2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey ★★★★★

One of the greatest films ever, in no small part because it's barely there as a narrative film... which only accentuates its gargantuan cosmic achievment. The emphasis is not on plot or character, but on movement, duration and space, which is why the length is so essential - it's not bloated, it's rhythmic. By turns transportive and hypnotic in a way that few films are—the most recent example would probably be the first hour of Under the Skin—and completely unmatched in terms of pure awe. (And unlike Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it completely nails the closing lightshow, which also marks the point at which it completely enters the avant-garde.) Hard to pick a favorite moment or image, as its entirety is so indelible, with even less instantly iconic shots (like Dave jogging along the circular track, with all its numerous suggestions/implications—human endeavor and its pointless circularity; rebellion against the inevitable; the illusion of control; movement by cosmic forces; etc.) speaking volumes. But the bone-to-spaceship cut will always be the greatest, because it not only demonstrates the unique power of montage, but also crucially elides centuries of human endeavor. Another thing that struck me on this viewing is the emphasis on tedium, for lack of a better word. After all, this is a film in which, in what is likely its most "exciting" scene (HAL's death), has Dave unscrew and eject the various memory cards one by one; and there are a lot of them. For a brief moment, I even thought of Delphine Seyrig peeling potatoes in Jeanne Dielman. It's kind of fitting, really, because these two films alone already cover a huge swath of cinema.

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