I promised myself that passing snippets every few years on telly would not suffice, and that I needed to see for myself the whole thing, from beginning to end, properly… and to find out what all the fuss was about. So I did it. Finally.
I just saw Kubrik’s 2001 Space Odyssey:
Update 2019: the old youtube link was dead, found this newbie:
It was bloody gorgeous, is what it was. By which I mean the kaleidoscopic technicolor ride through the Jupitan wormsponge multiverse, culminating in a sort of starbirth into the organic roiling folds of some ever-forming manifold of the most awesome effing SPACE that could ever fragging exist… WAS BLOODY GORGEOUS. But there’s other random things I came away thinking about…
The grand / opening theme obviously kicks ass, but all the enharmonic, atonal choruses were used to extremely good effect. It’s interesting that the composer responsible for those portions of the score (Gyorgy Ligeti) chose to use the vowel “E” (as in “bEE”) whenever he wanted your skin to crawl. After hearing this a few more times, I wanted to know why it was so damn effective. I rifled through all the vowels known to me, nasal variants included, and I put it to you that the same effect cannot be achieved so straightforwardly with other vowels. Lastly, in terms of the music, I could have done without the Blue Danube. I really could have.
The second thing I wanted to say is there’s something rather subtly prescient about this scene: the one where the 2 ‘stronauts are eating their microwaved dinner and each is watching their own screen / copy of the “televised” interview. It’s quite amazing. They were not 2 separate monitors of the CRT variety. They weren’t even 2 FLATscreens. They were 2 seemingly paper-thin perspectives; this was further underscored by the fact that each one’s “screen” was placed at a different angle: the way you would turn your newspaper or laptop THIS way for reading while eating, while I would turn mine THAT way for the same purpose.
I’ve already gushed about my favourite scenes at the beginning of this post. But it has to be said that the spacecraft itself, the design of the curved interior replete with deep-sleeping teammates in their ultra-modern sarcophagi, was just beautiful. Hell if it wasn’t for HAL I’d happily live there. I just love how they made the curvature of the main module so in-your-face you couldn’t miss it, despite the vastness of the ship itself.
And lets face it, the vastness was gorgeous. The contrast between a view/scale that the viewer becomes habituated to, and then the relevation of a grander view/scale of the larger thing within which the now-familiar scenes were ensconced all along… this is a device that has been used so many times in sci-fi filmmaking for the singular purpose of inspiring awe… and it never fails. My fave application of this effect was earlier in the film (which spaceship had that huge rectangular docking bay? Well, that one).
On life in rotating modules:
One thing I wanted to mention though was that in all that slickness in the space-hab, I think there was a slight goofup (OK not goofup, maybe just increased improbability) when Frank and Dave drop into one of those rotating portal thingies: one of them goes into the hatch first. Portal thing rotates. Now you would expect it to stop rotating at a certain point, signalling an alignment with some adjoining corridor or module, and you would imagine the first guy hopping out and waiting for his buddy to clamber through. But the thing keeps on turning while the second guy hops into the hatch and disappears too. I want to make it clear it’s not the fact that the portal thing is turning per se: It’s the GARGANTUAN angle its already managed to sweep through before the second guy hops in that’s jarring. If the portal turned very slowly, you can explain it away as a very long tunnel beyond the hatch that has YET TO ALIGN with anything into which our 2 astronauts would want to decant themselves. But in the shot, I think it had almost done a full 360 by the time the second guy hops in. The only other explanation is that the hatch leads directly into the other room / destination and/or the second guy is going some place else (eg a module adjoined at a different angle). And I can’t remember in the scene afterwards whether they were shown together or not. Bah… It’s prolly just me misunderstanding something.
On our ancestors:
The ape-people were very bad. Like, very bad. It’s like they didn’t have any anthropologists (or for that matter, archeologists or evolutionary biologists) on hand during production. Talk about hammy. And what’s with all the displayed restraint at the watering hole? Come ON… from what I’ve seen of chimps and their ilk, far be it for them to be trepidatious during a fight-encounter. OK so technically they weren’t Chimps exactly, but you know what I mean. They also seemed waaay too hairy… but on this I will concede that I have absolutely no basis for thinking this one way or the other. It’s prolly correct, for all I know (hey, these be neoteny-skewed times. Maybe I’m foolishly biased). Given that it wasn’t even the 70s yet, I forgive them completely. We discovery-channel-, national-geographic- spoilt Dawkinites have prolly absorbed way more info about our ancestors than the producers might have had time or occasion to. The 2 points of pathos were the night/sleeping scene where they’re all huddled together, and of course the whole megalith-stroking thing…
On surprisingly fail-operational behaviour:
It looks as though HAL, given his rather smooth/graceful degradation in the face of enforced memory loss, was either programmed holographically, or had figured out a way to recurse his available memory during spare cycles and had been steadily re-encoding his own self holographically… so that taking random ‘memory bars’ offline would only result in a low-fidelity HAL, not a broken HAL. If so, it’s a bloody good thing Dave got to him when he did… Yikes…
You’ll never guess who has a bit part in this movie. You’ll never guess, I tell you. Leonard bloody Rossiter! I mean, like, what the hell?! All the time he was delivering his lines and all I could hear was the dude (‘Rigsby’) from Rising Damp, lol…
All in all, this might just leap to the #1 position on my favourite movies of all time. Might. Lemme sleep on it. It’s up there, either way, for sure.
Well, g’night folks. I hope you dream of starflight. I know I will…