April 14, 1968 [2001: A Space Odyssey]

The Cinerama theater at the mall is showing 2001, and we saw it twice in a row the first afternoon, then I went back again--and again. And again, I think.

Like a kid, I bought the souvenir program and insisted we go early to catch the overture, the spooky music playing in the dark. Then the rumble, the new MGM lion, and the crash and fanfare--before we get to the first all-but-silent movie made in a long time, with maybe fifteen minutes of human speech--most of that mere expository monologue, delivered in calm NASA cadences, a sound that keeps those little ships spinning without panic, even when panic would be the most natural thing.

Stanley Kubrick gives us little that is reason-able--but I won't argue with what I see and hear: the dismal but necessary prehistory, in which evolution means predation and murder--and before that can sink in: the camera cutting like THAT! over millions of years--and many many miles: the floating, tilting spaceships really there, outer space no longer "out" but in front of us, serene in its waltzing revolutions.

--and that reality seems enough--I would have been happy to meander around up there in orbit until the Danube went dry--but then HAL the computer, without even clearing his throat, rolls that gentle almost-alto voice at us, androgynous but definite, and all I can think of is how far away we are from Earth, lonely like those little asteroids that tumble past the camera, far from the ship, like Hitchcock's birds up there, in the end as uninterested as the people who walked out of 2001 at intermission, frowning. And just before it all falls apart in light and whispers, blinding--dizzying from the third row, peripheral vision gone, the movie drawing us like gravity--Dave turns the key and slides out HAL's Plexiglas brains; and I could feel my face assume Dave's tense, almost anguished expression, fearing he's part of some infinite error he won't be able to correct on his own--but he is no longer alone, living with that big black mirror in the ornate room, peeking into the bathroom to make sure he's still human--and more: multiple-exposures of himself, staring at the broken wine-glass, hisses and whoops in the corners.

And it ends the way it begins--the music building promises--with another glowing embryonic disk up there now, mirroring the blinding earthlight, the crescendo hammering at us again, reminding us of children beyond the infinite, little fists curled in serenity, but curious--and curiouser.


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