24 years after it was released, and nearly 40 years after the movie it pretends to be a sequel to, I finally watched 2010 tonight.
Now I'll admit that when I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in June 1968, I came out with mixed feelings. I had no idea what the movie was 'about'. But I had no doubt whatsoever that what I'd just seen was magnificent. A couple of hundred viewings and the aforementioned nearly 40 years later I still don't know what it's 'about'.
And I don't really care. What's music 'about'? A painting? Why does a botrytis riesling taste so damn good when paired with blue cheese?
I thought, when I sat down to write this, that I'd already written about Kubrick's masterpiece but I find I haven't. Maybe a reference or two to the feeling, emerging on a bright sunny Melbourne winter afternoon, that we'd seen what it must be like to walk upon the moon; this a year before Neil Armstrong actually did it.
Now that might seem silly if you weren't a technologically minded teenager at the time but I had the good fortune to be just that and the way I remember it is that we seemed to be saturated with NASA. This wasn't all that much after the first international TV links were established and it was still quite the novelty to see footage, today, of something that had happened on the other side of the world on that very same day.
There was also a surfeit (in the pre-google age) of information relating to the Apollo program. I lapped it all up. Damned if I can remember the numbers anymore but at that time I could have recited the escape velocities of all the inner planets and the moon!
I still vividly remember riding my bike up Mulhall Drive, St Albans, just at sunset in December 1968 and looking up at the moon; knowing that the first manned orbit was happening. I think that was Apollo 8 (Wikipedia confirms that it was).
So I walked out of that first viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey mightily puzzled yet elated. It was probably the most exciting movie I'd seen up until then and there have been very few more exciting since! Indeed, I suspect that the movie also got me interested in classical music; certainly I remember buying the introduction to 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' on a single the same year. Came as quite a suprise when I heard the entire work; the bit we all know even if we don't know we know it runs for all of two and a half minutes out of a total of forty minutes!
Did I enjoy 2010? You guessed that from my opening line 'the movie it pretends to be a sequel to' that I didn't much. Too much of a contrast with 2001. In the first nothing is explained; we're expected to make up our own minds. In the later movie too damn much is explained. Did I really need to know that HAL did what he did because he was forced to lie?
And that 'something wonderful is going to happen?'. Give me a break.
So no, I still don't think I know what 2001: A Space Odyssey is 'about'. And I'm perfectly happy with that. I'll treasure the memory of arguing with friends about whether this or that detail was 'correct' (the orange juice in the straw was my favourite - we never could decide whether air pressure was an adequate explanation for it's motion once Heywood Floyd stopped sucking).
And I'm quite sure the next time I play the movie I'll enjoy it just as much as I always have!