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"2001: A Space Odyssey" is still the ultimate trip, out there and in the mind

Starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Douglas Rain, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Beatty, Sean Sullivan and Frank Miller. Written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Streaming on YouTube, Google Play and Starz. 164 minutes. G

2001: A Space Odyssey


It was billed as “the ultimate trip,” and the hyperbole is entirely justified, then as now.

Stanley Kubrick’s space opus still seems like the future, more than half a century after release and 19 years after the significant title year. It never gets old and I never tire of seeing it, even after 50-plus viewings.

The film opened my eyes to the power of cinema, and how everything comes together to create a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts, from Douglas Trumbull’s dazzling special effects to the symphonic music by Richard and Johann Strauss and György Ligeti.

I first saw "2001" with my father on Jan. 22, 1969, my 13th birthday, at Toronto’s late lamented Glendale Theatre on Avenue Rd., then the place to go to see a film in the giant curved-screen Cinerama format of the day.

I was enchanted. Dad was baffled, but curious. He was in the majority of "2001" viewers who wondered how to connect the dots of a mind-blowing narrative that jumps from man-ape battles at the dawn of humankind to astronaut adventures en route to Jupiter in the 21st century, with a warning about the dangers of technology along the way.

I admit it took me years and many viewings to really figure out the link: mysterious black monoliths appearing at various stages of the film represent an advanced alien race that is nudging dimwitted

earthlings toward the future. Kubrick co-wrote "200" with author Arthur C. Clarke, loosely basing it on Clarke’s 1951 short story "The Sentinel," about the discovery on Earth’s moon of a large artifact left by ancient extraterrestrials.

The monolith as manifest destiny is obvious but also subconscious, like the film’s famous “match cut” of a newly enlightened ape known as Moonwatcher throwing a bone into the sky, which leaps across millennia to become a space warship circling Earth.

We will soon meet Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester), an itinerant scientist visiting the moon on a top-secret mission, Jupiter-bound astronauts Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and moviedom’s most marvellous head case, a disturbed super computer named HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain).

Despite all the advances in image technology and space science since the film’s 1968 unveiling — men have since walked on the moon and robots have rolled on Mars — "2001: A Space Odyssey" retains its power to fill your mind with mystery and wonder, your head forever tilted skywards.

(From "Movies I Can't Live Without," by Peter Howell.)

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