Archive for December, 2010

Kubrick Log ~

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 by kubrickblog

# Howell: 21 cool things about 2001: A Space Odyssey –

# The Kubrick Site: 2001’s Post-Premiere Edits



Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 by kubrickblog

Stanley Kubrick’s monumental “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968; 11 p.m. Monday) was shot in Cinerama and billed as “The Ultimate Trip.” Indeed, few subsequent space movies have embraced its cool, inward-looking intelligence that keeps the film in a class by itself. Scripted by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, it combines mystery, action and awe-inspiring visuals with questions about the origins and limitations of man’s intelligence, the mental and physical effects of long-range space travel, the nature of progress and the colonization of space, and dehumanization in the computer age.

“2001” — The Monolith and the Message :: :: News & comment

What disturbed the audience even more, however, was that bedroom at the end of the film. Kubrick’s space explorer runs into another monolith beyond Jupiter and it takes him into a space warp.

Q. What’s a space warp?
A. A warp in space, and therefore in time, thanks to Einstein.

Q. Then when the pilot emerges into the objective world, where is he?
A. In a bedroom.


Yes, a magnificently decorated Louis XVI bedroom. What’s the bedroom doing out there beyond Jupiter? Nothing. It isn’t out there beyond Jupiter. It’s a bedroom.

The spacecraft lands in the bedroom, and Keir Dullea, the pilot, looks through the window and sees himself in a space suit standing outside. He gets out, becomes himself in the space suit standing outside, and sees himself seated at a table, eating. He becomes himself sitting at the table, eating, and notices himself, very elderly, dying in bed. He becomes himself dying in bed, and dies in bed.

Well, it’s not every space adventurer who dies in bed.

Now where did the bedroom come from? My intuition is that it came out of Kubrick’s imagination; that he understood the familiar bedroom would be the most alien, inexplicable, disturbing scene he could possibly end the film with. He was right. The bedroom is more otherworldly and eerie than any number of exploding stars, etc. Exploding stars we can understand. But a bedroom?

The bedroom also provides a suitable backdrop while Kubrick’s man grows older and dies. Why can’t it be just that – a backdrop? Poets put lovers under trees, and nobody asks where that tree came from. Why can’t Kubrick put his aging man in a bedroom? This is what literary critics might call a non-descriptive symbol – that is, the bedroom stands for a bedroom. Nothing else.

The film, in its most basic terms, is a parable about Man. It is what Kubrick wanted to say about Man as a race, an idea and an inhabitant of the universe.

More specifically, it is a film about man’s journey from the natural state of a tool-using state and then again into a higher order of natural state. It makes its statement almost completely in visual terms; and the little dialog in the center section of the film is hardly necessary, like verbal Muzak.

Kubrick begins when man was still an ape, thoroughly at home in the natural environment of Earth. He shows us becoming a toolmaker in order to control our natural environment, and he shows us finally using our tools to venture out into space. At the end, he shows man drawn beyond his tools so that we exist in the universe itself with the same natural ease we once enjoyed on Earth.

The opening sequence is brilliant. If it could be shown as an educational film, it would explain man’s development as a tool-using animal more clearly than any number of textbooks. Two tribes of apes scream at each other. They are frightened of the sounds in the night. A monolith appears. One tribe of apes gingerly feels it, running its hands down its perfectly smooth edges. And as the apes caress the monolith, something like a short circuit takes place in their minds.

A connection is made between their eyes, their minds, and their hands. Their attention is drawn beyond themselves and toward an object in the environment. They are given a “lesson” by the makers of the monolith – and they then discover that, they are able to pick up a club and use it as a tool (at first for killing, then, for more subtle ends).

Kubrick cuts from this most simple tool, a club, to a most complex one, a space ship. The prehistoric bone is thrown up into the air and becomes a shuttle rocket on its way to a space station. Could anything be clearer? Here are both extremes of man’s tool-using stage. Yet, when the men in the space station began to talk, 45 minutes into the film, the person behind me sighed: “At last, the story begins.” This was a person for whom a story could not exist apart from dialog and plot, and audiences made up of those people are going to find “2001” tough sledding.

So what then? Another monolith is found on the moon.

Like the first one, it provides a transcendent experience. By now, man is intelligent enough to realize that the monolith was planted by another intelligent race, and that is an awesome blow to man’s ego. So he sets out toward Jupiter because the monolith beams signals in that direction. And man takes along “Hal 9000,” a computer (or tool) so complex that it may, even surpass the human intelligence. The ultimate tool.

But Hal 9000, made by man in his own image and likeness, shares man’s ego and pride. What is finally necessary is the destruction of Hal – after he nearly destroys the mission – and that leaves one man, alone, at the outer edge of the Solar System to face the third monolith.

And here man undergoes a transformation as important as when he became a tool-user. He becomes a natural being again, having used his tools for hundreds of thousands of years to pull himself up by the bootstraps. Now he no longer needs them. He has transcended his own nature, as that original ape did, and now he is no longer a “man.”

Instead, having grown old and died, he is reborn as a child of the universe. As a solemn, wide-eyed infant who slowly looks over the stars and the Earth and then turns his eyes on the audience.

These last 20 seconds, as the child of man looks down on his ancestral parents, are the most important in the film. We in the audience are men, and here is the liberated, natural being, Kubrick believes we will someday become.

But when Kubrick’s space infant looked at the audience the other night, half of the audience was already on its feet in a hurry to get out. A good third of the audience must not have seen the space infant at all.

Man is a curious animal. He is uneasy in the face of great experiences, and if he is forced to experience something profound, he starts immediately to cheapen it, to bring it down to his own level. Thus after a great man is assassinated, lesser men immediately manufacture, buy and sell plastic statues and souvenir billfolds and lucky coins with the great man’s image on them.

The same process is taking place with “2001.” Two out of three people who see it will assure you it is too long, or too difficult, or (worst of all) merely science fiction, In fact, it is a beautiful parable about the nature of man. Perhaps it is the nature of man not to wish to know too much about his own nature.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 15, 2010 by kubrickblog

The Kubrick Series


Posted in Uncategorized on December 9, 2010 by kubrickblog

:::2001: A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick’s epic stands the test of time

Film Review: 2001:A Space Odyssey (4 stars)

It’s been said that the space programs of the 1960s unfolded as though someone had taken a decade out of the 21st century and plunked it down a hundred years earlier. For 10 giddy years there were regular launches into orbit, spacecraft rendezvous and docking, and manned flights to the moon and back.

Watching 2001: A Space Odyssey some 42 years after its premiere feels similarly anachronistic, as though the movie had been made using modern computers and production facilities, not mid-’60s technology. The special effects, from the hominids in the “dawn of man” scenes to the various spaceships and the trippy lien stargate, hold up to modern scrutiny without even the “not bad for its time” argument.

Much of this can be attributed to director/co-writer Stanley Kubrick, whose mania for perfection seems to have reached its apotheosis with this film. He first met with science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in April 1964 to discuss a project they called Journey Beyond the Stars. Clarke would write a novel about the discovery of alien intelligence; Kubrick would adapt it.

The film — suggested titles included UniverseTunnel to the StarsPlanetfall and eventually 2001 — started principal photography at the end of 1965, wrapped an astonishing 21 months later and ate up an additional, partially overlapping 21 months in post-production and special-effects work.

Much of this labour never made it to the screen. For instance, the iconic black monolith that appears at several crucial junctures in the film was originally constructed as a four-metre-tall slab of Plexiglas, which required a month to cool — slowly, so it wouldn’t shatter — and weeks of polishing. Kubrick hated it, so a black-painted wooden monolith took its place. It had to be repainted if so much as a fingerprint was seen on it.

A fascinating article in the special effects journal Cinefex (April 2001 edition, naturally) discusses some similar tales of cinematic insanity. For instance, Kubrick oversaw the creation of lactating ape-woman costumes for the film’s opening sequence, suckled by young chimpanzees in tiny ape-baby costumes — and then left the footage in the cutting room.

What remains on the screen, however, is an astonishing tale of human pre-history and its possible near future (the space stations and lunar settlements seem as far removed in 2010 as they did in 1968) as well as a metaphysical suggestion of its next evolutionary stage. We witness the first (and deadly) use of tools by early man; a startling discovery by lunar explorers; and a manned mission to Jupiter in which a computer turns homicidal.

It’s a slow-moving tale, which has earned it detractors. (My wife refuses to watch it a second time except as a cure for insomnia.) But the stately pace allows one to discover novelty in repeat viewings. The last time I saw it I noticed that the space station features a Howard Johnson’s with a lounge called the Earthlight Room; and realized that the personal in-flight entertainment screens on the station-bound shuttle, common on aircraft today, was actually a science-fiction element at the time.

The film’s title exists in the same realm as George Orwell’s 1984; as an idea rather than a date. 2001 remains a thought-provoking examination of our place in the cosmos, and will continue to fulfill this function until our calendar catches up with whatever far-flung future year from which it was plucked.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 by kubrickblog
NOW Magazine // Daily // Movies // Douglas Trumbull is still seeing the future
Douglas Trumbull is still seeing the future

Once upon a time, 42 years ago, Douglas Trumbull showed us what our future would be like.

Barely into his twenties, Trumbull was hired to design and execute the visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – imagining space shuttles, orbital stations, a manned mission to Jupiter and ultimately leaping into the wholly conceptual to take the audience through an alien star gate.

The result is one of the finest visual experiences you can have in a movie theatre. (If you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting Thursday, when 2001 returns to the big screen in a new 70mm print.) More to the point, it started Trumbull on a lifelong quest to develop that experience beyond the limits of conventional cinema. In addition to directing the innovative features Silent Running and Brainstorm and supervising the visual effects for films such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, he’s spent a great portion of his career exploring the possibilities of high-speed film and video presentations.

A 70mm process he developed called Showscan turned up in theme-park rides – in Toronto, it was the cornerstone of the CN Tower’s Tour Of The Universe – and Trumbull was instrumental in the creation of Universal’s popular Back To The Future ride.

Over the phone from San Francisco, the filmmaker – who’ll be appearing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this Wednesday and Thursday to discuss his work on2001 and Blade Runner, respectively – tells me how working on 2001 was essentially his gateway drug to an even more ambitious arena.

“To me, the medium of the film is very coupled with the story you want to tell and the way you tell the story,” he says. “2001 was very coupled to Cinerama and 70mm and giant curved screens. My philosophy of making movies is that those things are very intertwined, and if you just try to make a homogenized movie that will work perfectly well in all mediums, on any size screen – on a giant screen or a regular screen or a home theatre or an iPad or whatever – you’re just compromising what you can do.”

Trumbull’s effects work in 2001 broke new ground for photo-realistic effects, but it also allowed Kubrick to expand the bounds of what audiences could expect from cinema. When David Bowman leaps into that star gate in the film’s final movement – titled “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite” – the film opens up into a completely new type of narrative. The wordless, surrealistic climax pointed to a radically different form of storytelling … one that Trumbull can’t help be disappointed that no other filmmakers dared embrace.

“Even though there was a 2010, and there’s been a lot of sci-fi movies since 2001,” he says, “they’ve still all gone back to the traditional cinematic language of master shots, two-shots and over-the-shoulders and singles and close-ups and blah-blah-blah. You know, very common language. Whereas 2001 was a complete breakthrough – almost first-person cinema, more like being there than watching a normal conventional cinematic language. And no one seems to have picked up on that.”

Trumbull hasn’t given up on conventional cinema, mind you. He can still be excited by an appropriately immersive movie experience – like that one with the big blue cat people.

“I was really blown away when Jim Cameron made Avatar and made such a big leap into 3D,” he says. “He really exploited it, really used 3D to its best advantage – not the gimmicky part of 3D, but the immersive aspect of 3D. It’s the best example currently of totally geeky, high-technology, media-aware, smart filmmaking.”

It should be noted that Avatar was hailed for doing with 3D what 2001 did with visual effects back in 1968 – pushing the state of the art forward and encouraging audiences to demand a truly revolutionary experience at the movies.

“I’m so excited I can’t stand it,” Trumbull says. “Jim Cameron opened the can part-way by legitimizing 3D, which has driven the installation of 3D theatres all around the world – as has been done by Pixar and a lot of other companies that have been doing really terrific 3D animated films. So you’re having this explosive growth in digital cinema that now opens the door for people to start experimenting with different ways to present images – and that includes not just the technical aspect of how you present the images, but the cinematic language of how you tell your story, and the experience for the audience.

“That’s the territory that I’ve been questing for all my life, and being extremely frustrated with the shortcomings of the movie business – which is why I do a lot of world’s fairs and expos and simulator rides, trying to explore what I’ve always felt was the future potential of a really super-powerful immersive cinema experience.”


Kubrick info burst:

Stanley Kubrick was a master visual language inventor, a satirist who worked in dramas, his films employed dialogue that at least involved double-play, sometimes triple-play (ie: meanings). I’ll give you an example, the Intermission in 2001 occurs DURING the Jupiter Mission. Get it? Another one, THE INTERVIEW title card in The Shining doesn’t just refer to the q&a with the manager, it refers to the view between left-right and upper-lower that exemplifies that film’s entire visual strategy. In fact all of the hidden ‘ghosts’ of the film are hidden by an ‘interview,’ if you get my drift. Watch the carpet shift direction under Danny after the yellow ball arrives and you can become aware of one of literally hundreds of shifts in ‘interviews.’ Things audiences can sense but cannot see. Kubrick’s gift was that he essentially made the same film repeatedly while connecting their endings and beginnings (The Shining is 2001’s sequel, Eyes Wide Shut is Clockwork’s [both are set just after 1997]), layering technique, gesture, light quality and portalled them together to makes us consider their differences unconsciously. His most cryptic films are his last two, both Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut are monumental, mysterious achievements, both of which are barely understood even by academics pouring over their DVDs (yet both explain themselves if the optics are carefully observed). He achieved this with a minimum of edits, primarily through a 28mm lens, even invented an entire genre of special effects (his only Academy Award). He was perhaps the most revolutionary director since Griffith. To offer even the slightest label of Kubrickian to these successful but mediocre in comparison directors is a taunt of the lowest order, none of these craftsmen rate even a 2. Step back, son, stop abusing the name of the real master.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 by kubrickblog
little augury: Barry Lyndon


Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 by kubrickblog

Kubrick 1966