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Movie review: 'Room 237'

Posted 4:57pm on Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013

Unrated (violence); 98 min.

Serious film-lovers -- the sort who populate comment threads on websites like Indiewire or Ain't It Cool News -- can be an obsessive lot.

Add in a director whose slender filmography tends to attract, shall we say, very dedicated fans, and you've got the ingredients for one of the year's most fascinating documentaries.

Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher, considers Stanley Kubrick's 1980 chiller The Shining through a handful of very distinct theories.

Apart from gawking at folks who seem to have entirely too much free time, the briskly paced nonfiction film also becomes a meditation on how we consume movies, and how meaning can be mined from even the most innocuous images.

Ascher makes an interesting choice throughout Room 237: Viewers never see who is speaking. Rather, the five people whose theories are explored are only heard in voiceover, allowing Ascher to illustrate their points by highlighting footage and inserting archival clips of other works where necessary.

The tactic helps ground some of the more far-fetched notions (Bill Blakemore considers The Shining a treatise on the genocide of the American Indian), making them seem almost academic in approach.

Whether it's speculation about The Shining being rife with subtext about the Holocaust, or the allegation that Kubrick played a significant role in faking the moon landing, Room 237, as much about the movies we watch as about how we watch them, is never anything less than absorbing.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

-- Preston Jones

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