Tuesday January 12, 2010 00:01

Movie #0006 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Seventh or Eighth Viewing

Synopsis: A strange, ominous black structure is found on the moon; months later, an interstellar expedition is sent to Jupiter to investigate.

I love this movie. Absolutely, positively love it. Stanley Kubrick is without a doubt my favourite director of all time, and this is probably my favourite film of his — they’re all stunningly good, particularly the batch of films beginning with this one and ending with Eyes Wide Shut. It was really starting with 2001 that Kubrick became the obsessive perfectionist that we know and love; as great as Kubrick’s earlier films are (such as The Killing and Paths of Glory), there’s a refinement to his later films, a sense that every single shot has been meticulously framed and perfectly selected that I don’t think any other director ever has (or will) match.

There’s so much I love about this film, not the least of which is how beautiful it is to look at. Kubrick was a master of framing and shot composition (among other things), and he is definitely at his best here. Every shot is perfect; from the breathtaking vistas of outer space to the austere whiteness of the spaceship bound to Jupiter, to the claustrophobic interior of of the pods (“Open the pod bay door, Hal”). The special effects have aged remarkably well, with a few small exceptions that aren’t even worth mentioning — in fact, I’d argue that the special effects in this movie look better than the CGI-heavy films of the late ’90s and early aughts (with the Star Wars prequel trilogy being the worst offender in this category). I think it’s a real shame that this type of model-work has been almost entirely replaced by computer-generated imagery (and if you’re skeptical that there is still a place for traditional models, see Duncan Jones’ stunning Moon), but I’ll save that argument for another day.

Another area in which Kubrick is unparalleled is in his ability to match music with visuals, and again, he is at his finest here. His use of classical music during the outer space scenes is pretty much legendary at this point, and the eerie and unsettling music of Gyorgy Ligeti is used to absolute perfection. The use of silence in some scenes, or near silence (ie. just the sound of someone breathing) is just as striking, and just as perfect. I know I’m coming off like a gushing schoolgirl here, but what can I say, I love this film.

A common complaint about this movie is that it’s not exactly fast-paced. This is true, however the pace suits the film absolutely perfectly, and it is never, ever boring in the slightest. Not every film needs to move at the same pace, and in fact a faster pace would be doing this movie a disservice; the film’s pace sets a tone that is amazingly hypnotic and that really draws you in. Some of the later sequences, when Hal starts malfunctioning, are amazingly tense.

Another complaint is that the film doesn’t make much sense, particularly towards the end. This I take issue with — yes, the film is out there and a bit ambiguous in parts, but I like that about it. I like that it’s open to interpretation, and that it doesn’t spell everything out for you. I recently read the novel, which I think does clarify things a bit, but even without that I was perfectly happy with the way the film unfolded, and completely unperturbed at not having the answer to every single question that the movie poses.

Well, this is getting a bit long, so I think I’ll leave it at that. I could go on pretty much forever mentioning particular shots that I love or scenes that are great, but I’ll leave it at this: the fact that this film is so stunningly great, and yet I’m still not sure if it’s Kubrick’s best work just shows what an amazing, peerless director he was.

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