This blog post goes out to a very special young man named Robert who was in attendance at last night’s 70mm screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Egyptian. As you can see from my bio at the right, 2001 is one of my favorite films. The bombastic opening score is probably the greatest opening credit sequence of any film ever. Its scope is unequaled. It has the greatest match cut in the history of cinema when the austrilopithicus throws the bone up into the air and it cuts to the space shuttle in the future. The shot of the pen floating in zero-gravity is one of the simplest and best special effects I’ve ever seen. HAL 9000 is one of the most tragic and sympathetic villains ever created for film, and he’s nothing but a red lightbulb. It is an epic expression of evolution as an act of cosmic intercourse. The entire film is visually magnificent, but anyone who’s seen the film knows that Kubrick saved the real mindblowing stuff for the end. Made in 1968, it should come as no surprise that it has been described as an acid trip.
Unfortunately for everyone in the attendance, a young man named Robert decided to take the comparison literally. Right after the crazy light show zaps Dave Bowman into the monolith’s metaphysical Baroque-style womb, Robert screamed something to effect of, “It’s Stanley Kubrick! Nobody better be sleeping!”
The audience elicited a few groans of annoyance and confusion. Perhaps the guy sitting next to Robert had fallen asleep. 2001 is a long, sparse movie. It’s not crazy to think someone had begun to nod off. But then good old Robert, bless his soul, just wouldn’t shut up. He stood up, raising his arms about as he addressed someone–whether the screen, his fellow audience members or some warped Kubrickian vision of dancing monkeymen, I cannot say–by screaming, “Speak!” Perhaps this was a commentary on the lack of dialogue taking place Beyond the Infinite in the film’s final reel.
Robert was told to sit down, to shut up, to watch the film. He did none of these things. More drug-addled ranting ensued. There were cries of, “You’re all just like me!” and “What were we doing before we took drugs?!” People offered their critique from the sidelines: “Go get a glass of water.” “Calm down, man. It’s almost over.” “He’s an asshole.” “He’s not an asshole; he’s just on drugs.”
Soon, the manager arrived, and told Robert in no uncertain terms to vacate the theater.
This appeared to terrify poor Robert.
A physical struggle ensued as the manager and his friends unsuccessfully tried to get Robert out of the theater. As things began to die down, I went to the bathroom. When I came out, I saw a dozen LAPD officers charging into the theater. I ran down along the side to try and get a glimpse of them taking Robert away, but alas, they had already vanished him away by the time I got back to the theater floor.
I’m sure that Robert was quite surprised hours later when he found himself in jail watching youtube videos of his freakout. I’m sure he is normally a very nice fellow when he’s not on drugs. So Robert, thank you for a memorable filmgoing experience. Next time you want to drop acid and watch a Kubrick movie, do us all a favor and chain yourself to a radiator in your apartment instead of interrupting one of the greatest movies of all time.
Epilogue 9/12/10: I was at the Egyptian again earlier tonight for a screening of Kubrick’s disavowed first film, Fear and Desire, when another theatergoer informed me that after dragging him outside, the police tazed out dear Robert a goodly number of times. Five was the number, and the number was five. I kind of feel sorry for the poor, electrified bastard.