I just finished watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the umpteenth time, but for the first time am watching the special features CD that accompanies the film. One of the segments is titled “Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick”. It features Sydney Pollack, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, the late Roger Ebert and a host of others weighing in on Kubrick’s significance as a director and the groundbreaking achievement of 2001. Kubrick’s masterful attention to detail raised the bar as regards the possibilities of film, and especially with regard to the sci fi genre and outer space themes.
The film’s significance wasn’t necessarily established by its box office receipts (which were considerable for its time*), but rather, by its influence on everything that came afterwards. Interviews with these directors, producers, critics and writers affirm and re-assert that this was a historic film that broke new ground as regards the possibilities of storytelling in film.
Many people have affirmed that Bob Dylan’s music in 1965 did a similar thing, taking rock music to a new level. Just as Kubrick’s film caught the attention of other film makers, his peers, so was Dylan’s influence greatest not among the pop scene but amongst his peers. His albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde were game changers.
The work that followed, however, had only moderate critical acclaim and the decade ended with what some considered his worst piece of work to date, Self Portrait.
Kubrick’s send-up after 2001 was a remarkable, albeit provocative, retelling of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Orange was then followed by Barry Lyndon, which some critics had a field day with even though it won four Academy Awards. I read one review that proposed the notion that the proof of Barry Lyndon’s failure is that it brought Ryan O’Neal’s career to an end. That is an assertion I don’t understand. Some critics scorned it, but the 8.1 rating at imdb.com proves it is a story well told, with luscious scenery and music to boot.
Like 2001, Barry Lyndon has exquisite filmography. Like 2001 it is a story of an…