Wednesday 20 January 2010

The Incredible Suit's 30-Minute Freeze-Frame Challenge #1: The Shining

I watched The Shining again the other day, one of just 15 completely perfect, ten out of ten, entirely flawless films ever made according to The Incredible Suit, and therefore pretty much enshrined in law as an inarguable fact unless I change my mind.

You could fill a black hole with all that’s been written about The Shining already so there’s little point in me repeating it all, but watching it again made me realise that there are some films that are so meticulously crafted that I reckon you could pause them at any random point and you would have a beautiful, perfectly composed and lit image that wouldn’t look out of place hanging in an art gallery.

So I decided to start an experiment. It’s called (a fanfare here would be nice) The Incredible Suit’s 30-Minute Freeze-Frame Challenge and it goes something like this: Pick a film, any film. Stick it in your DVD player, spin forward to precisely the 30 minute mark, hit pause and see what you get. Then do the same at one hour, one hour 30 minutes and so on. If you end up with three or four amazing images your film has passed and you should immediately consume a bottle of the finest champagne known to man. If not it has failed and you should hang your head in shame while standing in your front garden for 24 hours inviting passing strangers to wee on you.

I realise this experiment completely ignores many achievements in scriptwriting, acting, music and so on, but I’ll just have to think of another experiment for them. In the meantime, The Shining: does it pass (fanfare) The Incredible Suit’s 30-Minute Freeze-Frame Challenge? (Warning: it gets a bit arty so I may have to speak French occasionally)

0:30:00: Here's Jack being right browned off at being interrupted by his irritating missus. It's a perfectly composed shot, with his body language and the fact that she's almost being pushed out of the frame showing his utter disdain for her. Not sure what that big roll of wallpaper is doing in the foreground though.

1:00:00: OK, it might not be pretty, but that is a woman with some serious issues concerning her possessed husband and psychic son. A bit too much blue backlight perhaps, but nicely framed with the picture in the background, non?

1:30:00: Here's Jack trying to convince Captain Blumburtt from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, who may or may not be a ghostly pre-incarnation of himself, to let him out of the pantry. Unspectacular but still an interesting composition, n'est-ce pas?


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  1. To be fair, it started with a damn good book. Stephen King deserves some of the credit.

  2. The book's good until the end, when it turns into a Stephen King book - Kubrick's read of it as pyschological dissolution rather than OH MY CHRIST HE'S A FUCKING MONSTER is what makes it a masterpiece (as evidenced by King's own TV Movie version, which is a big pile of unspeakable cock).

    I like this post. I like this blog. And I like the experiment. I'm going to try it on South Park: The Movie tonight.

    PS Why the Incredible Suit?

  3. My what a spangly medal that is!

  4. Anon, I tried to read it when I was a kid but it right gave me the willies. I couldn't even read it in the daylight, never mind in bed at night.

    AdLand, thanks for your kind words. You are 100% correct about King's Shining movie. The answer to your final question would be crushingly disappointing so I'll leave it to your imagination like the pretentious twit I am.

    Wendy, will you polish it for me?

  5. "Kubrick's read of it as psychological dissolution"

    Agree completely but therein lies what I've always considered to be Kubrick's only series miss step, which is the moment when Wendy sees a 'ghost' with an ace buried in his head. Up till then, and at all other times, ghosts are only
    seen by a madman or his psychic son and I'm happy with the notion that only the insane see ghosts. Bringing them into the 'real world' of Wendy's perception always struck me
    as a dirty horror movie cheat.

  6. Is Wendy seeing the ghost not just a part of her own psychological dissolution, brought on by her environment, which is, after all, what brings on Jack's major spazz-out?

    I like the idea of the Freeze Frame Challenge, Mr Incredible Suit, althought I think you just happened to luck out on The Shining frames you found.... Having said that, you were on the money with Kubrick - few other directors framed his shots quite so artfully.
    But I think his "piece de resistance" in terms of shot composition and "mise en scene" has to be A Clockwork Orange. Can you please do the Freeze Frame Challenge for that one, because that would be the awesomeness?

  7. Doc, The Freeze-Frame Challenge is all about luck. There are plenty of beautiful films that fail due to an abstract close-up or whip-pan. That's what makes it so exciting!

    I shall attempt to get hold of a copy of ACO and apply the rigorous testing procedure. I don't own it because, although it looks lovely, it's overlong and boring after a while. Yeah, I said that.

  8. Here's Tony! Garrett Brown, the inventor of Steadicam (remember the tracking shots in the corridors off and on carpets or the snowy maze)wrote a guide book which said "If the director has seen 'The Shining' then god help you". I fully expected the Incredible Suit Case to vote PASS. Any other result would be redrum.

  9. That's not wallpaper in that first shot's foreground - that's a book full of little newspaper articles about the murdering housekeeper that Jack makes. (I think it had a whole subplot which got cut out of the European version of the film, though)