The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's
2001: A Space Odyssey
Taschen hardcover $69.99
review by Christopher Geary
Since the four-volume collector's edition of this book sold out quickly (and too many missed the chance), here's a much reduced but affordable version. The 20th century's greatest work of art deserved
a reasonably priced tribute in print, and this is certainly it; a monolith shaped tome with a mighty 652 pages of photos, production art, design works, and assorted behind-the-scenes material, collated
from unprecedented access to Kubrick's archives by Odyssey researcher Piers Bizony, the authoritative author of 2001: Filming The Future (Aurum, 1994). That lavishly illustrated book was
a major improvement on The Making Of Kubrick's 2001 by Jerome Agel (NAL, 1970), just as this is a significant grade above Bizony's previous effort.
Criticism for the long spine and narrow pages is necessary, but it's merely a moderate gripe about a book that contains so many fabulous illustrations, and plenty of incisive text, about not just the
pinnacle of SF cinema to date but unquestionably the supreme movie in which various elements of storytelling, thematic/ mythic density, allegorical resonance, superb use of existing music, and innovative
direction are all are perfectly aligned to create a singular masterpiece; the Mona Lisa of motion pictures.
A desktop read, rather than a coffee-table book, this is not bed-time reading as its size and weight make it too heavy to handle easily, particularly since the binding means it is best read or viewed
when the book is laid flat. A BritisHollywood production of how the Solar system was won, Kubrick and Clarke's ultimate genre project was bought to life slowly, over several years, but, as the stunning
contents of this book make obvious it was key artworks of Richard McKenna's conceptual renderings and Robert McCall's iconic production paintings that began to frame the final shapes of things to come.
It's fascinating to read about and see the evolution of designs (that began with Harry Lange's sketches), for all the various space vehicles, including shuttles and pods, that were emerging from the
then-current NASA research and DARPA projects. There are numerous pages of close-ups of control panels and cut-away illustrations in this book that enhance our understanding of exquisite detailing of
movie sets and the geometry of so many realistic designs that granted the pioneering project its verisimilitude. The workshop and soundstage photos reveal the meticulous craftsmanship of the detailed
props and extraordinary sets, and the often immense scale of the varied construction projects, like Vickers' carousel engineering rig for the revolving centrifuge.
Special effects developed for 2001 include the beginnings of motion-control cameras, but, as cultural artifice, 2001 was always about so much more than just its visuals and Bizony's concise
text places the creation of Kubrick's magnum opus against the social, political, and industrial era, during which the movie was made, while also considering the scientific and technological parameters
of the 1960s - as the length and breadth of practical and theoretical influences on how the picture was developed and completed, and received by critics and the general public.