Quick Take: Room 237

room-237-final-theatrical-posterRoom 237 is a documentary of film clips from Stanley Kubrick’s films plus others which stitch together the voices of fans of The Shining who put forth various musings about the veiled meanings contained within.  The disembodied viewers contend that Kubrick intended The Shining to be about the genocide of the Native Americans, a study of the Holocaust or conversely a confession from Kubrick about his apparent staging of the moon landing.  The many ideas and theories point at small details in the set and movement of the camera to bolster dubious claims about Kubrick’s true intent.  Pointing out the confusion of the set as a way of causing unease in the audience, which may be missed without rigorous repeat viewings, is interesting but not well-informed.  The commentators lift the film up to a pedestal that is deserved yet completely dismiss the very real possibility that Kubrick was simply a good student of film history.  The complex sets and symbols of Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad are mirrored and alluded to in The Shining, yet that glaring similarity is not acknowledged.  The reverent and obsessive dissection becomes grating and borderline ridiculous; for example running the film simultaneously backwards and forwards to find some mysterious hidden meaning from Kubrick. It’s the equivalent of finding connections between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s fun but it doesn’t have intention; the audience is giving added meaning where there may be none.

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Spring Breakers

spring_breakers_ver15Dare I say that this film is stunning-looking?  Intense neon light spills on every surface, lit with gels. The color is saturated, yet not as frenetic as in Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void. It’s at times downright dreamy, which is counterintuitive when speaking about a party/crime themed film. Spring Breakers, directed by Harmony Korine, has a plot which makes one ponder time and motive. A Malick-like voice-over of nebulous college women talking about “finding themselves” at spring break rests over dance music and intense Skrillex tracks. The young women are leaving their self-described bleak existence of college to party in sunny Florida. Sure, people like vacations, but these students act as if college is a terrible burden. College is a place one usually runs towards for freedom, not from. To the women college is a crushing place that only can be alleviated by beer and drug-drenched debauchery enjoyed with similarly-minded co-eds. The women go about procuring their traveling money in a malicious manner(robbery), sweep up their shy, Christian friend and head to The Sunshine State for adventure.

When in party paradise the women partake in an outrageous and provocative fashion, as has been noted in many a review.  The camera rests heavily on the gyrating female bikini-clad women, which can feel off-putting and exploitive. I contend that it is not exploitive, as the gaze of the camera mirrors the gaze of college students who party in this way. The party scenes are explicit in conveying the sexist environment which is prevalent within the typical college population, therefore the camera placement feels sincere and almost accusatory towards such chauvinistic behavior.

The trajectory of the film drastically shifts when one character abruptly leaves Florida; this is the character who had been anchoring the film up to that point. This is a plot choice that makes the audience question who and what the film is about. Then it’s James Franco’s time to shine as the overblown, sexy/reviling small-time hood Alien. Franco is brave with this performance. He is obviously ridiculous, but that is who he is portraying: a fool with a big mouth and a bigger ego.  There is one particularly tense scene in which Franco exhibits primal fear, perverse opportunism and the capacity for (misguided) love.

I am not personally acquainted with the young actresses’ clean work, so I cannot critique how much of a departure this film is for them. I do applaud their gusto and willingness to be free with their representation of blank, bored young women.  Their ability to project the void of youth culture into amoral action is intriguing and compelling. Spring Breakers is a harsh story which is presented in soft, dreamy neon. The end credits run with Ellie Goulding’s song Lights underneath which serves as a relief after the intense and visually assaulting finale.