I don't usually write about 'old' films, but there's nothing 'usual' about my single all-time favourite, now re-released to selected cinemas marking 50 years since its initial appearance, now in a pristine new print, cleaned up both visually (with colour restored) and sonically, to provide those of us who retain a unique awe for it offering a repeat of a truly glorious, cinematic experience.
Don't waste your time writing about how it's one long yawn or series of yawns, enigmatic to the point of being unfathomable - or even 'daft'! I've heard it all before and people are entitled to their opinion, as am I. Nor will I attempt to explain it (including the mysterious, travelling plinth and the 'Star Child'). If the director himself and the writer of the original story didn't know then how can I?
I dare say that just about everybody has seen it in one form or another so I'll say very little about the content. I must have viewed it at least fifteen times in various cinemas (still not the film with my most cinema viewings!), the last time being some 30 years ago in Munich on what turned out to be a smallish screen in a multiplex and, even worse, dubbed into German - even the computer HAL's singing of 'Daisy, Daisy' was substituted with a German nursery song! So, despite my having videos of it - though of course all videos are very much inferior to seeing a film in the medium for which it was created - I needed something to reassure me that my former thoughts and evaluation of the film remain unchanged. And I can now repeat with assurance that it remains my absolute favourite film of all.
My first encounter was in February 1969 when I saw it on a cinerama screen - the long arc-wide screen, about a third of a circle or just a little less - a format which was to become defunct in the 1970s. This was when film was shot on a single, extra-wide lensed camera rather than the earlier method of using three cameras simultaneously with the films then melded together (when one could sometimes 'see the joins'!). This was one of the final films shot in cinerama format, the only remaining major ones being 'Ice Station Zebra' (also 1968) and 'Krakatoa: East of Java' (1969).
I was living in Middlesbrough at the time, the nearest cinerama screen (one of less than a dozen in the country) being 42 miles away in Newcastle upon Tyne. But I didn't wish to miss the chance so took the train up even though I knew the film would come to my local cinema in 70mm format. It was well worth the effort and expense - and remains my sole experience of cinerama.
This showing today was one of just four screenings in the area - at the same large screen Brighton cinema I mentioned recently when I was one of a tiny handful of spectators in a 274-seat auditorium. I was afraid that this time I might have a similar experience. Thankfully not. The cinema must have been 90% full, and at a midday matinee too, though it being a weekend helped, no doubt. The audience was attentive and despite, I guess, nearly all of them having seen the film before in some way or other, perhaps this was the first time most of them were seeing it in a cinema. In the soundless space sequences you could have heard a pin drop, with no whisperings or extraneous noises, the entire audience being every bit as rapt as I was. And at the conclusion there was general applause - so I reckon that many of them were as huge fans of the film as I am.
I've mentioned in previous blogs that I've had a lifetime passion for Astronomy and one of the positives of this film is that 50 years after it first appeared it's by far still the most accurate portrayal of space travel than any film since, amazing - and frustrating - as that is. It's primarily due to the influence and direct involvement of that science genius, Arthur C.Clarke who, incidentally, later said that he would never agree to working with Stanley Kubrick again, even if he was offered all the money in the world!.
I've read more about this film than any other - as, for instance, it being released in the same year as the original (and splendid) 'Planet of the Apes', but it was the latter which picked up the Oscar for 'Best Make-Up' because, the rumour goes, it was thought that the apes in '2001' must have been real!
Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the original short story 'The Sentinel' which was expanded and morphed into '2001' is quoted as saying that he made two major errors in the film. First, he didn't foresee the extreme miniaturisation of computers (in this film, HAL is huge!) and secondly, when astronaut Dave Bowman is trying to get into the mothership without a helmet, HAL having denied him entrance, before diving through the open door into the airless docking bay he takes a deep breath, which actually would have made his lungs explode when in a vacuum, even for a couple of seconds! This time around I also especially thought the astronauts walking on the surface of the moon had a gait that looked too heavy for the much weaker lunar gravity. But in the context of sound scientific principles as a whole - and where it really matters - these quibbles verge on nit-picking.
It's by no means a perfect film. The section of 'Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite' is too long and indulgent to sustain fascinated interest, and one is left with the time to muse on how they achieved such and such effect - but it's not a critical fault. Also, we now know that even as the film was in progress, neither Kubrick and Clarke had any idea how to bring it all to a conclusion. I must say that what they eventually came up with, for me could hardly have been bettered, even if it had turned out to be only by a fluke.
One final point. The soundtrack music had, in fact, been composed, as Kubrick requested, by one Alex North (his score is available on CD). Apparently, just before release, and without telling the composer, the director decided to substitute North's score with the classical pieces we're now familiar with. In fact the first the composer knew about it was when he attended the premier in blissful ignorance, only to find himself bewildered when, instead of his 'Sunrise' music at the start, he heard Richard Strauss' imposing opening bars from 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' - and waited in vain throughout the rest of the film for his own music to be heard. Obviously someone forgot to rescind his invitation or, more likely, it was just overlooked - or, perhaps, Kubrick or someone else was just too embarrassed to tell him what had happened. Must have given him quite a nasty start to have found it out the way he did.
I'm not sure that using the 'Blue Danube' waltz was such a good idea. It's just a bit too familiar, and I've never been able to hear that music in all the years since without it conjuring up that particular sequence in the film - not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish it hadn't been so firmly embedded in my mind. Before he decided on 'Danube', Kubrick had toyed with the idea of using (same composer) Johann Strauss' 'Music of the Spheres' at this juncture, which would have had more obvious titular resonance, but decided that the swing of the 'Blue Danube' was more in keeping with his vision. Again, it's not a make-or-break matter.
And then there's the title, '2001'. The film was made just a year before the first moon landing and no one could at that time foresee that lunar expeditions would completely dry up within two or three years because of the costs. So it's necessary, on hindsight, to see the title year as a kind of shorthand for an unidentifiable future time. It doesn't invalidate the concept of future space travel potential at all, unfortunate as it superficially might seem - nor of contact with an extra-terrestrial intelligence. which I believe will happen, even if hardly likely in my own lifetime.
I've said a lot about a film I wasn't even going to post about at all. At least it's off my chest now.
Observe the following rating very carefully. You won't see its like again for a very long time indeed, if ever..............9.
(IMDb........8.3 / Rotten Tomatoes........9.2)
10 minutes ago