Film Review: 2001- A Space Odyssey

2001 is a synthesis of Kubrick and Clarke’s storytelling capabilities, and is an unattainable standard for space-bound pics, at-least the ones with clear hard science-fiction motives. Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ is under Odyssey’s wing, among others, including its admittedly sub-par sequel. Like most repeatedly say, the movie is a picture book of poster-ready images, never once escaping its own brilliance.

The beginning of 2001 is at a dry, desolate landscape, filled with wandering apes. The sun and moon rise to form eclipses, a gnostic metaphor for inspired evolution, which soon comes in the form of a dark, rectangular monolith, one of the greatest images in cinematic history. The apes cower and groan at its sight; but this jump-starts their evolution, and the next part in the story flips millions of years later, to a space-shuttle heading for the moon. Dr. Heywood Floyd is preparing to brief a group of supervisors about the cover-story for whats been found on the moon: No one presently knows exactly what it is. The monolith?

The third act is the day-to-day lives of the 2001 Astronauts, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. The two converse casually, eat the normal vacuum-frozen meals, creating an eerie comfort to their surroundings. They sit at the same table, while looking at two different video-tablets on the same interview. One can see they do their own things, while also able to speak and be friends. The split between them is a robot, named HAL 3000. A rectangular output-device with a glowing red dot as a face, HAL turns the scheduled space-shuttle into horror and chaos; he alleges a part to need maitenance, as part of a scheme to take out the two astronauts and safely clear the way for the missions end-goal. Human-error is what HAL fears the most, but perhaps not as much as having his plug-ripped.

The phlegmatic manner in which the shots are placed, by Stanley Kubrick, is worth a generation of film-students study. Each scene has an importance, and they are all aesthetically innovating; the scene I found the most impacting, was the claustrophobic moment when Bowman and Poole are conniving on the strange actions of HAL, inside a sealed Pod. The camera turns into HAL’s POV, and we see him focusing on each of the astronauts lip-movement, through close-up panning; he’s studying their rebellion.

Anyone interested in this movie should read Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Lost Worlds of 2001’  with some real unique journal entries of him working diligently for months with Kubrick, who he regards very highly as a professional and a friend. The movie will never be forgotten: a dark, pessimistic view of artificial intelligence.

The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation, a seminal film by acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola, takes a few seconds of fragmented, audio-recorded dialogue between a man and a woman and makes it the subject of a film. Scrutinizing the audio-track is legendary surveillance expert Henry Caul, a quiet, heavy-gazing man with a few (many) years of experience under his belt. His longevity does not provide him with any moral cushioning, however, and the film progresses as he realizes that the tape he is submitting to the corporation that hired him might result in the murder of his clients, a man and woman.

We see early on, when Harry visits a woman in a different apartment, the sexual tensions present: he’s afraid to become close to a woman, it seems, because he is afraid to reveal any sort of inner secret. And when he reveals this to a woman in what seems to be an entirely honest moment, it is recorded by a competitor, who Harry hadn’t realized had bugged him; all fun and games, for the competition, but Harry takes guard and responds equally as mad at this act of private thievery as he would have if his professional tapes were stolen. It’s all the same to him.

Earlier in the film, when the same sardonically hateful and envious fellow surveillance expert asks Harry about how he tapped into a boat and recorded a highly-guarded dialogue, which resulted in the murder of three different persons, we find out why he is so ambivalent to give the tapes in and return to such a state of murderous guilt. He tries to remain objective, but the line between duty and moral obligation becomes thin; a machine would be better fit for the job of Henry, but then does that not make the creator of the machine equally immoral?

The Conversation expertly blends existential angst and obsession into a sharp and uniquely spliced audio experience filled with buzzing, static voices. The slow increase of paranoia hits Henry hard, his past being suddenly explored in a sort of expressionistic black- and-white scene where he’s calling towards a woman he listens to, standing fearfully atop long concrete stairs, listening to him, as if he were another person just exploiting her for information, not a friend, not anyone who would help.

Francis Ford Coppola’s sensitive and intriguing look into surveillance professionals boasts great performances from Gene Hackman as Harry, and a very influential use of audio as a stepping stone and as a main ingredient in the narrative. A jarring, tantalizing look into a man who cares about nothing more than the keys in his life; to his apartment, his mind, and to his various recordings.

Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby

9/10

Like his earlier film “Repulsion” Roman Polanski  uses a quiet, sensitive woman as the magnet of his camera in his first American film, and also blends her into its themes and shadows with keen cinematic ability. The film starts with a common-day sight of a man and a woman, ready for a child, buying an Old new york apartment several floors above the city streets, and appearing to be occupied mainly by elderly folk. The hard floor echoes and the empty floors are hallow and unoccupied by furniture. The titular character, played by Mia Farrow, stays at home in preparation for the new baby, while her husband Guy, played by John Cassavettes, goes to work as an aspiring actor. His dramas and failures are more expressed than the fears of Rosemary and her pregnancy, suppressing her internal doubts like the stereotypical housewife.

The signature of Polanski is taking the normal patterns of life and twisting them by the mind’s fears and hesitations into something mutated. Child-birth should be celebrated, but it is instead feared by Rosemary, as she thinks the baby is of a different world or somehow cursed by the devil. Through these dark, brooding sequences of terror, Rosemary’s Baby influenced such well-regarded future films as “The Omen” and “The Exorcist”.

The main source of paranoia in Rosemary is her mysterious next door neighbors, Roman and Minnie. Guy takes a fond liking to them and often leaves to have conversations with Roman, while Rosemary fears the two rather eccentric elders are conniving behind her back.  Minnie brings over little bowls of Chocolate Mousse for Rosemary, taking concern over her health, but even the sweet desert seems like a trap, a snare concocted by the odd woman. The film is well-paced and creepy, in huge part due to the performances, especially the older neighbor Minnie,  played by Ruth Gordon, with black, focused eyes and a very strange wardrobe; she commands the screen whenever she’s present with her glossy but shadowy facade.