Sunday, 11 April 2010

Never seen Citizen Kane

Hello

Contains spoliers. And, indeed, spoilers.

Within a few weeks, I've seen The Godfather Part I, and The Shining. There was a woman on Radio 4 pooh-pooing Citizen Kane, but I don't believe her and I'm going to get the DVD out soon.

The Shining was somewhat disappointing. I wouldn't put it in a top 100 of anything, and it's no surprise to read that it wasn't critically acclaimed on release, but is now well thought of. The respective careers of Stanley and Jack probably have quite a lot to do with that. And I bloody hate Stephen bloody King and his tired "psychic child" meme (although possible this is my fault for watching The Langoliers, which was dreadful). Don't even get me started on "It". Grrr. Suffice to say King could teach Donaldson a thing or two about flaccid prose.

So, the bad stuff. Nicholson is bad. I don't care if "Heeeeere's Johnny!" is one of the all time great moments in cinema (and it probably is). He's bug eyed and crazy from scene one (just as Kubrick was worried he would be) and as a result you don't get any sense of the characters slow descent into madness. Just grab the axe already and start chopping! And the film doesn't actually make any sense, does it. I mean. It would be just lovely if there was total ambiguity here. Is this the supernatural, or merely some guy cracking up and a oversensitive child? Is Lloyd the barman the devil, or a figment of Jack's imagination? Indeed, does the entire thing happen because the hotel manager has sowed the idea in Jack's mind? But then the 'ghosts' break Jack out of his prison cell, and the pyschological thriller has been replaced by a not particularly clever horror flick.

And the character who dies is just ... well ... stupid. Couldn't they have found a more subtle way to get a working snow-mobile out there?

But there is some remarkably good stuff here. The two sisters. The kid himself, who despite my hatred of child actors is actually really good. The final scene in the maze, though heavily telegraphed earlier in the movie, is really impressive. Most of all, there's the fantastic way in which Kubrick has shot the hotel, particularly my favourite bits where the kid is cycling round and round the place on his tricycle.

OK, so I'm not a fan of horror movies, and I've already pointed out my antipathy towards Stephen King, but I felt here was a genuinely brilliant movie that just wasn't, because of Nicholson's overacting, and a screenplan that didn't match the brilliance of the cinematrography.

Still, it's a very good film. But "The Shinning" is better. Now that is one of the greatest things to ever have been recorded on celluloid.

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