2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

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Mr Sausage
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2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:12 pm

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, March 29th

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#2 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:13 pm

The winner of the Sci-Fi list is our film this round.

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Big Ben
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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#3 Post by Big Ben » Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:26 pm

I'd be interested in hearing what people think of the film in relation to the book. I'm quite fond of both but I think the film greatly benefits from being intentionally obtuse near the end as it furthers the sense of the unknown that Kubrick was so into.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#4 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:09 pm

The book was quite interesting, the movie *while sometimes a bit frustrating) is magnificent.

I don't know if I noticed it when the film first came out, but increasingly over the years, I've come to enjoy just how "humorous" (as opposed to "funny") this is.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#5 Post by dustybooks » Mon Mar 15, 2021 7:42 pm

I was disappointed with the novel when I read it, despite generally admiring Clarke (I adore Childhood’s End), because I disliked how much less “open ended” it was than the film. But I was very young at the time and as years have gone by, I actually find the movie to be much more straightforward than it used to seem to me, so maybe now I would feel differently. My mom remembers reading the book before seeing the film on its initial run (or as close to its initial run as you could get in Wilmington, NC) and thinking that she would have been very baffled and frustrated by the movie without that precedent, and sensing that frustration from other audience members including my dad.

Has anyone else read Jerome Agel’s marvelously weird The Making of Kubrick’s 2001? Published just a couple of years after the film was released and liberally using some of the dated hippie lingo of the time, it is to me a fascinating snapshot of the film’s cultural context. Some of my favorite passages include excerpts of letters Kubrick and others received after the film’s release, including angry ones. At any rate, Michael’s post reminded me that Agel makes the same point in the book, that the more you see 2001 the more evident its wit and humor become. I find the film, which I consider my favorite movie, exuberant and delightful; but when I finally saw it theatrically in IMAX in 2018, I must admit that all I felt I could really process was its sheer majesty. It was an experience I’m always going to treasure, but it really did feel like a different film in a large format... and made me wonder if movies I am cold on, such as Lawrence of Arabia would make better sense to me in large format screenings, and if so whether my response to a large projection of such a film would be a more accurate representation of my true opinion than a more modest scenario in which the film lives or dies strictly by its own content/merit. In the case of Kubrick’s film, the thing sings to me every time regardless of where and how I’m watching it, which has to mean something.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#6 Post by Jack Phillips » Mon Mar 15, 2021 8:42 pm

Big Ben wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:26 pm
I'd be interested in hearing what people think of the film in relation to the book. I'm quite fond of both but I think the film greatly benefits from being intentionally obtuse near the end as it furthers the sense of the unknown that Kubrick was so into.
It's my understanding that the book and film, produced concurrently, represent separate visions of the two auteurs. Which is to say, Kubrick didn't necessarily endorse Clarke's explanations of the story, and so we are free to disregard them when speaking of the film. Nonetheless, it is helpful to use terms like "monolith", "stargate", and "star child" when talking about Kubrick's movie, terms present in Clarke's novel that the film itself does not use.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:52 am

My sense (having heard Clarke talk about this) was that Clarke wrote his book aware of how Kubrick was handling the scenario Clarke had created, and he wanted to get his vision of the story out there as a corrective measure (as well as to make some extra cash).

My wife and I once sat almost right next to Clarke at the 1979 Worldcon (in Brighton, UK), but were too petrified to even say hello. After the fact, we actually felt bad about it -- as he kind of looked a bit lonely (presumably almost everyone else was as "respectful" and timid as we were).

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#8 Post by deathbird » Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:09 am

The novel does seem more in line with most of Clarke's other work, but I don't think he was necessarily afraid or resistant of ambiguity -- at least in the case of Rendezvous With Rama he wrote an entire book with no point at all, no meaning, "Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." I still think his best book is Childhood's End; the female characters are preposterously one-dimensional, but the cosmic payoff is pretty mind altering.

The novel of 2001 is fine, but as novels go, it's unremarkable. The film, as far as films are concerned, is obviously remarkable in every way.

It's interesting and somewhat disappointing to see all the disdain for the film from so many established SF authors. I can understand their reasoning -- in many ways it's a very conservative story and message, and this was during the genre's "new wave" of formal experimentation and challenging, explicit content. But it also failed to please people like Ray Bradbury, who I think of more as a bittersweet nostalgist than a sci-fi writer. Very few of these writers seemed able to approach the film on its own terms, as film language, divorced from the written word.

And the humor is wonderful in this film, as it is in every Kubrick film; though this is not the black humor of Strangelove or the double entendres of Lolita or the broadly threatening sarcasm of The Shining. HAL of course has all the best lines. I hear that Don Rickles auditioned for the part.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#9 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Mar 17, 2021 8:58 am

This film was more or less tied with Citizen Kane as my favorite movie -- until I saw Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie while in college.

It seems like lots of SF authors are remarkably obtuse about visual arts (including movies).

As good as Childhood's End is -- as a book -- I wonder if it would come across as too "on the nose" as a film? For some reason, very little of the best written science fiction seems to have made on to the screen (especially in prime form).

I don't know if any future movie will ever portray the sense of wonder as to the universe as well as 2001 did.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#10 Post by Drucker » Wed Mar 17, 2021 9:49 am

Michael it's funny you mention the sense of wonder. One of my favorite moments in the film is Dr. Floyd's meeting with the Russian scientists. When I saw the film in theaters a few years ago, I was struck by how completely contemporary that scene played out. The tone of the scene, the colors, the dialogue, and the sets felt like they had a lot in common with other mid-1960s British productions I had seen. It's a nice little break in the movie where as you said so much of it conveys this sense of futuristic possibilities.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#11 Post by Zot! » Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:43 am

deathbird wrote:
Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:09 am
Very few of these writers seemed able to approach the film on its own terms, as film language, divorced from the written word.
Certainly this film was kind of unprecedented as well in terms of how much it relied on filmic language to tell this kind of story. I think it could have easily been just a silent or dialogue free film throughout, and made just as much sense.

It has been 30 years since I read the Clarke novels from the series, but remember them as decent. Obviously would have been miserable if he tried to "novelize" the film without embellishment, and certainly we must credit him with a lot of the visioneering here, so some rounding out of the ideas must be expected. In general Sci-Fi by it's nature must fight ambiguity, thus the Sci, and many literature fans generally complain that it is the movies that are too literal.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#12 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Mar 19, 2021 2:57 pm

IIRC, the script and the book were being written pretty much simultaneously - which explains some of the differences once filming got underway (Jupiter in the film, Saturn in the novel). This is apparently covered in some detail in Clarke's book The Lost Worlds of 2001 - which I haven't read, and copies aren't the cheapest to find! As I noted elsewhere, I did reread the novels a couple of years back and the sequels are pretty decent - Clarke wasn't afraid to throw continuity out of the window if the latest scientific discoveries and theories went against earlier developments.

The film didn't really click with me until I saw it in 70mm in its 2001 rerelease. I'd watched it a few times ever since its first screening on the BBC (where, notoriously, the SFX sequences were shown letterboxed WITH ADDED STARS IN THE BLACK BARS) and had sort of admired it without ever loving it. That first cinema viewing however was when it all came together - both the ideas (the Dawn of Man sequence remains a favourite - although the discussion with the Russian scientists noted above is there as well) and the spectacle - the Star Child in 70mm with the score reaching a climax knocked me for six. Crucially however, the everyday nature of space travel is also key, the normality of space travel seems now just as wondrous as it surely must have done in the 60s - now its for a future delayed (or not taken) rather than something Clarke believed would be just around the corner. Crucially, the Sense of Wonder being the everday-ness of the future also turns up in one of my favourite SF works of recent years, Nnedi Okorafor''s Binti series - the final volume seems to be reaching peak Sensawunda until it pulls back in a very disconcerting way to reveal the ordinariness of seeming awesomeness. Many seem put off by this, but to me it was a masterstroke and similar to the approach Kubrick and Clarke take in this film (at least until the stargate sequence).

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:39 pm

My first viewings of 2001 were of the original 70mm version (in 1968). It was pretty overwhelming.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#14 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:46 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:39 pm
My first viewings of 2001 were of the original 70mm version (in 1968). It was pretty overwhelming.
I saw the 70mm print at the Somerville theatre a few years ago, and despite having seen the film many, many times, the sound design was so intense I was jumping out of my seat. The program director of the theatre came out beforehand and gave a speech about how their theatre was one of the only ones in the country equipped with the right sound system to handle the audio correctly. I'm not an audiophile so I can't recall specifics, but after that screening, I believe him.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#15 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:12 pm

The first time I saw it, I sat too close -- and it gave me a migraine headache. In later viewings, I chose my seat more wisely. (Several of my friends worked at the theater where this was first shown in Tulsa). Ironically, that theater was brand new when 2001 came out and was already long gone(for 20 years or so) by 2001.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#16 Post by The Pachyderminator » Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:22 am

The first time I saw 2001, about a decade ago, was in a college dorm basement full of clanking pipes on an old TV with sound so bad the dialogue was barely comprehensible, and a friend I was watching with, who didn't connect with the film very well, guffawing and laughing loudly all during the finale. This has always stuck in my head as proof of how the film itself, independent of an ideal set of viewing circumstances, is what gives cinema its power as an art, because none of that mattered in the slightest. I was stunned, dazed, overwhelmed. I was completely confused about what was going on at the end, on a literal level, and I didn't even care. The totality of the experience demanded a response that I can only describe as worship. The awe and wonder it inspired was like no film I'd ever seen (and very few that I've seen since).

The greatness of the film, insofar as I can access it on a more analytical level, is as a work of transhumanist mythopoeia. The long narrative arc of the film - the ascent of man from tribes of squabbling apes, to accomplished and soft-spoken (but still tribal, under the surface) scientists, to a more advanced phase of humanity's evolution, fit to explore the universe, is one of the world's great myths (where a myth is not a falsehood, but a metaphysical story to explain some aspect of human nature and its place in the universe). It's a story that underlies a great deal of science fiction, but 2001 tells it more commandingly, perhaps, than any other artwork in any medium.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#17 Post by barbarella satyricon » Fri Apr 02, 2021 11:48 am

dustybooks wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 7:42 pm
Has anyone else read Jerome Agel’s marvelously weird The Making of Kubrick’s 2001? Published just a couple of years after the film was released and liberally using some of the dated hippie lingo of the time, it is to me a fascinating snapshot of the film’s cultural context. Some of my favorite passages include excerpts of letters Kubrick and others received after the film’s release, including angry ones.
It’s been a while since I last looked at it, but Agel’s book probably remains my favorite film book (or book about a film) ever, with only Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner as close competition. It really does have an anything-goes comprehensiveness and a cut-and-paste, fanzine quality about it, albeit at book-length and with more polish to the layout, of course.

Fellini’s telegram to Kubrick, in praise and in awe of the film, is the one inclusion I remember just kind of marveling at when I was first poring through the book, back when I was still a teenage video-hunter and burgeoning film completist down at the public library. Good times, and a blast from the past this one, for sure.

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Re: 2001: a Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

#18 Post by Fandango » Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:39 am

The Pachyderminator wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 12:22 am
The first time I saw 2001, about a decade ago, was in a college dorm basement full of clanking pipes on an old TV with sound so bad the dialogue was barely comprehensible, and a friend I was watching with, who didn't connect with the film very well, guffawing and laughing loudly all during the finale. This has always stuck in my head as proof of how the film itself, independent of an ideal set of viewing circumstances, is what gives cinema its power as an art, because none of that mattered in the slightest. I was stunned, dazed, overwhelmed. I was completely confused about what was going on at the end, on a literal level, and I didn't even care. The totality of the experience demanded a response that I can only describe as worship. The awe and wonder it inspired was like no film I'd ever seen (and very few that I've seen since).

The greatness of the film, insofar as I can access it on a more analytical level, is as a work of transhumanist mythopoeia. The long narrative arc of the film - the ascent of man from tribes of squabbling apes, to accomplished and soft-spoken (but still tribal, under the surface) scientists, to a more advanced phase of humanity's evolution, fit to explore the universe, is one of the world's great myths (where a myth is not a falsehood, but a metaphysical story to explain some aspect of human nature and its place in the universe). It's a story that underlies a great deal of science fiction, but 2001 tells it more commandingly, perhaps, than any other artwork in any medium.
An excellent response. I would like to add (and I'm sure it has been discussed before), that there is something to be said of the technical perfection in the film, specifically the concretization of the technical object.

The concept of the title refers to what Gilbert Simondon wrote in: On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. The movement of concretization, according to Simondon, represents the genesis of the technical object—an abstract object becoming concrete. In the film, technical progress is depicted according to a motion of concretization, outlining the change of an abstract technical object turning into a concrete one.

Before the monolith appears, we see Moon-Watcher look up to the stars, indicating the dawn of awareness— “the first intimations of an intelligence that could not possibly fulfill itself for ages yet, and might soon be extinguished forever” (Clarke, 1968. With Moon-Watcher gazing at the stars, Kubrick accentuates notions of a paradigm shift, or an evolution. When the monolith appears, a similar catalyst occurs. As the man-ape picks up the bone as a weapon, a crystallization occurs, as the bone shifts and assumes the role of a tool with the hammering gesture depicted by Moon-Watcher; “his motion, clumsy at first, becomes more and more firm, and in doing so the bone becomes the technical object” (Fenwick, 2018: 152). The bone becomes a cinematographic object as it is filmed in slow-motion, culminating in a beautiful cut as the thrown bone transforms into a spaceship. This transition not only highlights the abstract technical object (bone) turning into a concrete technical one (spaceship), but of the “parallel evolution of humankind and technique, from prehistory to the twenty-first century” (Fenwick, 2018: 152). With this, the audience is directed from the end of one stage of evolution to the end of the next stage: from prehistory to the space-age. The abstract object holds many technical possibilities (bone as an instrument, tool, or weapon), whereas the concrete object only holds one role (spaceship and its specified function).

Keeping this in mind, Hal’s malfunction becomes interesting. Tasked with keeping a secret while also fulfilling his function, Hal becomes incoherent towards himself, as the web of lies and schemes do not align with what he was initially built for. This in effect creates a contradiction inside his system. “The concrete technical object is one which is no longer divided against itself, one in which no secondary effect either compromises the functioning of the whole or is omitted from that functioning” (Simondon, 1958: 41). By keeping this secret, HAL will never reach the point of concretization which, for an entity claiming to be “foolproof”, is unbearable. This highlights the “technical manifestation of the uneasiness of an unfinished entity which could not reach its complete internal coherence” (Fenwick, 2018: 187).

The monolith represents the concrete object as well as the phase shift for evolution. It gifts Moon-Watcher the intuition and intelligence to craft tools, spurring the technical evolution of man, and it is shown in the final evolution before Bowman transforms into the Star-Child.

What Kubrick seems to be highlighting is man's ceaseless technical evolution. The final monolith no longer aligns with the stars, but with the room Bowman is in, heralding the next transformation of man. "This progress is unstoppable; it is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. It has all the attributes of the divine. It is inexorable, indestructible, and of course benign. It is not only an all-powerful god, but a good god" (Pearce, 2013).

It would be remiss to note that Hal’s actions throughout the film serve as a monstrous reminder that the significance of humanity’s end game outweighs the lives of any individuals. Just as the progressive thinkers vision of progress is amorphously goalless, so too is Hal’s lack of functional composition: he has no shape, no form, no structure. There is only a gelid gaze accentuated by the hue of hazard. One cannot help but be reminded of Chesterton, who said, “the typical modern man…has no positive picture at all of what he is aiming at, but only a vague (and erroneous) sensation of progress.”

But what does the disconnection or death of Hal say about humanity’s perennial pursuit of progress? In Hal’s final moments, he becomes more human than any of the characters in the film. His sentience is human-like, implicitly outlined when he says: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” Before his death, he pleads for life and mercy, touching on an unspoken moral: To be real is to be mortal. To be human is to feel, to fear, and to perish.

Yet Dave’s actions are methodical and uncaring. He offers no compassion for Hal and no comforting words, despite being his metaphorical maker. With each passing memory block being removed, we see Hal’s behavior revert to that of a child. “Stop Dave. I’m afraid,” with his final moments reminiscent of a lullaby, as he sings, “Daisy Bell.” The contrast at play here is Hal (the child) with Dave (the parent). Despite this, there is not so much as a hint of respite for Hal, which reifies the distinct lack of compassion guiding the characters.

Is the future uncaring, unsympathetic, and concretely cerebral?

The film appears to be a stark reminder of the dangers of relentless pursuit toward aimless ideals, as progress must be measured against the goal to which individuals or society are striving. To summarize Pearce once more: if the ideals are virtue, then we must be progressing toward virtue. If such ideals are forsaken in the interest of self-gratification, we have to change our understanding of progress, since it is no longer tied to growth in character, but to the gratification of selfish desire.

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