2001: A Space Odyssey restored in 70mm

The science fiction festival hosted by the Cinerama was given a totally new print of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” directed by Stanley Kubrick in 70mm. 70mm film was popular between the 1940s and 1980s. It is not a large image compared to the more commonly used 35mm film. Instead, it is meant to produce more clarity and definition to the picture, and it was beautiful. The tiniest details came forth from the picture including tiny people in a spaceship landing on the moon and microexpressions on their faces.
The acting was interesting to say the least. Although the film was produced in the ‘70s, the ape suits in the first act looked blatantly fake, and it wasn’t difficult to discern the drawn background from the prop scenery. What did impress me was that they used real ape infants throughout the scenes and told some very excellent visual storytelling during the primitive territorial dispute.
During the second act where space travel was realized and man has colonized the moon, Kubrick gave some interesting insight into what the future might be, from voice recognition to video phone calls. Kubrick gives a lot of attention to physical detail, too. All his spacecraft have some explanation for dealing with weightlessness. If the vessel was large enough, centripetal force was used to simulate artificial gravity. In one of the shots, there was a cylindrical hallway in one of the spaceships where a stewardess used some “grip shoes” to walk upside down. Kubrick built a cylinder that rotated with the camera to produce the shot.
What I also appreciate about the movie is Kubrick’s attention to sound. He understood that audio effects are just as important as visual effects to the audience. When pitching the idea for “2001,” Kubrick wanted to make a science fiction movie that played out as epic story. Part of this epic feel was achieved with two very famous musical pieces. The first one is Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Thus Sprach Zarathustra,” which accompanies the famous shot of the sun rising behind earth’s silhouette. The second one was “The Blue Danube,” written by Johann Strauss II in the 19th century, during the third act.
While it wasn’t totally clear without context that the monoliths were responsible for the advancement of evolution, the monoliths’ presence was certainly ominous both visually and audibly. The way light was intentionally reflected upon the monolith in an odd manner made it difficult to tell dimensions. The audio that played when the monoliths were shone was composed by György Ligeti, who produced the idea of micropolyphony, which blended many similar melodies to produce a very tense atmosphere.
The movie was controversial at the time and, to this day, sparks confusion and rejection from certain audience members. The length and minimal dialogue of the film can be unappealing in this day and age of smart phones and ever-decreasing attention spans. Certain shots like a 15-minute hallucination and a surprise ending with a space baby fetus gives the movie a wild twist, but it still remains an impressive work of art.