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OBJET DEMPTY ART

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was and remains a huge success because it’s hugely enigmatic. Millions love debating the meanings inside the “profound” script: what the monolith stands for; why Hal goes dirty on us; what are the implications of the sterile embryonic baby at the conclusion. Late 60s potheads will remember that the movie’s expensive nincompoopery often became a party game: a fat take-home joint for the best plot analysis. It’s enjoyed for other reasons too: the staging is immense-looking (as opposed to being immense) when projected through seamless Cinerama or flat screen 70mm or the 4K UHD Blu-ray; the sets are comically spotless and tidy; there is a lulling cheekiness about using classical music to support the equally lulling ambiance; and women get off on Gary Lockwood’s legs. With the exception of the light show-head trip (with its nebulae and galaxies that could only be imagined before Hubble’s telescopic eye) and the poor replication of stars, the special effects and miniatures are intriguingly subdued and polished. Arguably Kubrick’s direction has its high point in the “Dawn of Man” sequence, which looks to have some of the most magnificent mural-like shots ever caught on film and were front-projected as the background for the “apes” in a studio. (Such minute attention to the actors mimicking apes that one can’t really detect clumsy or even serious errors. Maybe the darting eyes? But purists contend and might be right that Daniel Richter, as the ape MoonWatcher, deserves most of the credit, since he “choreographed” the entire sequence.) Many criticize Kubrick for all this, for making an objet d’empty art, reaching its zenith in the French provincial bedroom with its largeness, paintings and lighted white floor. 2001 is slumberous sci-fi—Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark joining imaginations to make a safe, spacey nothingness that in effect puts each other’s smarts to sleep. Yet even the skeptics, after seeing the sequel, will thank them for not spelling things out. A one-man show directed, written, produced and photographed by Peter Hyams, 2010 awakens the dormancy in the original to become over-expressed tomfoolery; when God speaks, only Hyams is listening. Initially intended to be 3-strip Cinerama, 2001 would be filmed in Super Panavision 70. (Opening 4/11/1968 at the Cinestage, running 36 weeks.)

Oscar win: best special effects. Oscar nominations: best director, original screenplay, best art/set direction.

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ralphbenner@nowreviewing.com  

Text COPYRIGHT © 2000 RALPH BENNER (Revised 2/2020) All Rights Reserved.