Documentaries tend to be thought of as journalism first, formalism a distant second, maybe third. There are many practitioners who think otherwise. Rodney Ascher is one of them. With “Room 237” he trapped us inside the conjoined, logic-handicapped headspace of people with wacko theories on Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”
The people in his follow-up, “The Nightmare,” at least have an excuse for their crazy beliefs: They all suffer from sleep paralysis, in which sufferers wake up without the ability to move and speak. They also claim to sometimes see things, including frightening figures made entirely of shadow. A film where even the requisite talking heads are strikingly filmed, “The Nightmare” casts a sickening, terrifying mood as it recreates their visions, all the while trying to find a balance between staying skeptical and being open to the mysteries of the universe, or at least the human mind.
‘His Girl Friday’
Few movies move as fast as Howard Hawks’ newsroom screwball, which is even more impressive when you consider it only takes place in about six rooms. A semi-radical reworking of the oft-filmed stage staple “The Front Page,” it made its two leads a she and a him rather than a him and a him, with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as exes who wind up rushing through a farcical murder case.
Hawks had experimented with overlapping dialogue before — particularly in bits of the even better “Bringing Up Baby” — but here he does it stem to stern. It’s a beautiful cacophony of quotables, perhaps none more enjoyably evil than when Grant’s frazzled-yet-cucumber cool editor reacts to hearing about a reporter who’s on sick leave by crowing, “Diabetes? I ought to know better than to hire anybody with a disease!”