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Saturday, July 14, 2018

'2001: A Space Odyssey' at 50

A new print of, and a new book about, an old favorite

I'm in the main auditorium at the AFI Silver in suburban Maryland when the curtains close on the big screen while the lights dim, but don't extinguish entirely. A warbling, haunting tune burbles out of the speakers: The overture for 2001: A Space Odyssey serves as both a warning to those still milling about outside the theater and a tone-setting piece of music, an unsettling jingle that signals scope of the picture we're about to see.

The curtains open, revealing the screen. We enter darkness until the projector lets there be light, the volume of the music swelling as "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" booms forth. Images begin to unspool. Seen from space, the sun rises above the Earth, our home in turn rising in front of barely visible moon dominating the field. MGM brings us this vision from Stanley Kubrick, we are informed: 2001: A Space Odyssey. An epic opening for an epoch-spanning film: from the dawn of man to the dawn of the star child, this tale of human advancement nudged along by black boxes from outer space endures as a monument to monumental filmmaking not because it's asking big questions or positing big answers, but because it just looks so damn good on the big screen.

And the big screen really is the only acceptable way to see this film. Even the best home theater cannot compare to seeing 2001 in a theater, with a professional sound system and a sparkling new 70mm print. The vistas upon which early man roams are enormous, brutal expanses; they presage the pitiless vacuum of space our astronaut heroes Dave (Keir Dullea) and Frank (Gary Lockwood) will be confronted with later. The sheer scale of the ships moving through that airless, black void gives you a sense that they are, truly, dancing to Johan Strauss's "Blue Danube Waltz."



Anonymous said...

I've seen 2001 numerous times...never really thought it was that great--I liked the sequel much better...

Anonymous said...

I saw it in the theater when it first came out. It was unlike anything before it.