KLAATU YOU (5)
January 29, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | d. STANLEY KUBRICK | 1968
I was taken to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was 7 or 8 years old, by older kids who assured me it was “just like Star Trek”. I emerged from the theatre traumatized — by the water hole murder, by Poole’s murder, by the immense disorientation of the star gate. Since then I’ve seen the film dozens of times. Taking the piss of out this movie is effortless, and to meet it on any terms but its own — immersion, patience, spectacle — is to stomp on its fragile balloon. However:
The first words aren’t spoken until 25 minutes in. The last words are spoken 23 minutes before the end. In between are another 40 minutes of extended no-dialogue sequences.
The simplicity of the bone/satellite match cut.
The shorthand of The Blue Danube overlaying all the historicized elegance/vanity/end-date of Old Europe onto humanity’s future accomplishments. Also the sexy waltz crescendo onto the shuttle docking — it wouldn’t be Kubrick without dry vulgarity.
The Ligeti monolith soundtrack, at the water hole and on the moon (where the historic-moment action consists of the lunar team posing for a selfie).
Leonard Rossiter pressing Dr. Floyd on a point he seems reticent to discuss.
Floyd’s exquisite pre-briefing briefing, where none of the words matter, only the situation.
Sandwiches on the moon bus — the optimism! — carrying basically the same conversational weight as “deliberately buried”.
That tracking shot on the rotating Discovery as Poole jogs.
Poole and Bowman watching the BBC broadcast — silently, eating — as presentational, explicit, and Brechtian a bit of exposition as anything in Godard.
How HAL pleading for its life to the unspeaking, amplified-breathing, bug-helmeted astronaut flips the old sci-fi monster movie trope.
How the computer is the most emotionally complicated character, somehow accomplished without anthropomorphizing its behavior.
The blunt audacity of the plot, where the detailed action of the “technologically advanced human society” section matters no more than the ape-behavior set-up scenes in the Dawn of Man sequence.
How in the Discovery sequence we hear only the silence of space and the ambient sound of the ship.
The pietà of Poole in the arms of the pod, then the release and Poole drifting to nowhere in his yellow suit.
“I can feel my mind going.”
Dullea’s 1000 yard stare, as he floats in HAL’s memory center watching the automatic message kick on from mission control.
The stills of Bowman’s eyes — crazed as a dog strapped onto a roller coaster — in the star gate sequence.
The Louis XIV zoo, and the edits careening into overlapping time.
The simplicity of the Starchild.
Professional cruelster John Simon dismissed the film as “a shaggy God story”, which is a good line, except 2001 isn’t shaggy in the slightest. It’s as sleek and streamlined as an arrow, using cinema to tell a story not with words, but with spectacle and montage. At nearly 3 hours it could be on a plinth next to Brancusi’s Bird in Space.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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