Laughing Matters: “Shining”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

It’s been some time since I taught a film class, and the likelihood of that task ever again falling to me dwindles by the day. Even so, I have a little mental tally of the material I’d like to use to illustrate the possibilities and parameters of cinema to a roomful of students. My fictional lecture supplements aren’t loaded with full films so much as the clips I would use to illustrate the grammar of cinematic language, including the art of editing. That brings me to Robert Ryang’s inspired Shining.

The phony trailer takes footage from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Shining and cuts it together to make it appear as if the tale of terror is instead a genial family comedy. It’s a great gag, but I also think it illustrates the way artful construction can shape and reshape film content. (As I’ve argued in the past, Kubrick’s The Shining is especially accommodating of endless reinvention.) Ryang’s reimagined trailer may not have been the first, and it certainly wasn’t the last. To this today, though, it is absolutely the best of its odd little subgenre.

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.

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