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Alfonso Cuarón Writes Essay Praising Kubrick, Explains Why He Didn’t Watch ‘2001’ Before Making ‘Gravity’

The director considers "2001: A Space Odyssey" to be one of his favorite films, but he knew better than to watch it before starting "Gravity."

Shutterstock/Warner Bros.

Alfonso Cuarón has had his own success in the space genre with “Gravity,” which earned over $700 million worldwide and seven Oscars, but he knows no piece of science-fiction can possibly compare to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary, Cuarón penned an essay for Entertainment Weekly in which he praised Kubrick’s vision and explained why he made it a rule not to watch “2001” before the making of “Gravity.”

The director writes that he first saw “2001” as a teenager and instantly knew he was witnessing “something transcendental” and “an unattainable benchmark,” which is the main reason he refused to watch Kubrick’s epic prior to production on “Gravity.” Cuarón says he researched nearly every non-fantasy space film during the development of his movie, but “2001” was always off limits to him because Kubrick’s achievement would’ve “paralyzed” him.

“I used to joke that it would be like taking a shower next to Dirk Diggler,” Cuarón writes, referencing Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” “A year after ‘Gravity’ I watched ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ again and I was so glad I didn’t do it before.”

“Even if I was trying not to ‘2001,’ it’s clear that its ghost was haunting me,” the director continues. “With his obsessive attention to detail and meticulous research, Kubrick was replicating reality but by doing this he was creating a new reality. It’s impossible not to see a floating object and not to think of the biro pen in the Pan Am shuttle, not to think of Sandra Bullock floating away into the void without referencing Frank Poole’s spiral into the abyss.”

“2001” had such a profound cinematic impact on Cuarón that a re-watch wasn’t even necessary. The director could feel Kubrick’s influence on his project whether he was directly aware of it or not. Cuarón notes that “Gravity’s” largely dialogue-free script wasn’t an intentional homage to “2001,” for instance, but that Kubrick’s legacy no doubt gave him the freedom to pursue that potentially risky narrative decision.

“The sparse dialogue and use of silence in ‘Gravity,’ it’s not only a legacy of ‘2001,’ it is a legacy of all Kubrick’s work that, like many other film masters, believe in the power of cinema as an experience that can convey themes through its own language,” Cuarón writes.

Cuarón concludes his essay by explaining just how ahead of its time “2001” remains 50 years later thanks to its “thematic complexity, its technical purity, its faith in cinema, its prophetic wisdom, and its beauty all wrapped up in the elusive cloak of mystery.”

The director has not released a new feature since “Gravity” in 2013, although that is expected to change this year with “Roma.” Cuarón wrapped production on the film last year and is expected to have it ready for release sometime in 2018. The movie will be Cuarón’s first film set in Mexico since “Y Tu Mamá También.” Read his essay in full over on Entertainment Weekly.

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