Tuesday, April 02, 2013

An Artistic Treat

As was usually the case when I was growing up, "2001:A Space Odyssey" did not come to my central Arkansas hometown when it made its theatrical debut 45 years ago today.

In fact, I'm not precisely sure when I saw it for the first time. I am fairly certain that it had been out for quite some time when I saw it, but when I did see it, I saw it on a big screen, not on a TV screen.

And I give all the credit for that to my father.

He taught religion and philosophy at a small liberal arts college when I was a child, and he was on the committee that selected films to be shown in a series on campus one year. As a member of that committee, he lobbied for "2001" to be one of the movies on the schedule, and, apparently, he was persuasive because it was included.

The night that it was slated to be shown, he took the whole family — my mother, my younger brother and me — to the campus to see it.

I was impressed with it.

I wasn't old enough to understand some of the aspects of the story, but I remembered the name of Stanley Kubrick, whose directorial career may have hit its peak with "2001."

Perhaps not, though.

Three years later, he made "A Clockwork Orange" and followed that with "Barry Lyndon" a few years later. He made "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket" in the 1980s.

Clearly, he had more to say as a director after 1968.

He had a lot to say in "2001," for that matter.

Of course, that doesn't take into consideration movies he made before "2001" — like "Lolita" and "Dr. Strangelove."

But never had Kubrick been so free to experiment with special effects — and the work he did in "2001" was groundbreaking. Cutting–edge stuff.

There are things in "2001" that probably could not be duplicated today, one of which was the remarkable development of an inanimate character, the manmade HAL 9000 computer. The American Film Institute ranked HAL 13th among movie villains, ahead of all other non–humans (like the shark in "Jaws").

I've never been a fan of science fiction movies, but even I knew Kubrick had redefined the genre. Sci–fi flicks that were made before "2001" were largely about monsters and alluring women, "2001" was more mentally stimulating.

A decade later, movies like "Star Wars" took sci–fi special effects in new and not always productive directions. But the effects in "2001" contributed mightily to the effectiveness of the story.

"2001" was an artistic treat.