lunedì 7 maggio 2018

Understanding Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey


The book Understanding Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - Representation and Interpretation (edited by James Fenwick and published by Intellect Books) for which I wrote the first chapter, is finally out next week! Here it is, featured in the last essay of Sight And Sound magazine.

In my chapter, titled "God, it’ll be hard topping the H-bomb": Kubrick’s search for a new obsession in the path from 'Dr. Strangelove' to '2001' I used both textual analysis and archival evidence to explore the genesis of the movie, and the search of what Stanley Kubrick called "his new obsession" after the release of Dr. Strangelove - or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in January 1964. By analyzing three lesser-known projects the director was associated with before his involvement with Arthur C. Clarke, I documented the methods behind the sometimes-uneasy development of a new Kubrick project, and the various science-fiction ideas that were muted along the way to the eventual creation of 2001

I've read all the other chapters and they are extremely interesting; drawing inspiration from the introduction, they "offer new and interpretative approaches that examine aesthetics, performance, technological design, philosophical discourse, genre and authorial agency in 2001. Each chapter is linked by the exploration of Kubrick’s intellectual concerns as an auteur and the historicism and aesthetic representation of 2001, with the ultimate aim of bringing together a range of new scholarly perspectives from the full spectrum of Kubrick Studies. [...] Taken together, this volume represents a wide-ranging examination from a number of standpoints about one of the most important and influential films in cinema history".

Preorder the book now, at a special price, from Amazon UK.

UPDATE 15/5: Sadly, the release has been postponed to June 12.

venerdì 4 maggio 2018

In edicola su "Il Giornale": Kubrick, Clarke e 2001

Stamani, in edicola su Il Giornale (e online qui), un articolo scritto a quattro mani dal sottoscritto e Filippo Ulivieri sulla relazione – spesso idilliaca, a volte burrascosa – tra Kubrick e Clarke durante la realizzazione di 2001: Odissea nello Spazio. Attingendo dal carteggio inedito conservato allo Smithsonian Institution di Washington, io e Filippo abbiamo raccontato lo sviluppo della sceneggiatura del film e soprattutto l'estenuante tira e molla tra Kubrick e Clarke per la pubblicazione del romanzo collegato al film, una saga parallela che rivela la personalità dei due artisti. Buona lettura!


lunedì 2 aprile 2018

Fifty years ago, today

April 2, 1968: '2001: A Space Odyssey' is revealed to the world at the Uptown Theatre in Washington D.C.

Fifty years later, the title of the first review in the Washington Post is still the best description for the movie.


giovedì 29 marzo 2018

'2001: A Space Odyssey' returns to theaters with a new 70mm print

It's been in the works for a while, and it has just been officially announced: on occasion of the 50th anniversary, 2001: A Space Odyssey will be back in theaters. A new, "unrestored" 70mm print, whose production has been overseen by Christopher Nolan, will be unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, introduced by the director. The screening will also be attended by members of Kubrick’s family, including his daughter Katharina Kubrick and his longtime producing partner and brother-in-law Jan Harlan, and also by Keir Dullea.

2001 will return to select U.S. theatres in 70mm beginning May 18, 2018. No news yet about releases in the rest of the world (either in 35mm, digital or 70mm).

Also, the 4K UHD Blu-ray (now disappeared from Amazon US and France) will be now released in "the fall of 2018".

From the Warner Bros official press release:
For the first time since the original release, this 70mm print was struck from new printing elements made from the original camera negative. This is a true photochemical film recreation. There are no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits. This is the unrestored film that recreates the cinematic event audiences experienced 50 years ago.

image © Warner Bros 2018 - from Variety.com

martedì 27 febbraio 2018

“I am certain it will all come out right in the end”

It's now official, so I can post it here as well!

On July 22 I will take part in a symposium held by the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, in occasion of the '2001' official 50th anniversary exhibition, 'Kubrick’s 2001. 50 years A SPACE ODYSSEY' that will be hosted there from March 21 to September 16. Here's the full program: http://2001.deutsches-filmmuseum.de/veranstaltungen/

I will deliver a 45-minutes long presentation titled

 “I am certain it will all come out right in the end”:
The Kubrick-Clarke collaboration on '2001: A Space Odyssey' and beyond.



Here's the abstract:

The most celebrated of Stanley Kubrick’s artistic partnership, namely his work with Arthur C. Clarke on '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968), has usually been discussed only through the lenses of the writer's published memoirs about the making of the movie. 

Mainly focused on the author’s struggle to come up with a satisfying plot and, perhaps most infamously, on his efforts to finalize a deal for the publication of the book that the two were concurrently writing, these works have contributed to a misunderstanding about the relationship between the writer and the director, that has often described in the general press as difficult or conflicted, true to the usual narrative about Kubrick the ‘dictatorial genius’. 

Actually, the two enjoyed a long friendship; the usually hard-to-please director said that his relationship with Clarke was one of the most “fruitful and enjoyable” he ever had, and when the director passed away in 1999, the writer said “My professional career owes more to Stanley than to anybody else in the world.”

By making use of the correspondence held in the Kubrick Archive and in the recently opened Arthur C. Clarke Collection in the Smithsonian Museum in Virginia, I will shed some light on the collaboration between the director and the writer on 2001, using as case histories the key points in the evolution of the plot and the issue over the publication of the book. 

I will also cover their (so far) largely ignored collaboration in the development of a screenplay based on Brian Aldiss’s short story 'Supertoys last all summer long' in the early Nineties (a project eventually brought to the screen by Steven Spielberg as 'A.I. : Artificial Intelligence'), to compare the two experiences and see if their attitudes, interests and working methods changed over time.


* * *

So if you're planning to visit the exhibition, why don't you take your summer vacation on July and kill two birds with one stone? Not to mention that the two-day symposium will feature some great Kubrick scholars, like Filippo Ulivieri, James Fenwick (editor of the book Understanding Kubrick's 2001, for which I wrote a chapter) and Vincent Jaunas!

venerdì 9 febbraio 2018

Book review: "Kubrick's Monolith", by Joe R. Frinzi

As the year 2018 promises to be full of events and publications about our favorite movie, before being flooded with new releases it's time to finally catch up with stuff from last year that I haven't covered yet. Published by McFarland in July 2017, Kubrick's Monolith: The Art and Mystery of 2001: A Space Odyssey, written by Joe R. Frinzi, is one of the latest book about 2001 hitting the market, and I got in contact with the author to learn more about it. (Full disclosure: McFarland sent me a review copy).



"Kubrick's Monolith has been a long gestating project, going back before Kubrick died in 1999.", Frinzi told me during an e-mail exchange. "However, his death was the catalyst that got me thinking about it in a serious way. At the time, there were only two standout books that dealt specifically with 2001—Jerome Agel’s The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 which came out in 1970 and is now long out of print, and Piers Bizony’s book, 2001: Filming the Future, in 1994, a picture and text coverage of the film. While I liked both of them, I felt the need to examine the film in a way that neither book had done to the extent I wanted to see, bringing together so many aspects of the film and its making beyond what any other single book has accomplished."

Despite being "a labor of love from a devoted fan", the added value of Kubrick's Monolith lies in the author being an experienced movie critic. Frinzi lives in Easton, Pennsylvania and has been a professional writer since 1981, writing regularly about movies in newspapers and online for the last twenty years; he explains that the book is written "with the intent to bridge the gap between intellectual analysis and pure movie fandom", which is a welcome and refreshing attitude towards a movie that provoked so many heavy theorizations over the last fifty years.

Overall, Kubrick's Monolith makes for an engaging read; it's well written and with a warm personal touch that sets it apart from other similar works. Right from the beginning, in the first chapter - "Vision of the Cosmos" - Frinzi manages to swiftly convey the basic details of Kubrick and Clarke's lives previous to their meeting in 1964, and the decision to make the proverbial "really good" science fiction movie together, while intertwining the narrative with an extensive comment on the author's top ten sci-fi films prior to 1968. Seen through the lens of a knowledgeable movie critic, this makes for an enrichment of the text instead of an unnecessary burden; also, some of the movies Frinzi covers are not the usual suspects that always get in the conversation. 

According to the author, "2001 raised the standards of the sci-fi movie genre completely, by showing you could have a screenplay that seriously examined our place in the universe, and do it with sophisticated production design and special effects. Kubrick took a B-movie genre and gave it the weight and gravitas of an arthouse masterpiece. There had been a few sci-fi films prior to 2001 that attempted to be serious, which I cover in my book, but by and large, the majority of movies being made in that genre were monster flicks and space adventure stories geared toward children. 2001 changed all that."

Instead of resorting to a dry chronological account of the making of 2001, Frinzi focuses on the key themes touched by Kubrick and Clarke, and while he's not shy in delving into a personal interpretation of the movie's mythology, he manages to keep it accessible, devoting the necessary attention to Joseph Campbell's influence, Homer's Odyssey analogies, and the various artistic symbolism in the movie (the monolith, the imagery of birth and death, etc.) "The book was designed to work as a whole, progressively covering all aspects of the movie, from the men who made it to the writing of the screenplay, the production design, the special effects, the use of music, and the impact the film had when it was released, leading up to its legacy half a century later."

The central chapters of the book provide an interesting and surprisingly informative coverage of the scientific background from which 2001 originated, followed by a good round-up of the technological breakthroughs needed for shooting the notoriously complicated special effects, with significant space devoted to the crew members and their contribution. Later chapters are dedicated to the explanation of the Star Gate sequence in detail, and to the experience of what watching the movie is like and the subtle ways information is delineated there; especially interesting is the section devoted to the musical and overall sonic landscape of the movie, where Frinzi (who is also an avid collector of everything 2001-related) provides detailed information about the several releases of the movie soundtrack over the years, something which was seldom included in previous books.

In the last chapters the author (correctly stating that the early critical reception of the movie was, but for a few - yet influent - New York critics, overwhelmingly positive) provides a comprehensive account of the influence and legacy the movie, up to Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and Ridley Scott's The Martian, adding the very personal touch of a trip to visit the key New York locations significant for the history of the movie. The up-to-date focus on the impact the movie had on contemporary culture, not only the movie business, is probably the book's biggest achievement.

In conclusion, despite not being based on original interviews (though the author was in contact with Dan Richter, who clarified some details about Moonwatcher and "The Dawn of Man" shooting) or new archival research, and despite a couple of omissions (most notably, there is no mention of the significant influence of Robert Ardrey's works on Kubrick and Clarke's early thinking), Kubrick's Monolith makes for an entertaining read, in which even hardcore fans will find interesting new insights.

I think it's telling about the overall attitude of the author that when asked about why he thinks 2001 is still relevant after 50 years, he highlights the fact that "the movie has been a very inspirational touchstone for untold numbers of people who have gone on to work in the film industry, become writers (like myself) and perhaps even make a career for themselves in the space program. So many people have been influenced by 2001 whether as scientists, artists or what-have-you, that 50 years later it continues to have an impact and resonance in our culture and society. With my book, I’d like to think that I’m just doing my part to keep the spirit of 2001 alive. I certainly hope that whatever insights I have to offer will serve to help others who are seeking to find their own meaning about Kubrick’s film."

Especially if joined with archival-based books like Peter Krämer's BFI monograph, or Piers Bizony's lavishly illustrated magnum opus (now available in a cheaper edition) Frinzi's book is a worthy new addition to the ever-expanding 2001 canon.

* * *

Kubrick's Monolith: The Art and Mystery of 2001: A Space Odyssey
by Joe R. Frinzi

Softcover (6 x 9), 224 pages, 20 photos (b&w),  $ 29,95.
Available from McFarland, Amazon (UK and US), Barnes and Noble

sabato 20 gennaio 2018

A couple of 50th anniversary-related events

The main event for 2018 - the year that marks the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey - will surely be the Official exhibition that will be hosted at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, from March 21 to September 16. On show there will be the largest collection of original designs, models, costumes, props, shooting schedules, production documents and photos from Kubrick's archive, accompanied by a series of talks and events. Watch out this space for the official information as soon as I get it, as the lecture series may as well involve a familiar face... The official site, only in german so far: http://2001.deutsches-filmmuseum.de.


In the meantime, those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will already know that the book "Understanding Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey - Representation and Interpretation" (Intellect Books, Bristol, 2018) for which I wrote the first chapter ('God, it’ll be hard topping the H-bomb’: Kubrick’s search for a new obsession in the path from Dr. Strangelove to 2001) has been announced on Amazon (UK, USA, ITA) it will be available from April 15, 2018. Here's the official publicity blurb:

Scholars have been studying the films of Stanley Kubrick for decades. This book, however, breaks new ground by bringing together recent empirical approaches to Kubrick with earlier, formalist approaches to arrive at a broader understanding of the ways in which Kubrick's methods were developed to create the unique aesthetic creation that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the fiftieth anniversary of the film nears, the contributors explore its still striking design, vision, and philosophical structure, offering new insights and analyses that will give even dedicated Kubrick fans new ways of thinking about the director and his masterpiece.