January 15, 2015

Steven Soderbergh Takes 51 Minutes out of '2001: A Space Odyssey' in His Latest Recut

Director Steven Soderbergh has become a bit of a recut/remix artist, re-editing several classic films, like Raiders of the Lost ArkHeaven's Gate, and Psycho. This time it's Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey that gets the Soderbergh treatment.

If you're wondering how anyone, even a fantastic filmmaker like Soderbergh, could retouch a masterpiece like 2001, you're not alone. Quite a number of Kubrick fans and purists have voiced some displeasure with the new version, which cuts nearly an entire hour out of the original film. However, Soderbergh gives us a little insight into his purpose and vision behind his recut:

i’ve been watching 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY regularly for four decades, but it wasn’t until a few years ago i started thinking about touching it, and then over the holidays i decided to make my move. why now? I don’t know. maybe i wasn’t old enough to touch it until now. maybe i was too scared to touch it until now, because not only does the film not need my—or anyone else’s—help, but if it’s not THE most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century, then it’s tied for first. meaning IF i was finally going to touch it, i’d better have a bigger idea than just trimming or re-scoring.

You can watch the recut right here, though the video may periodically stop working (If it does, you can watch it at this link):

Your Comment

19 Comments

OMG I've just watched a couple of bits. Terrible! 2001 for MTV.
His improvements include, at 10.31, an insert of HAL's lens/eye. What's that? A bit of modern foreshadowing? Kubrick would have hated this.
You can see the original sequence here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSxI0OOjR0Y

January 16, 2015 at 4:19AM

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Karel Bata
Director / DP / Stereographer
414

No need to be dramatic. This is his edit, not Kubrick's. I'm watching it tonight, curious to see where the removed 50 minutes come from.

January 16, 2015 at 4:54AM

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Álex Montoya
Writer/Director
429

I agree. A shortened version is one thing but adding that eye and the reverb that I've heard is ridiculous.

January 16, 2015 at 5:07PM

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I wonder - is recuting movies and uploading them on the internet legal?

January 16, 2015 at 9:29AM, Edited January 16, 9:29AM

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For educational purposes perhaps?

January 16, 2015 at 10:17AM

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I happen to be taking a class called Rights and Methods, which is one of the required classes for the Digital Filmmaking Degree Program at as Community College is Seattle. I'm going to post that exact question next Friday to my teacher, a former lawyer. I might be able to post back here with an answer to your question :)

January 16, 2015 at 6:30PM

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Joseph Andolina Jr.
Director of Photography / Editor
79

Soderbergh's edit is about 31 minutes shorter than Kubrick's theatrical version, not 51 minutes shorter.

I think your mistake is that you are probably comparing it to the known running time of Kubrick's premiere version of "2001: A Space Odyssey" which Kubrick then cut roughly 20 minutes out of before it was released wide to theaters. (And those 20 minutes are basically lost forever, as I understand it.)

January 16, 2015 at 9:44AM

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I love stuff like this. It shows you exactly why something works or doesn't work. I don't think he means for it to be a BETTER version of 2001, but by doing an alternative version it gives you the best possible insight as to what it is in the original that made it special.

January 16, 2015 at 12:07PM

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Joshua Bowen
Editor
471

I watched it up to the point when HAL speaks. He added reverb echo on HALs voice (Douglas Rains)for some reason? It made me shut it off. Unwatchable at that point. I did like the shortening of the dawn of man sequence though.

January 16, 2015 at 1:34PM

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John Chu
Video Freelancer
81

I don't know why John Chu's comment is downvoted. 100% in the same camp as him. That 500ms echo is an incredibly poor decision. Additionally, he got lazy towards the end of the scene and the echo bled into the human dialogue.

January 17, 2015 at 7:48PM

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Charles F Forman
Maker of things
81

I assumed the echo was an audio mastering artifact -- a mistake.

March 14, 2015 at 4:27AM

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DaveK
76

Must agree ,the Time Delay on Hal's dialogue is terrible. What was he thinking with this addition ?
Having not seen the original for some time,can't compare it with this Cut. It does ,however seem to drag less in some spots. I once again marveled at some of the Shots - Beautiful.
I believe I read somewhere Mr. Soderbergh has Retired / Semi-retired ? Being such a talented & Successful Guy ,I would think though ,he would have Much better ways to spend his time. It goes right along with the so-called "Remixing" of Past Music hits - WHY ? Mr. Soderbergh obviously has talent - unlike many of the Music "Artists " who take other people's material & mess with it due to a Lack of any Musical Talent or Abilities.

January 17, 2015 at 11:37AM

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The audio seems to have a bug starting at 40:33, when the BBC announcer says, "I sensed a certain pride in his answer..." There is an echo starting then and continuing for the next few minutes. It seems to be most pronounced on HAL's voice, but it's not just for HAL. I hope this bug is fixed soon, because John Chu is right, it becomes unwatchable at that point.

January 18, 2015 at 9:22AM

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Dan Eckam
140

I'm not hearing the echo now. Looks like it's debugged!

January 18, 2015 at 10:20PM

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Dan Eckam
140

It's fixed now! Debugged.

January 19, 2015 at 12:03AM

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Dan Eckam
140

Let's not get dramatic here. Soderberg is an arrogant ass. Let's all take our sharpies down to the MOMA and start scribbling on the Matisse paintings -They need a little reworking

January 19, 2015 at 5:07AM

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"Director Steven Soderbergh has become a bit of a recut/remix artist, re-editing several classic films..." More like a bit of an arrogant, egotistical recut/remix whore. He, of such trashy grinds as MAGIC MIKE, FULL FRONTAL and let's not forget the seemingly endless OCEANS nn franchise, thought Mr. Kubrick's word needed his helping hand. Please. SS should have done everyone a favor and taken heed to his inner voice which told him to "be afraid to touch 2001." Yes, be VERY afraid. But I guess hubris and ego made that impossible.

It is one thing to do this kind of thing for film course to show students how to do things incorrectly, cutting where the master didn't cut...interspersing images to make ambiguity "clearer" for an audience where the master required the audience to bring their own imagination to the work, but just to drop this in the public purview as if somehow another "version" of the film is now there alongside Kubrick's work simply borders on artistic felony. He should be locked in a room for a few years and be forced to watch FULL FRONTAL 5 times a day.

If Soderbergh enjoys dabbling in his multi-million dollar digital home editing studio with the privileged access he seems to have to master elements of the classics and mucking around with them -- fine; let him do it to his hearts content, but I would ask that he spare the rest of us and keep the resultant abortions to himself, OK, if he must, play them in his multi-million dollar home theatre for his sycophant groupie friends so they can all stroke his inflated ego, but LEAVE US OUT OF IT....please.

January 19, 2015 at 6:49PM

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Frank N. Angel
Director, Brooklyn Center Cinema
81

Full Frontal is a great film.

January 20, 2015 at 5:25AM

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Mike Retter
Video shop owner/filmmaker
227

what about this?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6EL7-XXVGE
i think its better.

January 19, 2015 at 11:59PM

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aombk
251

January 20, 2015 at 2:11AM

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Mike Retter
Video shop owner/filmmaker
227

Ocean's 2001 and The Hip Side of History

Steven Soderbergh is committed to being on the hip side of history. He isn’t interested in pleasing everyone, in fact he famously has a one-for-them, one-for-him ethic. His efforts have wavered between Academy Award and commercial success, with mainstream pictures such as "Erin Brockovich" and the crowd-pleasing "Ocean’s" films, to unannounced Cannes screenings of the allegedly unwatchable "Schizopolis". He claims that the studio system is toxic and that his last film, "Behind The Candelabra," had to be made for TV because the studios wouldn’t touch such a gay movie. In the late 90’s he borrowed the Danish fad of Dogme 95 and trans-Atlanticly rewrote it as “the rules” for his underappreciated mini-DV feature "Full Frontal".

Now in supposed retirement, the once Sundance Kid and now quasi-activist with shades of Prince changing his name, has turned to television and re-cutting classic films. “Psychos” is a blend of Hitchcock’s original with Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake (its great that the Van Sant remake is finally useful). His twist on the Raiders Of The Lost Ark is that it’s becoming a black and white silent film.
Staying on the hip side of history meant that for his next fan-edit he would have to make an extraordinary disclaimer, text-speak and all:

“maybe this is what happens when you spend too much time with a movie: you start thinking about it when it’s not around, and then you start wanting to touch it. i’ve been watching 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY regularly for four decades, but it wasn’t until a few years ago i started thinking about touching it, and then over the holidays i decided to make my move. why now? I don’t know. maybe i wasn’t old enough to touch it until now. maybe i was too scared to touch it until now, because not only does the film not need my—or anyone else’s—help, but if it’s not THE most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century, then it’s tied for first. meaning IF i was finally going to touch it, i’d better have a bigger idea than just trimming or re-scoring..”

Rather than attempting greatness and falling short (like directing 2010 or something lofty and derivative) a re-cut is a safe place to fall. It can easily slide into the vague realm of video art or video essay and drift into obscurity as an academic exercise. Purist’s anger towards such hubris comes off as obvious, automatic and clichéd even if critics are right in expressing it. There is something ironically safe in re-cutting one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of all time.

Soderbergh cuts out much of the first act in his 40-minute butchering of Kubrick’s classic science fiction film. The opening is snappier and more pschyadelic, utilizing eye-ball material from the "stargate sequence", neatly cut with HAL’s sociopathic monocle. Entire scenes are cut to make way for our zoom-zoom to the moon and ear-piercing-plank. Unfortunately, this new fast paced opening and first act doesn’t quite gel with the less-hacked second act, which after the intro’s soderbergh-treatment, feels remarkably slow. Kubrick’s original is a finely tuned experience, who’s pace and mood is balanced between the three acts. The grinding halt we feel aboard the Jupiter mission is because of the initial wham-bam, which sets us up for something entirely different. It reminds me of the remarkable opening of Tony Scott’s "The Hunger", which leaves us confused and unsatisfied for the rest of the film’s grinding pace, though we do eventually acclimatize with the Ocean director’s jump to hibernation and long-haul voyage.

Using a masterpiece as a celluloid plaything isn’t new. This actually comes full circle to what highly influenced Stanley Kubrick, that being Soviet Montage. Early Russian cinema and theories of editing began not with their own films but American pictures (such as D.W. Griffith’s "Intolerance") cut up and reassembled to mean totally different things. It wasn’t until a trade agreement with Germany that Russia was able to have access to virgin film stock and shoot their own pictures, but in the interim they developed an intense study of film editing that would allow them to hit the ground running with a highly developed theory of montage and radically change the language of cinema forever. Rapid inter-cutting between Kier Dulia’s face and the slitscan footage during the “stargate sequence” in 2001 is a direct lift from Dziga Vertov’s "Man With a Movie Camera" (1929). Soderbergh is kind of pressing the reset button in the digital age and coming back to a classical idea.

For me, the biggest change in this edition of 2001 is the use of HAL’s camera eye as a reoccurring motif. This is a great example of the Kuleshov effect as these shots are given a completely new meaning once interspersed through the plot points. Well before he is introduced as a character, HAL is present right from the start to the end. There is one almost sacrilegious use of his quasi-sentient-self, which implies some kind of future cyber-consciousness. This is simply an insert of the same familiar shot, but during a pivotal moment, which potentially alters the whole message of the film.

Apart from the distilled first act, much of the film lay untouched and most of the chronology is kept, apart from the opening sequence and interweaving of HAL. I was expecting much more play with chronology, typical of a Soderbergh film with more shots out of context, but he hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel here from available footage. At the very least, viewing this presents a new way of seeing the film. It can’t help but put you on the edge of your seat simply in anticipation for what Soderbergh has done to a classic. That, in combination with such an absorbing, masterly original product, kept me up to 2AM after just curiously clicking on the No Film School web-link. But Soderbergh's re-imagining of the significance of HAL as a much more ambiguous force is the biggest new idea put forward in the truncated bootleg of Kubrick and Clarke’s space odyssey. I can honestly say that I am left pondering this significance in a way that is reminiscent to my having viewed the original film for the first time. Attempting an impossible task of re-editing an arguably perfect film, without the fear of failure, will keep you on the hip side of history, but offering a new idea amongst an already lofty work is something of significance. My conclusion: I am now open to the idea of watching Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS.

- Mike Retter

www.m.facebook.com/FilmBuffCentral/photos/a.144504555725104.1073741826 .130716330437260/412611698914387/?type=1&refid=17

January 20, 2015 at 2:54AM

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Mike Retter
Video shop owner/filmmaker
227