2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★½


Fourth full viewing, up from 79. My relationship to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY closely mimics my relationship to cinema in its entirety. The first time I saw this was in high school, when movies were just a source of occasional, mindless entertainment : with no sense of involvement beyond superficial amusement and instant gratification, I had no patience for this film whatsoever. Over a decade later and movies are more to me than just routine pleasures -- not a profession, but a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy and now approach with a level of perusal, observance, and open-mindedness unbeknownst to my younger, more ignorant self. (And that's not to imply people who don't like this are ignorant, or non-observant, or close-minded, etc., I'm speaking from a purely personal perspective.) But the things I found devitalizing about it so many years ago are the exact things I love and appreciate about it today -- I've never before gotten chills when an early hominid first starts swinging a bone to-and-fro ; I've never before noticed how deafening the cut from the moon monolith's high-frequency screech to absolute silence is ; I've never before felt the terror I did this time when Frank is floating amiss through outer space with a disconnected oxygen tube ; I've never before felt such panic watching vital signs slowly flatline on monitor screens ; I've never before registered that HAL-9000 being the most "human" entity was not a flaw, but clearly by design. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY hasn't changed one bit : only I have. And as my personal canon grows, so does my sample size with which to compare and contrast, and inherently it becomes more difficult for a film to leave a lasting impression on me. Surface-level niceties are great in-the-moment, but films that offer something more are the ones that tend to withstand the test of time. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is such a film—one that provokes thought through its deliberately open-ended structure ; one that shows instead of tells (not a single spoken word in the first and final 20-some minutes) ; and ultimately one that asks its audience to put in a little work and meet it halfway (which, admittedly, was something I didn't care to do when I was eighteen). To parrot The Beatles: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Sounds silly, but the sentiment is true : what you get out of 2001 will largely hinge on what you're willing to put into it. As my love for cinema-as-a-whole has grown, so has my love for this film in the specific. I don't believe that's merely a coincidence.

Tony liked these reviews