May 29, 1980 [The Shining]
Kubrick disagrees, sort of--and he may be right, especially when he has Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall (still my favorite imaginary girlfriend, a post-Mod Maxfield Parrish sprite come to life)--with Scatman Crothers also shining, Chico and the Man somewhere off in the distance, of no help while the snow piles up.
This movie, which refuses so stubbornly to play by the rules, may be Kubrick’s masterpiece--if I can somehow forget 2001. The sheer effort to load every moment with doppelgangers must have been nerve-wracking, from characters to events to colors to sounds, a charnel-house harmony as perfect as the original “symphony of terror,” Murnau’s Nosferatu. I’ve gone back to see it three times already, just to make sure I wasn’t being my usual self, a sucker for the Gothic--and I am, but something else is happening here, the kind of domestic bad craziness that The Amityville Horror fooled around with last year; but The Shining denies its own genre:
--Wendy getting to shine and seeing cheesy William Castle skeletons and split-skull creepies;
--Jack never hiding from us, no BOO! To make us jump;
--the blackouts climaxing on nothing;
--the mood tensing like a panic-stricken muscle--but there’s always time for a peanut butter sandwich;
--and, while Jack is a monster, as my observant friend Jim pointed out, Jack’s evil is Hannah-Arendt banal, a petulant schoolteacher following orders. If it weren’t for that fire-ax--and OK, the haunted hotel itself--Jack would be just another loser giving in to bad habits and worse jokes.
Kubrick takes us all the way to his ubiquitous bathroom where personal stuff is voided in public. Even poor Dave in 2001 has to stand next to a toilet and watch himself become something else in the Ornate Room with porcelain fixtures. And yes, the Monster is us--which means that the corridor of blood (and wasn’t that a Karloff picture?) is something we’ve made, the haunted house we build, and into which we lock everyone we fear has let us down, so that we can “correct” them.