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2001 Forty Years On

Hard to believe today marks forty years since the debut of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I saw it at the old Loew’s State Theater on Washington Ave. in St. Louis, my home town. I vividly remember that gorgeous lobby, long marble stairs, and being taken to my seat by an usher — they had ushers in movie theaters in those days — who was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. So taken was I with my fleeting glimpse of her that it took a while to compose myself, but fortunately the long introductory scene of 2001 pre-Monolith allowed me time to get my head re-oriented toward the early humanoids. By the time the Pan American shuttle was closing on the space station, I was fixated on the Clarke/Kubrick future, awash in visuals that haunt me to this day. I still think the ending was needlessly minimalist, but what an experience!

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  • Ron S April 2, 2008, 14:15

    From the perspective of a pre-teen, I remember walking out of the theater very confused. I quite enjoyed most of the movie, but then I liked anything about space back then. The first scene and especially the last scenes went right over my head. I only came to understand them better later on. The main impression I got at the time was ‘we could really go into outer space’, as opposed to the far-out fiction of the original Star Trek series that was fresh in my young mind.

  • Ted April 2, 2008, 15:46

    Saw 2001 (or major parts of it) for the first time when I was 5, on TV. It had a profound psychological impact on me, and as a result holds an almost (ironically) religious significance for me. Most incredible film of all time.

  • justcorbly April 2, 2008, 18:00

    Saw it at a nice theater on Connecticut Avenue. I sat about ten rows back from the screen, while three teenage guys sat in the first row. I remember hearing frequent “Ooooohs” coming from their direction,

    I agree the film was a bit on the minimalist side. Apparently, Kubrick at one point had intended to include some narration. A few sparse words might have helped.

    That said, the opening seen with the proto-humans is one of the most moving pieces of cinema I’ve ever viewed.

    All in all, one of the few films that embraces humanity’s potential.

  • Administrator April 2, 2008, 19:42

    justcorbly is right, as I recall. In fact, I believe there was an idea of having some scientific dialog at the beginning of the film about the issues involved, dialog that had to be dropped for various reasons. I attribute a good deal of the mystical (and what I call ‘minimalist’) nature of the film to Kubrick, but of course, the film also makes the point that great cinema is invariably synergistic. The outcome is more than either Clarke or Kubrick alone could have envisioned.

  • dad2059 April 3, 2008, 7:50

    I saw the movie on television during the mid-1970s when I was already a teenager, plus I had previously read the novel. The concepts were easy for me to grasp, no surprises.

    I was kind of disappointed in the movie when Discovery went to Jupiter instead of Saturn like the novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

    ACC cleaned that up in his later Odyssey works, but the original will always stick in my mind first.

  • george scaglione April 3, 2008, 8:45

    ron i was i think 18 or so when i first saw 2001 reacted to it much as you descibe,only to understand it better several years later. respectfully your friend george

  • george scaglione April 3, 2008, 8:50

    paul,way back then i’ll bet it would have helped me quite a bit to have had some background filled in before the film began! almost sorry they cut that out.didn’t get a good idea about 2001 until i guess years later. thank you very much george

  • ljk April 3, 2008, 9:25

    Justcorbly said:

    “I agree the film was a bit on the minimalist side. Apparently,
    Kubrick at one point had intended to include some narration.
    A few sparse words might have helped.”

    Yes, he was going to have a group of scientists talk about
    alien life at the beginning of the film but dropped the idea.

    Though I am glad he did not start 2001 that way, I was
    wondering if those interviews still exist somewhere?

    Kubrick deliberately did not explain everything about 2001
    to the audience, unlike in most other SF films such as The
    Matrix where the main character literally sat down to explain
    everything about the film to the audience. Kubrick also said
    this:

    “How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had
    written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘The lady is smiling because
    she is hiding a secret from her lover.’ This would shackle the
    viewer to reality, and I don’t want this to happen to 2001.”

    That is what makes 2001 stand apart from most other SF films,
    including the sequel 2010, that he did not explain everything
    about the plot; that – My God, it’s full of enigmas – he left some
    things for the viewer to figure out/imagine for themselves.

    “They are the areas I prefer not to discuss, because they are
    highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this
    sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the
    film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the
    viewer, if it stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological
    and religious yearnings and impulses, then it has succeeded.”

    – Stanley Kubrick, when asked about the meaning of 2001

  • ljk April 3, 2008, 14:20

    David S. F. Portree has a few things to say about the 2001
    spaceship Discovery here:

    http://altairvi.blogspot.com/2008/04/discovery.html

  • forrest noble April 4, 2008, 0:02

    Saw that movie in 68 when I showed it in a theater as a projectionist. I thought it was pretty wild. Still think it had wonderful special effect for the time. The mysticism aspect of it I could have done without. Maybe I would’ve preferred a little different ending, but all in all I thought it was great. As a projectionist I probably saw it 50 times or so.

    your friend forrest

  • Adam April 4, 2008, 4:14

    Hi Larry

    David Hardy has some pictures online of what “Discovery” in the novel looked like… http://www.solarvoyager.com/dhardy.asp

    …I always wanted the movie “Discovery” to go to Saturn, but apparently the SFX guys couldn’t get it looking the way they wanted.

  • george scaglione April 4, 2008, 7:54

    forrest,yes it was a good movie,pretty much like it as is although i took a while to get the point!have my own copy on dvd today. thanks your friend george

  • ljk April 4, 2008, 8:13

    But Douglas Trumbull got Saturn right for Silent Running in 1971:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Running

  • Dave Weeden April 4, 2008, 11:03

    I first saw it when it came out. I’d have been six, I think. I don’t think I really understood why the astronauts were so different to ‘Star Trek’ and even now, I don’t really understand the plot. And, really, I still think the ending is pretty silly. But the music and the images are fantastic. I also learned a lot about Newtonian mechanics – when Frank just keeps on going and going when he’s knocked away from ‘Discovery’ for instance. Kubrick sticks doggedly to Newton’s Third Law.

    I can’t recommend enough Michael Berube’s two blog posts on 2001. Open the pod bay doors and Do you read me, HAL?.

  • philw1776 April 4, 2008, 17:02

    April 1968, I rganized a field trip to 2001 in Cinemascope in Boston for the engineers at Raytheon, my 1st outa college job. The next month I was in the waiting room for my daughter’s birth reading LIFE magazine’s Tutankammen issue with 2001 featured inside. Vivid memories.

  • ljk April 14, 2008, 12:23

    Cue the theme from 2001 for this:

    http://www.universetoday.com/2008/04/14/new-earthrise-and-earthset-movies-from-kaguya/

    And did Kubrick copy scenes from 2001 from a 1957 Soviet film
    titled Road to the Stars:

    http://www.astronautix.com/articles/roastars.htm

  • Al Jackson May 2, 2008, 4:13

    We did get this issue out in April , tho late, it is a tribute to
    Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the 40th anniversary of the film 2001:

    http://www.aiaa-houston.org/