After “butchering” (his word) “Heaven’s Gate” and rendering “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in black and white, Steven Soderbergh has struck again, this time at Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In a post called “The Return of W. de Rijk” — explanations? anyone? — explains that even though he considers “2001” perhaps “THE most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century,” he was nonetheless compelled to take it apart and put it back together.
Soderbergh allows that he knew his act of cinematic sacrilege would have to be motivated by “a bigger idea than just trimming or re-scoring,” but he doesn’t explain what that is. He did, however, trim some 50 minutes from Kubrick’s cut, beginning with the movie’s iconic opening. No longer does it begin with Earthrise and “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” but with the dissonant strings of the movie’s (former) climax and a flash-forward to the optical-sensor eye of HAL 9000, an image Soderbergh’s cut inserts several times throughout the film.
As per usual, Soderbergh’s Vimeo file is unembeddable, so you’ll have to head to his Extension 765 site for yourself to check it out, but here are some of his thoughts on how Kubrick would have fared in the digital age to get you warmed up:
by the way, i’ve seen every conceivable kind of film print of 2001, from 16mm flat to 35mm internegative to a cherry camera negative 70mm in the screening room at warner bros, and i’m telling you, none of them look as good as a bluray played on an pioneer elite plasma kuro monitor. and while you’re cleaning up your spit take over that sentence, let me also say i believe SK would have embraced the current crop of digital cameras, because from a visual standpoint, he was obsessed with two things: absolute fidelity to reality-based light sources, and image stabilization. regarding the former, the increased sensitivity without resolution loss allows us to really capture the world as it is, and regarding the latter, post-2001 SK generally shot matte perf film (normally reserved for effects shots, because of its added steadiness) all day, every day, something which digital capture makes moot. pile on things like never being distracted by weaving, splices, dirt, scratches, bad lab matches during changeovers, changeovers themselves, bad framing and focus exacerbated by projector vibration, and you can see why i think he might dig digital.