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There are two artists in human history that I find rise above all others, and those two are Johann Sebastian Bach... and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Their music simply transcends space, time, and even emotion. They bring you through heaven and hell, redemption and damnation, all the while writing some of the most technically perfect and beautiful music ever heard.
It's astounding, and no other artist - in visual arts, literature, or film - has been able to even come close to earning the amount of respect I have for these two.
But god damn, I think Kubrick just got pretty close with 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm beginning to understand his films as one large cycle about his statements regarding the universe and our own consciousness and relation with it. This is much like Mahler and his 9 symphonies, all huge philosophical journeys through space and time that leave you in awe by the end.
I have yet to complete Kubrick's filmography, but at 4 films, he's easily my favorite director. His films are often criticized as being "cold and calculated" but I disagree. His warmth lies in his visuals, in that he opens us up to any interpretation based on his beautiful cinematography. Take, Barry Lyndon, a 3 hour painting. While the plot and the characters are "cold" the colors, music, and lighting actually make this a very warm and emotional film. Same for A Clockwork Orange (although that is certainly the most emotionally bizarre/removed of his stuff).
And, of course, same with 2001. Just from the very first shots, it almost seems like a nature documentary. We're given time to actually soak in the environment and world around us. And that's the beautiful warmth Kubrick provides.
The visuals are probably the best I've ever seen in a movie. The light show at the end... I just... I can't explain how that made me feel. In fact, the entire last twenty minutes or so was so crazy, so beautiful. It's the same feeling I get when I listen to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier or Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. It's transcendent.
I also loved the use of symmetry/comparison, especially between time periods (the "Dawn of Man" and "Man in Space" portions). The bone thrown in the air turning into a nuclear weapon was incredible, and Kubrick's use of symmetry in the shots is groundbreaking.
And I've now been sitting here for five minutes thinking about how to actually analyze this film. And I can't. Not on first watch. There's too much to soak in. What I do know is that I will be re watching this countless times in the future, and it was simply the best movie I've ever seen.
Last note - did anyone see, like, tons of faces in 2001? As in, the space helmets looked like a face, the pod looked like a face, many of the ships did. Was that deliberate? I thought it was creepy and cool to look at, and I know Kubrick knew what he was doing in every shot.