2001: A Space Odyssey

Galleries, museums, symphonies, and poetry offer us unparalleled opportunities to appreciate art from a distance and personal experience.  We listen or see textual or tympanic odes that raise us to levels we are incapable of ascendance to on our own.  There is a reason why people return again and again to view Monet or listen to Beethoven’s ninth: great works of art, like a good scotch, take time to breathe in the open air of life.

Kubrick’s Odyssey remembers Homer.  While I have real problems with what I refer to as the “journification of life” I do appreciate “journey metaphors” which resound throughout literature.  2001 was based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, himself a futurist, science-fiction writer who projects the “human journey” into space.  Clarke was an atheist; Kubrick has Jewish lineage.  The fact that both of them could celebrate human ingenuity and wonder at the “cosmic mystery” is a marvel in and of itself.  Both ideals come through, albeit, with the same effort of understanding necessary for me to read poetry–it takes me a while.  As a Christian reviewer, I can appreciate the fact that Kubrick and Clarke “left the window open” for transcendence.

I surely understand the fact that you all are now 40 years removed from the birth of what many consider to be the greatest of all movies.  So much has changed in that half century.  I suggest to you and I that speed is one of the changes we must overcome in relishing great works of the past.  We are used to FX thrills born a few years later by George Lucas and magnified today by THX and CGI.  It is impossible not to evaluate past film without our current cultural consumption holding sway.  But I ask us to try.  Return to Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times to gain a sense of transition folks in 1936 were feeling in the move from silent to “talkies.”  Indeed, don’t miss the point that Chaplin is making about technology; compare it with Kubrick’s ground-breaking fare.

Now I must admit, that while I write this to you all, I’m really writing to myself.  You see, I too struggled through Odyssey the same way I struggle understanding poetry or appreciating artists’ brush strokes.  You’ve heard me admit that I’m an 80’s guy.  I like straight-forward, hard-driving rhythms and melodies that have a beginning, middle, and end.  The joy and the pain of listening and viewing the ethereal, esoteric works of others is that it takes great effort on my part to make that happen.

So, I conclude by admitting that last night I watched Taken.  If you don’t know, Liam Neeson kills all the bad guys (Albanian Muslims, not white Republican businessmen for a change!!!  How did THAT get by the sensors??!!) who kidnap his daughter.  Not only do I have a grand appreciation for transcendence, but, made in God’s image, I also love to see justice done.  I hope that I always understand, however, that justice is born of transcendence–a key component in writing, music, art, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This review was written in response to students telling me that this particular film held no interest for them because, among other things, it was “slow” 🙂

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