2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

AFI Top 100 Club
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Stanley Kubrick is not my favourite director; in fact I doubt he would make my top 10. Nevertheless, he is responsible for some of the most transcendent, visionary works ever seen; true works of art most of them. In the late 1960s, he crafted a masterpiece, the like of which has never been seen since.

The way it tells its story is one of the most inventive methods ever utilised in mainstream cinema. It has no concrete narrative structure and consists of four "chapters", if you will, tied together by the presence of an enigmatic black cuboid, responsible for the transitions between said chapters. Its appearance seems to signify monumental leaps in human progress, from ape to man to computer. In the third chapter, man and computer become locked in a battle of wills, after which the object reappears and Kubrick pulls out all the stops to send the viewer headlong into a confrontation with human consciousness.

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia and this bookended the 60s with two vastly dissimilar stories told with comparable epic scope and vision. But unlike Lawrence (the director of which was greatly admired by Kubrick, and no wonder), Kubrick's effort does not focus on the personal struggles of a heroic character; in fact it is a highly unconventional epic altogether in that it features no real protagonist at all. Unless, of course, the film's themes of evolution, artificial intelligence, the balance between man's destructive and creative instincts, and life in general take precedence over the characters as the film's chief focus.

2001: A Space Odyssey encompasses the entirety of human existence and inflates this potentially intimate theme to cosmic levels, allowing him to indulge in some of the most paralysingly beautiful moments ever captured on film. Interpret it how you wish, but one thing that cannot be disputed is the pure mastery of the craft on display. Kubrick, along with Geoffrey Unsworth's camerawork, Douglas Trumbull's special effects and the music of Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss and György Ligeti, has created an overwhelming, symbiotic, practically flawless fusion of sound and images yet to be rivalled.

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