Seeing The Shining at the American Cinemateque

Seeing The Shining on the big screen after watching it pretty much every day for the last 5 years was incredible. Seriously. Amazing. Perhaps even… incredimazing? Yes, definitely that.

Aside from getting an as close a look as possible (we sat 5 rows from the screen!) it was supremely interesting to witness the difference audience reactions. You know, the ones from someone who doesn’t know the entire cadence of the film by heart.

1) The Opening Shot


INCREDIBLY ENVELOPING! No longer were we in a theater, we were aerially swimming over ridiculously luscious environments. It was huge, expansive, and beautiful. Everything you see on DVD, but it was so much more impressive at that scale.

2) The Blue Credits, that rise from the bottom



Jake pointed this out excitedly (making my heart squee in response) that the rising type gave him an insane amount of vertigo; and it was true! You feel a serious sense of altitude. Coupled with the changing landscape of ocean to snow-capped mountains (what? you didn’t notice?), the first shot is all about rising.

Additional note: The guy sitting next to us was humming the opening song throughout the movie.

Additional note to the additional note: The “opening song” is a reinterpretation of Dies Irae or “Judgement Day” aka NOT a happy tune! Why are we humming that?! Interesante.

3) Laughter at intense moments



This is the scene the audience laughed most at! 

This is an occurrence that first had me shocked, then thoroughly intrigued. I get laughing at some of the darker moments (Jack’s face upon hearing “The Tragedy of 1970 was one of them, the therapists reaction to Wendy’s “Tragedy of Jack’s Work Papers” was another), but they also laughed at open expressions of intense emotion.

When there were outright blatant displays of abuse, people laughed. That reality is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.


Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the Coen Bros. deft hand at dark humor with Fargo, but this scene isn’t funny to me. It’s tone is overtly threatening, even with Jack Nicholson’s ridiculously expressionist eyebrows. The audience chuckles.


Wasn’t expecting this one, I was expecting the laugh to come in the Co. Lounge scene with Jack’s fabulous mimicry “As soon as possible?” But they didn’t. They laughed when he was screaming in her face about working at a car wash.

Jake tells me it’s because people are uncomfortable, but I think that’s why I’m doing this project to begin with. I didn’t realize people were uncomfortable with that sort of thing, and that “sort of thing” is probably why Kubrick treated Shelley Duvall with the same sort of condescending “indifference” Jack Nicholson’s character treats hers. It’s all part of the play.

Additional note: Check out the behind the scenes “making of” movie that Kubrick allowed his daughter to make.

4) The Pantry



This was the main reason I felt compelled to see the film in the theater to begin with. I had been charting the scene where Wendy & Danny tours the kitchen, and I needed some perspective. What was the priority? Do the objects within the space speak to color, content, or euphemism? Which is probably one of my favorite Kubrick games to play, by the way. Seeing it in the theater, the answer is relatively clear: it’s emphatically ‘color’ based, and in all probability, content based euphemisms. It’s just hard to argue when the colors are screaming straight into your eyeballs.


I also felt the same way about this scene. Insanely mesmerizing.

5) The Pink tennis ball

I just thought it was my wonky copy, but no. The tennis ball showed up pink on the screen, which was weird– what’s that about? Does it change the rest of the color across the film? Why would the tennis ball be pink? Is it always pink?! It’s weird because it’s not pink across the other scenes we see it (and of course we se it before it rolls into Danny’s life), but when it IS with Danny, it’s pink. How does one explain that one?

I realize that the shot above has a crudely colored tennis ball, but it’s because I brought it into Photoshop and colored it. I mean the name of the file is “The tennis ball is really yellow.png”, but now I’m thinking it might be purposefully pink.



6. Sound

When you watch the movie at the same volume all the way through, the sound becomes disastrous to your senses. Disorienting, blinding, face melting. They’re all true at various points in the movie, and they all have their place. While I know I’m focusing on the visual aspects of the film right now, I definitely know I’ll be spending my time linking the aural ones as soon as I’ve finished. Kubrick’s films have equal strength within all of their ‘sensory’ communications, I know delving deeper into the use of sound will only help to fully resolve all of this movie’s messaging.

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