As 2001: A Space Odyssey turns 50, Christopher Nolan and Alfonso Cuaron reflect on its influence
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey may have turned 50 but it is still considered an unmatched sci-fi classic by many film aficionados, including Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron, who says it was a “transcendental” experience to watch the film for the first time as a teenager.
Cuaron, who won the best director Oscar for space survival drama Gravity in 2014, said he has often returned to the film but stayed away from it while making the Sandra Bullock-starrer.
In an essay for Entertainment Weekly, the Mexican director said he realised that he had seen a film that was an “unattainable benchmark”.
“I saw it in a cine-club (we still had those then) in a so-so 35 mm projection. From the first frame I felt I was witnessing something transcendental (next time I had that experience was a couple of years later discovering Tarkovsky). I recognized that it was a film that was challenging you, with its pace and its obliqueness.
“I also recognised that I was witnessing an unattainable benchmark, a film composed in thematic, non-textual motives that attacked in a purely cinematic way with some of the fundamental metaphysical questions in many of its categories. At the end, like these questions, the answer is mystery,” he said.
The director said 2001: A Space Odyssey had “spoiled most science-fiction films thereafter” for him.
“I have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey many times throughout my life, and when the notion of Gravity took shape, I watched every non-fantasy space film I could find. I revisited many, some brilliant, but I consciously decided not to revisit 2001: A Space Odyssey as I knew that it would paralyse me. I used to joke that it would be like taking a shower next to Dirk Diggler. A year after Gravity I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey again and I was so glad I didn’t do it before,” he said.
The film, released on April 2, 1968, is considered among Kubrick’s best works and is known to be “the mother of all sci-fi films”.
Director Christopher Nolan, who was recently in India to promote the preservation of celluloid film, is also a huge Kubrick fan and will present an unrestored 70mm cut of the film at Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Classics’ section on May 12.
Nolan, who embarked on his own space adventure with 2012 Interstellar, said it was an honour to present the film to the new generation at the festival.
“One of my earliest memories of cinema is seeing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm, at the Leicester Square Theatre in London with my father,” Nolan said in a statement.
“The opportunity to be involved in recreating that experience for a new generation, and of introducing our new unrestored 70mm print of Kubrick’s masterpiece in all its analogue glory at the Festival de Cannes is an honour and a privilege.”
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