OBJET D’EMPTY ART
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey remains a huge attraction 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 the movie’s expensive nincompoopery often became a party game: a fat take-home joint for the best plot analysis. Enjoyed for other reasons too: the staging is immense-looking (as opposed to being immense) when projected through seamless Cinerama, or stand-alone 70mm, or through 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 those poorly altered earthscapes), the special effects, miniatures and most of the sets are intriguingly subdued and polished for 1968. Kubrick’s direction may be at 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 as background for “apes” in a studio. With such minute attention to the actors mimicking them, we can’t really detect clumsy or even serious fault—maybe some of the darting eyes?—but purists contend and might be right that Daniel Richter, as the ape Moon-Watcher, 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 inflated French provincial bedroom with its framed wall paintings, statuary and lighted white floor holding court to the single passenger space module and a corpse-like Keir Dullea. 2001 is slumberous sci-fi—Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark manage to join imaginations to make a safe, spacey nothingness by puting each other’s smarts to sleep. Yet even the skeptics, after seeing the sequel, will thank them for not setting their alarm clocks. 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 was 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.
ROLL OVER IMAGE
Text COPYRIGHT © 2000 RALPH BENNER (Revised 2/2020) All Rights Reserved.