I saw a screening of *2001: A Space Odyssey* with the score played live by the New York Philharmonic on 9/14/18.  I've always loved this movie and feel a special kinship with it, because both it and I were released in April of 1968!

 

This is my sixth movie at the NY Phil - - I saw *Breakfast at Tiffany's* and episodes 4 thru 7 of the *Star Wars* series.  One of the biggest thrills of seeing a beloved movie in this setting is just seeing it on a big screen with a big audience.  It's a completely different experience than watching it at home.  I was surprised to hear the audience laugh as often as they did in *2001,* and they burst into applause a couple of times (at the end of the opening credits, when the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" excerpt ended, and at the end of the "Blue Danube" sequence).

 

I hadn't noticed how many witty moments there are in the movie: the Zero Gravity Toilet, the bush baby, the Howard Johnson's.  The spacecraft models and invented-for-the-movie technology are astonishing in their rightness, but the hair, makeup, costumes, and especially the furniture SCREAM Mid-Century Modern.  The audience chuckled at the hot pink Djinn chairs.

 

I read a book years ago about the making of the movie and was shocked to hear that the Dawn of Man scene that opens the film was filmed on a soundstage.  That really does look like the desert.  Generally it still looks pretty good but there were a couple of shots where the background looked more than a little like a photograph...  The highlight of this scene was the extraordinary lifelike ape makeup and costumes.  I assume the baby apes were real, they were awfully cute.

 

The conductor was André de Ridder, and he was clearly having a great time.  The challenge of conducting the score to a movie is giving the illusion of flexibility, when you're completely boxed in by the film.  De Ridder seemed to enjoy playing with the timing - - in the "Blue Danube" sequence, he seemed to stretch the tempo to an extreme slowness, and then later he had to take the tempo REALLY fast to make up for lost time.  That was amusing, and the orchestra was with him every step of the way.

 

There's quite a lot of music by Hungarian composer György Ligeti and what a thrill to hear it played and sung so beautifully.  The chorus was Musica Sacra, they had a luscious, luminous sound.

 

2014 marked the centenary of Stravinsky's *The Rite of Spring,* and one critic mentioned that it hasn't lost its ability to shock.  A hundred years later, it's still cutting edge and modern.  *2001: A Space Odyssey* is still just as perplexing, thought-provoking, and startlingly beautiful as it was fifty years ago.

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