Kubrick's final, final legacy: a new paint job for '2001'

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The Independent Online
A UNIQUE new print of the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey which was personally supervised by the director Stanley Kubrick will be shown for the first time next month.

Kubrick spent the last five years of his life overseeing the making of the new print, the first since the film was released 30 years ago. It was commissioned by the National Film and Television Archive in Britain for its Treasures of the Archives collection of significant films and paid for with a five-figure donation from the millionaire John Paul Getty.

But Kubrick was so appalled by what he claimed were the wrong gradations of colour in the first attempt that he took it home to Hertfordshire and harangued all those involved in the project until it was right. David Meeker, the keeper of fiction film at the archive, said: "I couldn't get my print back. He said the whole world was incompetent. But Stanley did this because he wanted the British Film Institute to have the very best, most up-to-date copy of the film available."

The final version was still incomplete when the director died in March. It arrived at the national archive, part of the British Film Institute, last month after Warner Brothers helped speed through the final technical work in the United States.

It will be shown at the National Film Theatre in London on 16 and 19 September as part of a retrospective coinciding with the release of Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut. It is unique as Kubrick insisted on improving the soundtrack by adding the Dolby noise reduction system to the film's original sound system, which had itself been state-of-the-art when the film opened in 1968.

During the agonising five-year process - much longer than normal for a new print - the project became jokingly known as "the curse of Kubrick" because of the never-ending demands of the legendary perfectionist. At one point, Kubrick's producer, Jan Harlan, arrived at the BFI clutching a box into which Kubrick had cut up the print to show where he was unhappy with shades of green in some of the scenes. On other occasions, he made interminable telephone calls to Mr Meeker at home.

The archive had wanted a pristine print as part of its plan to build a collection of classic feature films, but the cost was significant as 2001 was made on 70mm film, an expensive format twice the width of ordinary film. Mr Meeker, who saw the original London press screening in Soho, said that two generations of film-lovers had not seen 2001 as Kubrick made it, because most people had watched it in the smaller 35mm format.