Bring It Back

For 47 years, I’ve been unable to hear Johann Strauss’s “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” without my mind’s eye conjuring up stars, planets, and.a double Catherine wheel gleaming in the unfiltered sunlight of space.

I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on my birthday in 1968. My family took me to the Cinerama theater in Philadelphia–the only time I can remember going into Philly with them for a movie. (I did see a few other movies across the river with friends: The Godfather, And Now For Something Completely Different, A New Leaf are three that come to mind.)

It was an afternoon showing, and when it ended we stood outside on the sidewalk blinking in the sun for a good twenty minutes while one very excited 14-year-old boy attempted to explain the film to his four very confused family members.

When we got home, I immediately started reading the 2001: A Clarke Novel paperback (with color insert) which my older sister had given me as her present. Later that day, I found myself trying to corner various family members to re-explain the film to them. Since this brought my expertise into question, I went back to see it a couple of weeks later. And then again, flatscreen, on the Jersey side not long after that. (The Cinerama theater, the last in the area, closed that fall.)

All told, I think I saw 2001 projected seven or eight times, on increasingly smaller screens–the last was in a lecture hall at MSU, part of the RHA film series (students $1). I’ve seen it at least that many times since, on increasingly large televisions. But every viewing since the first two — in glorious three camera, 146° ultra-wide screen splendor — has relied on the memory and wonder of those initial experiences for a large measure of the pleasure. It’s not nearly the same film seen any other way.

Don’t you think it’s past time for a restoration and theatrical re-release? I’d stand in line for that.