Forty years ago.

The Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in theaters in 1968. I was 14. I saw it at a Cinerama, a type of theatre that is hard to describe today. (Even though 2001 wasn’t filmed in “true” Cinerama, but actually 70mm “Super Panavision.”) It was the largest movie screen I’ve ever seen, in an incredibly wide proportion. I will never forget the Discovery spacecraft’s languid journey from one end of that screen to the other. I saw 2001 seven times at that theater. Twice in one day.

The first time, I received a small pamphlet in the theater lobby, detailing how a man could survive up to two minutes in a vacuum. Evidently that scene was disputed or disbelieved, and required a paper handout. The rest of the film, of course, was the subject of considerable discussion.

One of my favorite quotes from Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane is this: “I like things I don’t understand.” Sometimes I forget that the artistic experience is not all about saying things and making things clear. That’s the wonderful thing about art. The sculpture people get very snooty about this, but they’re right: “It’s not the art that’s on trial here, you are.”

2001 is a wonderful film. It was meant to be seen not just at the theater, but in Cinerama. I watched it yesterday in Blu-Ray, which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to recreating my theater experience. Forty years old, and this science-fiction film is not dated. (Only the names of some of the corporations have changed.) Still beautiful. I kept thinking, “That’s from some other movie,” but I was wrong. 2001 came first. Everybody stole from 2001.

It’s a story of wonder and awe. It’s a fairy tale journey. It’s a meticulous and amazing film to watch. It’s not like any other movie ever made. If that doesn’t recommend 2001 to you, I can’t think of any other way.


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