CANNES, France (AP) — For these the-movies-are-dying, I'll-stream-it-at-home times, Christopher Nolan has brought out the big guns.
The 47-year-old filmmaker, passionate booster of the big screen and champion of celluloid, has, in a time-traveling expedition of his own, returned "2001: A Space Odyssey" to its original analog presentation in a new-but-old print that on Friday will put Stanley Kubrick's mind-blowing sci-fi masterpiece back into theaters to commemorate its 50th anniversary.
"It hasn't withstood the test of time. It's thrived on the test of time. It's profited by it," Nolan said in an interview. "The thing '2001' does, and it does it as strongly now as it did then, is it speaks to the infinite potential of movies. Cinema can do anything and be anything — things we can't conceive of."
That "2001" is worth revisiting has rarely been in doubt, even though its 1968 premiere sparked more than 200 walk outs and critic Pauline Kael dismissed it as "trash masquerading as art." No, "2001" not only became the highest grossing film of 1968, its epic, eons-spanning odyssey has ever since bewildered and astonished moviegoers — none more than Nolan who, after his father took him at age 7 to a screening in London's Leicester Square, has been agog at Kubrick's achievement.
"For the first time since the silent era, it showed that you can construct a completely new rule set for the nascent form," Nolan said. "Cinema is 100 years old. It's still a young medium, but 50 years ago, it was a very young medium. I think you have to go back to (D.W.) Griffith to see somebody just go: 'OK, we're doing this. This is the experience you're going to have that you haven't seen before and you won't see afterwards.'"
"We've put on posters 'changed movies forever,' but, in a way it hasn't changed movies," he added. "In 2018, '2001' is just as radical."
The day after premiering the "unrestored" "2001" at the Cannes Film Festival, Nolan was still buzzing from the experience. He was joined by the film's star, Keir Dullea and Kubrick's daughter, Katharina Kubrick. Played on the Palais' pristine Debussy screen with full operatic intro, intermission and coda, the screening was, unlike most decades-old movies, met with a thunderous standing ovation.
"There's no film that I'm going to make that's going to get the reaction we got at the end of last night," he said, more thrilled than crestfallen.
The "unrestored" "2001" opens Friday in select cities before traveling roadshow-style across the U.S. throughout the summer. The project came about while Nolan was preparing the home entertainment release of "Dunkirk," his Oscar-winning 2017 hit that grossed $525 million worldwide for Warner Bros. The studios' vice president of restoration, Ned Price, offered Nolan a look at a reel of the film's original 70-mm camera negatives — stored for preservation, not distribution.
Bowled over by them, Nolan suggested the studio restore the negatives, but not in the digitized way, with 4K resolution, most common in film restoration. Both versions are valid, Nolan says, but they are different things — even different mediums. To him, it's the difference between the crackling, rich sound of vinyl and flatter, shallower mp3 digital format.