had ever seen film (or heard audio for that matter) of the director himself.

A good summary of the film’s appeal from verdoux:

…a wander around the edges of quality filmmaking. It’s all here: the laborious nature of the filmset, frayed tempers, hissy fits, in-jokes, crying luvvy-actors, and genuine insights into the creative process. Let Vivian Kubrick (Stanley’s daughter) show you that sly old hound Mr.Nicholson talking dirty between takes..listen in on spats between geeky Mr Kubrick and high diva Shelly Duvall..greet James Mason who’s just popped in for tea..gasp at the uncomfortable tears of Scatman Crothers (odder than anything you’ll see in The Overlook Hotel).”

I was somehow disappointed by the revealing interview with Danny Lloyd, who contrary to his uncanny performance as Danny Torrance seems to have been a normal kid after all. The scenes where Kubrick guides Lloyd moment-to-moment while filming almost give the game away too clearly. It takes nothing away from the achievements of actor and director, but in this instance it feels like a mystery has been displaced by an interesting but nonetheless quotidian reality.

I intend to watch the version with Vivian Kubrick’s commentary and reflections as well. And it’s hard not to think of the Bava at a moment like this:

3 thoughts on “Making ‘The Shining’

  1. I was wondering when that fucking video would get link love from the abject 🙂 I agree with you entirely about the documentary, I watched parts of it on YouTube a while pack, and was fascinated by the descent of both Kubrick and Nicholson into the very world they were filming. They were both supposedly snort lines and getting crazy throughout the shooting of the film, and that parallel universe of these men/fathers descending into the abyss is fascinating to me—I in fact relate.

    You linked to an article called the “House next door: Copy Rites: YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee” which is fascinating to me, because the ability to actually critique and analyze movies on a shot-by-shot, scene-by-scene basis seems at the heart of understanding a genius like Kubrick, or the cultural impact of numerous other filmmakers and films. Last year I was thinking about doing a commentary track on a selected bunch of scenes from The Shining discussing how this film (which is in my top 3 of all time) was impossible for me to watch immediately after the birth of my son in 2004. I couldn’t do it, this is a film I would watch regularly, yet as soon as I became a father and watched Jack Torrance descend into the maelstrom it became a true horror film for me. It was his failure to care for his family emotionally and financially; his inability to pay them the love and attention they needed, and his struggles to finish a meaningless book (in my case the dissertation)—all underpinned by a kind of sick fury and preying upon those closest to him was a feeling that hit so close to home I had to turn the film off right as he was freaking out at Wendy about needing his time to work. It was maybe the most insane film watching experience I had ever had because I felt like I was becoming Jack Torrance. And this was after having seen it the film least two dozen times.

    The actual moment of watching it still haunts me and it is something I am dying to re-visit and hash out why. But, to your point, I think that very feeling is at the heart of Kubrick’s genius, and The Shining captured it more viscerally for me than any other.

  2. This was fantastic! Thanks so much for pointing to it. I had never heard Kubrick speak (least not that I can remember) – it’s always a jar to hear an artist whose work you love speak for the first time. And to see him physically involved in the filming; the scene where he is setting up the shot of Nicholson in the meat locker is amazing for what it tells you about his filmmaking. What a chance, to see it this close up.

  3. Fantastic post, great comments.

    For more Kubrick goodness, don’t miss James Naremore’s recent book on Kubrick. It’s wonderful. Among other things, Naremore understands, *really* understands, the genius of Barry Lyndon.

    By the bye, Naremore’s book on Orson Welles, “The Magic of Orson Welles,” is the best book I’ve ever read on *that* genius.

    And lastly, have you ever seen/read Kubrick’s acceptance speech when he won the Director’s Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award? Classic Kubrick and quite wonderful: http://www.indelibleinc.com/kubrick/kubrick-dga.html

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