2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

Watched in 70mm with an introduction by Keir Dullea. Holy shit.

If you've followed me for over two years, you've probably noticed that I used to watch this movie a lot (a lot) and that I haven't in the past two years. That's because the last time I watched this, I became aware that I was more or less stuck with it; every time I watched it, I was just confirming things I already believed, never really approaching it in any new way. And while it still wowed the pants off me every time, I was afraid that if I kept going like that, 2001 would lose its luster. So I took a break from the movie, for however long it took before my mind became relatively fresh (I'm never gonna get to a state with this movie where it's like seeing it for the first time because I've just seen it way too many times, but I wanted some distance between myself and the movie the next time I watched it). And in the past few months, I started feeling like I could finally watch 2001 again, only to hear a few weeks later that it'd be toured around in an "unrestored" 70mm print. Seeing it in 70mm--something I've (literally!) dreamed of for years and years--to break my two year silent streak sounded perfect.

And oh God it was. I chose to go to the show introduced by Keir Dullea (he's giving an audience Q&A at the show later tonight but I didn't want to hear everyone get up and say "Actually, I have more of a comment than a question..." so I went with the introduction) and it was perfect and kind of surreal to see him in person. He was giving photos and autographs before the show and, yeah, I paid too much for it, but getting to meet the star of my favorite movie (more on 2001's status as my favorite below) was so worth it. I got an on-set photo with Kubrick, Dullea, and the crew signed (I can upload the picture if people wanna see it). I barely said anything because whenever I meet celebrities I admire I kinda become very stupid and I didn't want to embarrass myself/Keir so I just thanked him for coming out and said something vague about how important this movie is to me. His introduction was brief but still pretty great. The highlights were him talking about how honored and amazed he is that people still care about the movie (it seemed very genuine) and when he talked about one scene with a lot of technobabble that he slaved over memorizing that Kubrick later cut and that he then performed (he said it gave him trouble because it's pretty much the only scene with dialogue in the movie and then made a joke about there not being a lot of dialogue because "Dave and Frank have been in space for months. Y'know, they already said what they needed to say.") It was such a nice experience.

So, on to the movie itself. Everyone who's seen it on this site has been singing its praises for weeks now, but seriously: this movie looks so good. It looked so good in 70mm that I almost want to get up from the chair I'm currently in, walk to my bookshelf-repurposed-into-a-movie-shelf, grab my blu-ray of 2001, and snap it in half. I honestly don't know how I can go back to that (already gorgeous!) blu-ray after seeing how phenomenal this movie looks on film. The director of programming said before Keir talked that this is still just about the best visual experience you can get at the movies and it is true. Holy moly.

It is such a comforting experience to return to a movie that was your favorite but you haven't seen in a while (my taste in film in the past two years has been through so many radical shifts that my position was basically "not having a favorite at the moment") and rediscovering all the reasons why it is your favorite movie. (Slight competition with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but I think 2001 wins out. I actually think they're incredibly similar movies, which I might write about at some point in the future). 2001 pulled me into a trance. I got washed up and lost in it. It left me awestruck and moved and inspired and challenged. I think the word for this movie is "generous." Anything you give to it, it will give back even more. I dunno if that makes sense, I'm still (a two-hour, traffic-heavy car ride later) just so overwhelmed with how much I love this. It left me hopeful.

Watching this made me fall in love with film all over again, just like it did the first time.

So I suppose, since I took a two-year break to approach it in a new way, I should talk about what I got out of this movie. I didn't really grapple with it too much intellectually, trying to figure out what it "means." I wanted to spend my first (but hopefully not last) 70mm experience getting washed up in the audio-visual components. But I think a message (of course complicated by a lot of stuff in this movie because nothing is simple) that I want to pursue in the future is this: authoritarian power structures and omniscient intelligence can't match the power of an individual, personal, humanistic will; as long as people keep growing and form communities based in empathy and mutual understanding and communication, transcendence is not far away. Dave telling HAL to sing him a song is a moment of ultimate humanity. It's a bit of a rudimentary reading, heavily informed by my pessimism of the modern political landscape searching for a reason for optimism, but there are parts of it I like.

Anyway, if the 70mm showing is coming within, like, a 5 hour car ride from you, you owe it to yourself to go see it. Trust me.

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