2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Needless to say, everything (the monolith's piercing whistle, Ligeti's music, the Star Gate) jumps out tenfold in 70mm. Kubrick's unspoken presumption (and it is fascinating that we only get one vaguely German-sounding Russian in this complex apex to the Space Race; that shows how taken-for-granted-as-permanent-truth the Cold War mentality was) is that we only made it into space because of our crippling need to best the Soviets. Will this be how we develop as a society in space—through violence and bloodshed and the thirst for competition? 2001 is dominated by Kubrick's rightful pessimism about America's ego—America's calls for wonder, and the monstrous creations that that wonder inspires, a hypocritical paradox we have yet to fully grapple. We are a relentlessly cheerful lot, and the proof is in our confounding ability to turn something like 2001 into a space-trip of pop wonderment. It seems obvious now, but I hadn't before linked that graphic match cut of The-First-Weapon to Space-Ship-Waltzing-The-Blue-Danube to the similar scene of Vera Lynn" singing "We'll Meet Again over the litany of nukes in Dr Strangelove. Kubrick just extends the Danube piece by 8 minutes, and it's sublime; if he had truncated it to 2 minutes, it would be sardonic Strangelove satire. But both scenes are both. It's funny what we choose to connect.

Some are shocked that he would make A Clockwork Orange after this; considering the already nascent alienation and frustration with humanity's ignorance set to jarring Wagnerian melodies here, it doesn't seem that big a leap.

Luckily, when we come face to face with the monolith, we won't know what to do. That's when we're confronted with our true selves. Is the Star Child a blessing or the next ego trip?

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