2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
I’ve had three “Holy Grail” movie goals for years, films that I’ve longed to see on a big screen with a big audience: Citizen Kane (which I saw back in April), Lawrence of Arabia, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Love it or hate it, you really should – if at all possible – try to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on as large a screen as possible. The AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center screened the film in 70MM last night and it was glorious. Last night marked the third (or maybe fourth) time I’d seen the film, but I’d never seen it like this before.
While I’m going to assume that most people reading this post have seen the film, and even though its spoiler statue-of-limitations ran out long ago, I won’t give away any essential plot points.
Although director Stanley Kubrick’s camera can’t help but limit the vastness of space, the screen practically invites you to step into an infinity so broad its limits literally can’t be comprehended. Combine this with Kubrick’s slow, leisurely pace throughout most of the film and you literally feel transported by its grandeur and beauty. Regardless of the size and quality of your home theater system, seeing 2001 on the big screen is literally a breathtaking experience.
While “The Blue Danube” surrounds you with exquisite elegance and wonder, the music of Ligeti almost makes you want to scream for it to stop. It’s been around for so long, I think we often take the beauty and raw power of the soundtrack for granted, but listening to it in a large theater, you can’t escape the brilliance of Kubrick’s musical choices.
I was glad the theater decided to include the intermission as per Kubrick’s original intent. What happens just before the intermission insists on reflection and meditation.
Again, if you’ve seen the film, you don’t need me to tell you what happens and if you haven’t, it would be criminal for me to do so. What I will discuss is what Keir Dullea had to say after the film in a conversation with Foster Hirsch.
Although Hirsch acknowledged that Dullea had seen the film many, many times, he still asked how watching it last night affected him. “It hits me all over again,” said Dullea, “as if I’d never thought the thought: what a genius Stanley Kubrick was.” Dullea continued to laud the infamous director, relating how Kubrick didn’t give his actors all that much direction. “You don’t have to do a lot of directing if you cast well. The best directors I’ve ever worked with create at atmosphere of safety.” Quite a contrast, Dullea said, compared to the dictatorial Otto Preminger, who directed the actor in Bunny Lake is Missing (1965).
In fact, Preminger can be thanked for Dullea getting the role of Dave Bowman. Dullea never auditioned for the part, but Kubrick called the actor after having screened his performances in David and Lisa (1962) and The Thin Red Line (1964), as well as several Bunny Lake outtakes Preminger sent to Kubrick.
Dullea said of Kubrick’s early film Paths of Glory (1957), “My jaw dropped in the first 60 seconds of that film.” On the relatively small output of Kubrick, Dullea said the director’s “preparation was extraordinary. It took him two or three years just to plan each film.”
Dullea was 32 when 2001 was released in 1968. Now at age 79, he still looks great and appears to have limitless energy. He’s just finished filming the first season of a new series for Hulu called The Path. Hirsch asked him how he felt, after nearly 60 years as an actor, for being remembered primarily as Dave Bowman. Dullea replied, “Thank you, Stanley.”