For a number of years, as a child and teenager, I made my pocket money as a newspaper boy. While my mother was working her way through college one of her part time jobs was as a "den mother" to a group of us. My fellow newsboys would gather at our house each day to collect and fold their papers before setting out to deliver them. She would study at our kitchen table in the breakfast nook, which overlooked the back yard, thereby being accessible to us should the need arise. One of her responsibilities was to take us out one evening each week to canvas neighborhoods for new subscriptions. In this area of the business I was particularly successful. I was tiny, with red hair, freckles and large blue eyes. I was difficult to say no to. There were prizes awarded for the number of subscriptions we were able to collect. Over time I won, among other things, several trips to Disneyland, we lived an hour away, and a small black and white t.v. This I used for over ten years, keeping it with me when I moved out of my parents home. At one point we were awarded tickets to a movie at a fancy Hollywood theatre. The movie was Stanley Kubrick's "2001, A Space Odyssey".
Although the movies remarkable visual effects impressed me, the film's non linear storytelling style left a bunch of pre teen paperboys standing in the lobby afterward scratching their heads in puzzlement. What's with those apes in the beginning? What about the old man and the baby at the end? And, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT BIG BLACK THING THAT KEPT SHOWING UP??????????? Another of the "den mothers", who had driven us to the theatre, on the way home was left with the unenviable task of attempting to explain this confounding movie to a bunch of 10 year olds.
I am several decades older now and recognize Stanley Kubrick as a true master of his craft. He did not play by the rules. If he had his work would not be near as interesting or carry the extraordinary level of gravity which it does. There is "Spartacus", with it's homoerotic undertones, so controversial in their day that they were edited out of the movie upon it's initial theatrical release. He demanded that Dalton Trumbo be given screenwriting credit for this film, even though Trumbo was blacklisted at the time. "Barry Lydon" is a visual marvel due to his creation of a film making technique which allowed him to shoot scenes in candlelight. "Clockwork Orange", again controversial due to it depictions of sex and violence is a remarkable piece of storytelling, a wonderfully imaginative vision of a future gone haywire. "Paths of Glory" contains some of the most affecting battle scenes I have ever viewed. It manages to show the horrors of the battlefield without resorting to scenes of graphic gore. "Dr. Strangelove" is a satirical classic which masterfully skewers the foolishness and utter nonsense of the decades long cold war.
But back to "2001". In order to lend the film realism he paid AT&T and the Hilton Corp. to use their names and logos in it. This is particularly ironic in that today companies pay film's producers to have their products and logos depicted in them. Perhaps the film is best described as "open to interpretation". In my case at least, this interpretation seems to change with each viewing. This being said, I am always enthralled by it's spectacular visuals, lush classical score and Keir Dullea's thick thighs in his tiny tight shorts as he jogs around the spaceship shadowboxing.
The only time the movie has ever made complete sense to me was one night watching it on t.v. with my stepfather as we smoked a substantial quantity of hash. As the movie progressed our conversation regarding it resulted in great insight and clarity. The following morning however, the hash had worn off and I remained as frustrated and confounded by it as ever.
Mr. Kubrick, may you rest in peace, but I am now 55 and real confused!