LIFF 2012 Day 6

Room 237 (US) (site)

This film started with a large disclaimer.  Some legalbot must have got a whiff of this film and made sure that we knew the estate of Stanley Kubrick, all the actors and anyone else to do with The Shining, had nothing to do with this film.

The Shining is certainly a mysterious film.  Kubrick is getting a mini-retrospective of his works, with 2001: A Space Oddessey, Barry Lyndon and The Shining returning to the big screen during the festival, and this documentary goes nicely alongside, focusing on the many theories about the deeper, hidden meanings behind the film's various incidental moments, in the corner of shot or hiding in plain sight.

Told entirely by voiceover by several theorists, using footage of many films including several Kubrick ones, but of course concentrating on The Shining, they share with us their revelations about what they think Kubrick was trying to say.  The many arguments put forward pick apart the film to it's very threads, and variously claims range from the film being about the faking of the Apollo moon landings, the Nazis and the Holocaust (Kubrick never finished Aryan Papers, his own holocaust film), and killing of Native Americans during the colonisation of the US.  The film skips between the points of view, filling in the gaps between with observations and incidentals, some of which are quite compelling (such as some continuity errors so big that Kubrick must have put them in there deliberately), and some are distinctly tinfoil hat, such as the coincidental juxtaposition of characters and places when the film is shown backwards, overlaid on top of it running forwards.

It's natural for the human brain to search for patterns in things; that's why so many people play the lottery convinced that because their numbers have never come up, it must be their turn next time.  But these people have elevated Kubrick's genius as a filmmaker to godly levels, and though it's all entertaining it becomes a tad worrying that it can be obsessed over like that.

Still, for a film which essentially takes another film apart and looks at it with tweezers, often revisiting the same scenes several times, it rarely becomes tiresome and it's interesting to see the imagination that can be stirred by a film that, by the end of this one, is quite a lot deeper than you think it is, and now I wish I had caught The Shining as well. 7/10

Wavumba (Ned) (site)

Far from civilisation as us westerners would recognise it, on the eastern coast of Kenya, is a tropical island surrounded by crystal waters named Wasini.  Stories tell long ago of a tribe living there called the Wavumba, their status legendary in the minds of those few people that remain in the area today.  Masoud, an elderly fisherman claims to be the last of their kind, and regails the stories to anyone who will listen about the times when he landed giant sharks on his boat, just as the Wavumba did.

The director, Jeroen van Velzen spent part of his childhood in Kenya and grew up around the stories of heroic fisherman capable of superhuman feats, and this film is the realisation of a dream to go back there and find the people.  But all that is left of those people is Masoud, his long-suffering apprentice Juma, and the memories of the people of the past told through stories passed between a thousand tongues.  Masoud refuses to accept his frailty and uses the stories he tells to the camera and to others to keep the fire inside his belly going, to try and catch one final shark before he is too old.  Grandson Juma, along to learn the ways of the master, wears the expression of a man close to the edge, especially in a boat with someone who grumps and complains about everything he does.  What lessons Masoud does have to teach largely involve hitting various sea creatures over the head until they stop moving - as a hunter of giant sharks, he seems to have lost the knack.

The tall tales of an old man of the sea are fortunately not the extent to the charm of the film, as it quickly becomes apparent that Masoud is relying these days on his acheivements as a young man to curry favour with the people in his village.  While we wait for his shark to appear, we are also treated to some beautiful ocean landscapes beneath angry skies, experiencing the giddy queasyness of being the third man bobbing around in a boat meant for two.

A couple next to me fidgeted about and the wife grumbled about being bored at one point, making sure he (and the eight people around her) were aware of her displeasure, and although I wanted to empty their coke bottles down their necks for being so chattery I could sort of see their point - though the master-apprentice pairing has it's entertaining moments, and the visuals occasionally coerce the jaw into dropping, there are still large periods where very little happens and you have to take in the journey at their pace.

I liked it, probably less than I would if those chattery gits weren't reminding me how bored they were, but it does test the patience a bit.  6.5/10

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