While retired from feature film directing, Steven Soderbergh has been plenty busy with other projects. In addition to his work on The Knick and his contributions to the Magic Mike sequel, he has also used what should ostensibly be his downtime to work on his craft of editing as a way of better understanding film. Previously, he mashed up the two versions of Alfred Hitchcock and Gus Van Sant’s Psycho to reveal the subtle changes made between the films and how those affect viewing. He also redid Raiders Of The Lost Ark as a black-and-white film with a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack, which illustrated Steven Spielberg’s expert command at blocking and shot composition. With each of these projects, Soderbergh attempts to distill filmmaking down to its essentials, and in doing so, offering free master classes to aspiring filmmakers everywhere.
Soderbergh’s latest exercise, found on his Extension 765 website, is to recut Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to a 110-minute running time. As Soderbergh explains, his reason for excising about 50 minutes of film and making various changes throughout is about being a fan. He writes:
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.