Friday, October 5, 2018

50 Years Ago

1968. I was 7. Based on the dysfunction of my family (please read Jay and the Americans on Kindle Unlimited for free! – oh, and leave a review on Amazon), my 7th B-Day was overlooked. We were supposed to take the bus to see Dr. Doolittle in Hollywood; instead, my grandmother gave me an LP, Anthony Newley Sings the Songs From Dr. Doolittle and my mother made excuses. Funny, Newley's odd vibrato and phrasing (which I would mimic to my mother's chagrin), would be the basis for my love for Bowie, who I am positive also took a cue from Newley. (I digress, but I guess even 50 years later I still harbor resentment, it seems.)

My estranged father got me nothing, but then, months later during one of my parents' relentless eight-day reconciliations, he took me to the Cinerama Dome to see 2001. The tickets were $6. Cinerama was an early IMAX-like format in specialized theaters. Its screens were taller and considerably wider than normal. 2001 was filmed in Super Panavision with an exclusive surround sound. He got me the souvenir program that mimicked the widescreen format. I'd only learned about it because, when they were together, we always ate at the Howard Johnson's on Sundays; my father enjoyed the all you can eat fried clam strips. The children's menu this go-round was the 2001 edition.

Before then, science fiction cinema was largely limited to B-Movies and the occasional sci-fi epic like This Island Earth or the spectacular Forbidden Planet, a spacy version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Those early science fiction features were big hits; still, science fiction was for kids. Then came Kubrick, Clarke and 2001.

The Cinerama Dome was like a spaceship; the theater drenched in gold, the screen wrapping 180⁰. It couldn't have been a better day. (Screw Dr. Doolittle.) The theater went dark, the gold velvet screen still closed, and the strains of Ligeti’s Atmospheres slowly built. The curtain opened and then, the most dramatic opening sequence in film, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" in the background, and I could have wet myself. I'm sure for the first 25 minutes or so, you know, the monkey thing, my father had Rock Hudson's impression, only buying in with Dr. Heywood Floyd’s arrival on the space station. By intermission, my father, too, was hooked. He gasped as the curtains closed and said, "HAL was reading their lips." I was 7; I don’t know that I really got the connection.

I had no idea what I was seeing but knew it was very different. No ray guns or bug-eyed monsters? It was a strange new world by the time people built spaceships—apes became people and we conquered the environment with the aid of a big black box, but at what cost? And by intermission, the machinery people built to conquer that environment was ready to fight back! Woah, that's a lot for a 7-year old to process! As a child who grew up with Gemini missions and space walks (I had a poster of Ed White on my wall), 2001 was up there with Tomorrowland. 2001 has been a part of my life now, for 50 years; though I now watch it snuggled up on the couch in Blu Ray, and with the advent of the internet's secrets, I'll occasionally sync up Pink Floyd's Echoes and the Star Gate sequence; high, of course.

We all know that when you cue up The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and play them together? You get something magical. Or, to be more precise, you get Dark Side of the Rainbow. One could believe that Floyd wrote Dark Side as a stealth Wizard of Oz soundtrack - something the band firmly denies. But bury one rumor, and another emerges. Two years before producing Meddle, featuring the 23-minute 'Echoes,' Pink Floyd worked on the More film soundtrack, utilizing film synchronization equipment. From there the rumors blossomed, with Roger Waters being misquoted as saying the band was offered the opportunity to provide the soundtrack (they had, in fact, turned down an offer to feature the "Atom Heart Mother" suite in Kubrick's Clockwork Orange). Whether or not the rumors have validity, there is an undeniable beauty when watching the combination of Kubrick's intricate multiverse coupled with the spacey psychedelia of Pink Floyd. The mashup is vibrant and unified. The emotional tone of the music and the images work in harmony; the movie and the music feed into and expand the sense of mystery and unknowability that each explores independently. Go ahead, you know you want to.

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