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MGM is turning to real-estate parcels all around us, and that night I am facing Stanley Kubrick across the hood of a rented car in Culver City, and he is smiling at me, a little anxiously and still very proudly, and he is saying, "Yes, but did you like it?"
He means 2001. We have just seen it for the first time, he and I and perhaps a dozen others, in the cavernous studio screening room. Stanley's wife, Christiane, is with us. His attorney; the president of Cinerama; the film's editor, Ray Lovejoy, and a few others are also at the screening, but I am the only pair of fresh, disinterested eyes there. I am also, by at least two decades, the youngest member of the audience, an unelected representative of a generation that will eventually rescue this great film from critical infamy and claim it for its own. I am twenty-three years old, very lucky to be here, knowing it, sensing I have just seen something seismic whose full measure I can't take, reaching for something to say that will encompass all this, as well as my startled excitement at the wit and majesty of the movie. I am also trying to say something deeper and more memorable than "Wow"
I start to talk to Stanley and Christiane about the early days of silents, when movies were shown on rooftops, and audiences, watching a train on the screen come straight at them, ducked and screamed at the newness of the experience and, without knowing it, at intimations of the future. The experience of 2001 was, for me, just like that.
"Yeah," said Stanley, still smiling at my excitement, "but did you really like it?"
I told him it was one of the greatest things I'd ever seen, and he laughed, and we all drove to dinner.