Michael Bierut wrote an excellent essay about Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” at Design Observer. While it focused on Kubrick’s use of typography and design, it made the point that a science-fiction movie that is over 30 years ago still looks fresh today. Some of Kubrick’s predictions shot well under the mark; his use of corporate logos looks far more restrained than what we encounter today. “Blade Runner” turned out to be far more accurate in the bombardment of advertising images, down to the giant video billboards that can now be seen at Times Square. But on the whole, he caught not only the structure of space travel, but the boredom of it.
But what really caught my attention, and triggered a Proustian glimpse into my past, was this image.
My older brother was a Kubrick fan, and the price of seeing 2001 was to take his little brother, all of 10 at the time. When he was out of the house, I would sneak into his room (redolent of illicit cigarette smoke) and thumb through his other movie books, and one of them was”The Making of Kubrick’s 2001,” which included not only the above image, but this one as well.
It’s a measure of Kubrick’s attention to detail that, for this one scene lasting only a few seconds, he and Arthur C. Clarke wrote out an extensive instructions of how to operate a zero-gravity toilet that actually makes sense, even though no one in the audience would ever see a word beyond the headlines. Kubrick thought of film in the same way as Erich von Stroheim, who, it is said, outfitted the soldiers in one of his movies with historically accurate uniforms, down to the correct period underwear. It sounds silly, and it cost the studio money to do it, but on some level, it mattered. Maybe it helps the actor give a better performance. Maybe the director gets some reinforcement to put his vision up on the screen. Maybe it’s just an inside joke that breaks the tension for a moment in a profession that’s crammed with stress. Who knows? But, dammit, it matters. Why ask why?
I am a BIG fan of Stanley Kubrick, and it's a shame that we won't be able to witness another Kubrick film. What he contributed to film could hardly be put into words; he was simply a genius. His name is right up there with Hitchcock and Scorsese as far as milestone directors who revolutionized film. Kubrick's last film, 'Eyes Wide Shut', is a suitable and triumphant end to his illustrious career; ...