martes, diciembre 29, 2015

“2001: A Space Odyssey” with the original music played live

Stanley Kubrick was undoubtedly one of the most personal and interesting masters of cinema. His films were always controversial, intelligent, different from one another; he found the style for every story he told. "Paths of Glory" (1957) and "Full Metal Jacket" (1987) were strong attacks about the war methods of WWI and Viet Nam;"Spartacus" (1960) enacted the slave rebellion in Roman times; "Lolita" (1962) and "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999) explored scabrous sexual subjects; "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) was a scathing satire about the atom bomb; "Barry Lyndon" (1975) told an Eighteenth Century love story; "The Shining" (1980) was a marvelous terror film; "A clockwork orange" was a stunning version of the Burgess novel on juvenile delinquency; and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) was his only science fiction film  and had enormous influence on other film makers.

As the hand programme of the Colón says, this film "is celebrated for its technological realism, its special effects that won an Oscar" (imagined by Kubrick and Douglas Turnbull)  "and its audacious use of music". "London´s Southbank Center worked with the British Film Institute and Kubrick´s heirs to create a remasterized version of the film  in high definition that contains the audio track excepting the music". The score accompanying the film "was put together" (from the original scores)  "by conductor André De Ridder". The London Philharmonic played it at the Royal Festival Hall in 2010.

The Colón recently presented Murnau´s "Nosferatu", and in other seasons, Lang´s "The Nibelungs" and "Metropolis" with live ad-hoc scores, but all these cases were a different thing, for they accompanied mute films. Instead, what we heard was the music selected by Kubrick, but not in the audio track: live, by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic under Christian Baldini and the amplified Estudio Coral de Buenos Aires (49-strong) prepared by Carlos López Puccio.

It was a very professional job that managed with great precision the very exact joins that were needed, so that the music was heard with the right intensity except in a couple of places where it tended to cover dialogue. Also, I felt that some tenor voices weren´t of the best quality. But the whole was convincing; it must have been tricky to mimick the original recordings; e.g., Baldini had to follow Karajan´s tempi in Johann Strauss II´s "Blue Danube". 

This is the fourth time I see "2001" since its 1969 BA première, though of course the first with live music.  It´s time to mention the musical selections and their special uses. In 1968, when the film was first seen, Richard Strauss´ "Also sprach Zarathustra" was little known compared to other tone poems of him; its metaphysical impact as the impressive beginning of "The Dawn of Mankind" and its repetition at the end provoked a rash of recordings of the complete score, soon recognised as a masterpiece.

In fact, Kubrick had initially commissioned a distinguished film composer, Alex North (who had provided the music for "Spartacus") with the score for "2001", and North duly provided it. But Kubrick´s wife made him discover György Ligeti´s works, and the filmmaker felt that he had found the cosmic music he was looking for; he was right: almost half a century after, Ligeti still is closer to what Kubrick and many others (I feel the same) think of as the sounds of space. Four microtonal creations of the composer are used: the Requiem when the monolith of an unknown alien civilisation appears for the first time; " Lux aeterna" and the "Requiem" at the second and third apparitions of the monolith; "Atmospheres" and "Lux aeterna" at the "stellar door" sequence; and "Adventures" in the cryptic final scene.

A great Kubrick idea comes when the hominid of the first scene throws a bone and it becomes, millions of years later, a spaceship "dancing" to the strains of the "Blue Danube" Waltz. It is a magical instance. What convinces me less is the Neo-Romantic Adagio from Khachaturian´s ballet "Gayaneh"; the music is nice but clashes with the images.

 I hadn´t seen "2001" for decades, and something struck me: its very title. For it indicates that Kubrick imagined (as I did) that after landing at the Moon space exploration would jump and by 2001 a manned mission to Jupiter would be logical; well, we are far from that, although unmanned probes have done wonderful discoveries  there and in other outer planets (in fact, man has arrived beyond the planets of the Solar System). Not only the USA but the rest of mankind haven´t followed through with the capitals and fortitude necessary to conquer space.

The fighting hominids remain hostile, formidable and believable, at a time when animatronics hadn´t been developed, though "Planet of the Apes" had been filmed just months before. The astronauts´ dialogue remains stilted and protocolar, and things become dramatic only when the supercomputer Hal makes mistakes and the two American astronauts decide to disconnect it...but they don´t know that Hal has read their lips. Kubrick didn´t realize that computers would go the way of miniaturisation and that human emotions are still in 2015 out of the picture.

The fascinating images of the "stellar door" are still prophetic though unrealistic for an astronaut with a Jupiter mission, and the final images are enigmatic  as the astronaut is shown at older stages of his life, to be apparently reborn  to a new world.

For Buenos Aires Herald 

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