There are movies about movies. And then there are meta-movies like Room 237, opening in limited released Friday (3/29/13).
Think of it as the movie-buff's equivalent of the "Paul McCartney is dead" rumor that swept the world in 1969. People who should have known better came to the conclusion -- based on "clues" planted in song lyrics and album covers -- that the former Beatle had died in a car accident in 1966 and been replaced by an impostor.
They made a great case for it. The "evidence" was convincing (if you'd been hitting the bong regularly). Just one problem: It wasn't true.
Room 237 is even wankier. Ostensibly a documentary, it's meant as an eye-opening deconstruction of Stanley Kubrick's film of Stephen King's The Shining. Director Rodney Ascher lets a group of obsessives spout off about their theories of what Kubrick really meant. They're scholars, academics, critics, filmmakers -- people who seemingly have spent hours, days, even years watching and analyzing The Shining. People, in other words, who should know better.
What they've come up with is a portfolio of "evidence" that Kubrick secretly meant this or that or the other thing. One fellow thinks it's Kubrick's secret confession that he helped fake the Apollo moon landing. Another believes he's uncovered clues that, in fact, it was Kubrick's take on the genocide of Native Americans. Genocide figures in another theory -- except it's the Nazi Holocaust that Kubrick was secretly explicating through his middling horror movie.
Their "evidence" (sorry, can't help putting put that in quotes) consists of little moments caught in freeze-frame that prove -- or "prove" -- their points. Ascher dices it all together to create what feels like a fanboy's fever dream or, perhaps, the beginnings of paranoid schizophrenia. The only thing they don't suggest is that Kubrick is talking to them over the radio.
This review continues on my website.