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Note: The nine-section tone poem, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," by the great composer, Richard Strauss, only extends to the 32:10 point of this video. The first section, "Sunrise," is the main theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey." My hope is that our readers will become familiar with the composer, Gustavo Dudamel, who is the <wink, wink> "inspiration" for the TV series, "Mozart in the Jungle."
Believe it or not, the only time I'd seen "2001: A Space Odyssey" was when it was released in 1968 (I was six-years old, and quite honestly, I remember being bored) - it was about time I watched it again. The only thing I remembered from the movie - which was wildly promoted and marketed at the time - was an usher in the theater, walking around and hawking programs before the movie started, saying "2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001: A Space Odyssey." Isn't it amazing what trivial memories get implanted in the minds of children? And isn't it upsetting what important things children don't remember? There is a very real possibility I attended the world premiere, on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown, but at this point, there's no way for me to ever know. As I watch it (I'm still watching it as I begin this post), I'm astonished at how much it reminds me of "Solaris," the film by Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky, who is perhaps the greatest director you've never heard of - he is a legend in his native country, and was heavily influenced by Ingmar Bergman, who said of Tarkovsky: "Tarkovsky for me is the greatest (director), the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream." And you can rest assured, Tarkovsky most likely said something similar about Bergman. Anyway, if you love the cinema, and you're not familiar with Tarkovsky, you'd be doing very well to put him next on your list. So, which came first? "2001" was either a great pioneering masterpiece, or a rip-off of "Solaris" - which was it? It was a great pioneering masterpiece: "Solaris" came out four-years later, in 1972. I've always loved Stanley Kubrick ("Dr. Strangelove," "A Clockwork Orange"), and thought him most likely a genius, and "2001" only serves to reinforce that supposition. *One* Academy Award for "2001?" For Best Visual Effects? Not even nominated for Best Picture? No win for Best Director? Are you kidding me? This is the same Academy that nominated the ridiculous "Dr. Dolittle" for Best Picture just one year before, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised: This only serves to bolster my belief that mediocrity is rampant in humanity, even at the highest positions of influence and power. Science Fiction and Horror are two genres of movie making that have always been overlooked, but this goes much deeper than that. Just the beginning of the movie, with the screen entirely dark, and an "overture" of sorts playing in the background for nearly three full minutes, exudes self-confidence on the part of Kubrick - I'm not convinced it worked entirely, but it most certainly set the tone for the epic nature of the film, as well as preparing the viewer for the bleak darkness of space. The scene when the B Pod is preparing and performing EVA, the use of deep human breathing as the only sound is incredibly effective - it conjures up primal fears in the viewer. What could be more frightening than not being able to breathe? Out of all the basic human needs (with the possibility of "shelter" during, for example, a tornado), denial of oxygen is the one thing that kills most quickly. And given that we're in space, that possibility is always in the background. This was pure Kubrick, and it was pure brilliance - what could have been a dull, torpid scene to watch invoked a sense of dread, and Kubrick thought of employing this technique out of thin air. As I write this paragraph, I've now finished the movie - I clearly saw the post-Saturn psychedelic scene within the past ten years or so, probably on YouTube, but that's about the only thing I remembered about the movie. It's a masterpiece, while at the same time being both dated in parts, and fresh as a daisy in other parts.