In anticipation of the Miami premiere of the buzzy documentary Room 237, one of Miami’s local art houses, O Cinema, will spend a week featuring key films in Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre. It’s fitting that such an obsessive director would indirectly inspire some obsessive theories about his 1980 horror masterpiece the Shining. Room 237 features over an hour and half of out-of-air theorizing by eight rather kooky compulsive people who seem to have been driven slightly mad by the film’s tiniest details. All treat the Shining as something of a puzzle rather than a horror movie, their loopy theories pulled out of thin notions from what they think they see in the movie. Despite people like Kubrick’s longtime assistant, Leon Vitali, laughing them off in a recent “New York Times” article (read it here), some of these theories have prevailed for years. Still, the film stands as a testament to a director who inspired many intellectuals before this film. With moments of some of the more banal scenes as well as some of the more iconic ones reduced to frame-by-frame ultra slow motion, it has an almost hypnotic quality.
Details on the retrospective that precedes the screening of Room 237, can be found on O Cinema’s website (click here). Full disclosure: I will take part in this retrospective myself following the screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. As some of you have read in my “About” page here, I earned my MA in English Lit by writing a thesis paper on the 1968 sci-fi masterpiece.
O Cinema has invited me to go over the conclusions of my thesis during a discussion following the film’s screening. I hope to help the viewer unlock what Kubrick did cinematically– considering characters, plotting, editing, music and effects– to make this film both enigmatic and inspiring. Tapping into my past as a film studies professor, I plan to discuss film theory, reviews of 2001 and Kubrick’s own words on the film. I hope all that keeps me from sounding like one of the crazies featured in Room 237. If you live in Miami, I encourage you to join the event on Facebook (that’s a hotlink; Note: I hear there are only about 25 tickets left, as of this post).
Before the screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the retrospective will open tonight with a Screening of Dr. Strangelove: Or Who I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It is followed by a discussion of the film by Lisa Leone who actually worked with Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut.
The following night it’s Full Metal Jacket. The film’s lead, Matthew Modine will dial-in via Skype. I had a chance to exchange emails with the actor last week. The results of which were just published by “The Miami New Times.” You can read it by jumping through the logo of the paper’s Art and Culture blog “Cultist:”
As usual, that doesn’t feature everything we discussed. Allow me to present the start and end of our email correspondence (the images are courtesy of Modine’s Full Metal Jacket Diary app):
Hans Morgenstern: First of all I want to say Birdy put you on my radar. It remains one of the most moving and unforgettable films I caught up with in the early ’90s (a bit later than the original release , as I was a kid then). Did your performance there have any influence on your casting in Full Metal Jacket?
Matthew Modine: Thank you. I love Birdy. It was a very important turning point in my early professional acting career. The film brought me to Cannes for the festival where it won the Gran Prix. It’s international success was a reward that I could never have imagined.
When I first heard about the casting of FMJ it seemed like an impossibility to be chosen and cast by Stanley Kubrick. He wasn’t meeting people. Instead actors were instructed to send video-taped auditions with short monologues to an address in London. At the time, video cameras and taping oneself was no easy task. A VHS camera was only available as a professional tool. Personal, non-professional cameras weren’t really available. So I didn’t bother to audition. I was having breakfast with another actor, David Alan Grier, at a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood – the same restaurant Woody Allen drove the Cadillac into in his film, Annie Hall. David and I were celebrating a Best Acting Award we had mutually received for Robert Altman’s Streamers (another film about Vietnam) and there was a guy a couple of tables away staring at me and cursing. I told David that either the guy was an actor memorizing lines, had Tourette’s, or was – in fact – cursing at me. David looked over and recognized the guy to be a young actor named Val Kilmer. He knew Val and went over to speak with him. Then he waved me over to meet Val. David introduced me and Val explained that he was fed up with me getting roles that – perhaps he felt – he should be playing – and now he heard that I was starring in Kubrick’s new Vietnam film. I explained that I hadn’t auditioned – clearly he had – and also, that I wasn’t going to apologize to him for my work and after breakfast jumped on a pay phone to ask my manager if he knew anything about the Kubrick film. My manager didn’t. So I asked him to contact Warner Brothers to please send Kubrick a print of Vision Quest and I reached out to Sir Alan Parker, who was finishing the editing of Birdy, to send something to Kubrick. Weeks later I received, at my house in New York City, a script with a hand-written note from Kubrick asking me to consider a role in his new film, Full Metal Jacket. So, the funny thing is, Val Kilmer may be somehow responsible for my getting the role in the film. Thanks, Val!
So just last year you released an App that chronicled your time making Full Metal Jacket. What inspired its release?
Yes. Several years ago I published my diary with personal photographs I took while on the set of FMJ. The award-winning book was a great success. But I wanted it to be a limited edition, 20,000 serial-numbered copies. And that would be it. No more. A collector’s item. My goal with the book was to create a piece or art that Stanley would be proud of. This was always the goal during the creation. Because the book was sold out, and I had no intention of doing a second publishing or a paperback, I was asked by a friend, Adam Rackoff, who worked for Steve Jobs and Apple Computer, if I’d be interested in transforming my book into a deeply immersive iPad app. We discussed how we could create something truly unique to the app world with an original musical score, sound effects, narration, and high resolution scans of my photographs with archival documents and personal notes from Kubrick. When he said he wanted to create an app that Kubrick would think was awesome, I was all in. You can learn more and download the app from fullmetaljacketdiary.com (that’s a hotlink).
What did working with Kubrick and/or starring in Full Metal Jacket do for your career?
Well, here we are, 25 years after the release and still talking about FMJ and the genius of Kubrick. I’m honored to have known him and worked with him. He said film should be like a great piece of music. Something you can listen to over and over again and then, after many years, revisit and completely rediscover and hear anew. Boy, did he get that aspect of filmmaking right.
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What Modine paraphrases from Kubrick is the quote by Kubrick where he said “2001 … is basically a visual, nonverbal experience. It avoids intellectual verbalization and reaches the viewer’s subconscious in a way that is essentially poetic and philosophic. The film thus becomes a subjective experience which hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.” It’s just one of the pieces of evidence I have gathered to use in my conversation on 2001: A Space Odyssey, which screens the night following Full Metal Jacket.
The night after 2001, the retrospective will feature a screening of Kubrick’s next movie in his filmography: 1972’s A Clockwork Orange. My colleague in the Florida Film Critics Circle, and Circle chairman, Dan Hudak will lead a conversation entitled “Codpieces, Crime & Confusion-what becomes of man when he’s stripped of all he is?”
Besides Room 237, the retrospective will feature screenings on the Shining (of course) and Eyes Wide Shut. You can read all about how the discussions following the screenings will unfold at O Cinema’s website, by clicking through the image below, a limited edition art print commemorating this major cinema event in Miami (there’s information about ordering the print on O Cinema’s homepage):