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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  A Few Clouds
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In Room 237, obsessive Kubrick fans share elaborate theories about The Shining
Cinematic fixations
The film's subjects focus on details a casual moviegoer would miss.
The film's subjects focus on details a casual moviegoer would miss.

Room 237 is like an Opposite Day version of That's Entertainment!, the 1974 film that gathered the best scenes from old MGM musicals. Director Rodney Ascher's documentary compiles the most mundane moments from Stanley Kubrick's horror film The Shining - and declares them the most interesting moments. Room 237 also includes clips from other Kubrick movies, as well as footage from films including the 1940 Thief of Bagdad, F.W. Murnau's Faust and the 1977 howler Capricorn One.

The new film's narration is taken from interviews with a handful of people who know The Shining well, and who can point out details a casual moviegoer would miss. In their obsession with The Shining, they seem to take a cue from Kubrick, a notoriously obsessive filmmaker.

Only one of the interviewees was familiar to me, the ABC News journalist Bill Blakemore. The others are a historian, a playwright, a Kubrick blogger and the author of a book called Kubrick's Odyssey: Secrets Hidden in the Films of Stanley Kubrick.

The interviewees describe various theories regarding The Shining. It's about the Holocaust. It's about the genocide of American Indians. It's about faked film footage of the moon landings, which, we are told, Kubrick shot.

Some of the observations are pretty interesting. I'm entranced by maps of the hotel where The Shining takes place, especially maps of routes a young character takes as he rides around on a Big Wheel. Also fascinating is a sunny office window that, based on establishing shots, shouldn't be there.

I'm less convinced by claims about what could just be continuity errors, like a chair that appears in one shot but not in another. I'm surprised no one ascribes hidden meaning to the Rolex an ancient Roman supposedly wears in Kubrick's Spartacus.

And when the talk turns to conspiracy, something in me shuts down. I'm not all that interested in debating the claim that Kubrick shot fake footage of the moon landings. But I do wonder this: If the moon project was secret, why would Kubrick drop hints about it in a major film release? I'm not saying that question can't be answered. After all, conspiracy theorists have an answer for everything.

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