2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

The whole “unrestored” thing is interesting, but I don’t quite buy the idea that these new 70mm prints are exactly like the ones you would have seen in 1968 - they’re more like older, aged prints that happen to have less wear and tear than expected.* What it does do, however, is showcase the insane amount of pre-digital nuts-bolts-and-elbow-grease craft on display. Now that you can feel the fingerprints of the crew members at Kubrick’s command (you can even see some of the splices!), it sinks in that this was a film that was made, not something that arrived fully formed. And you realize just how brave its director would have to be to even think that it was possible.

Here’s what you have to understand. As methodical and unsentimental a filmmaker as he is, I think we’ve overemphasized Kubrick’s coldness. There’s a true awe and terror here towards the size of the universe, and the ways we little, vulnerable lifeforms deal with that leaves him intrigued, even bemused. (There’s more deliberate humor in this film than you remember.) Jacques Rivette once gave Kubrick the backhanded compliment that this film was great because it was “a machine [filming] other machines”, but the only reason Kubrick keeps his distance is because his eye is on a much, much bigger picture. He's after unanswerable questions, seeking out our origins and purpose, and he wants to share all the evidence that he can find.

He’s not HAL 9000, staring unblinkingly with an unfeeling eye as he weeds out anything that would jeopardize his mission. He’s Dave Bowman, willing to put aside the tools we use as crutches and plunge beyond the infinite. And he’s not the Monolith either, an incomprehensible, unearthly construction that treats us as its cosmic playthings. No, he’s the Star Child, looking back at us from a higher level with an inscrutable - but hopefully not unknowable - gaze.

*EDIT: A little while after I wrote this review someone who actually did see the movie back in '68 saw this print and wrote that it was exactly like the one he saw all those years ago. Shows you how little I know.

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