Director Steven Soderbergh recuts 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Jan 15, 2015, 1:20 PM EST (Updated)

It takes guts and more than a little chutzpah to mess around with a sci-fi classic. Director Steven Soderbergh, a world-class filmmaker in his own right whose resume includes Sex, Lies and Videotape, Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brokovich, a remake of Solaris and many more, has created his own cut of Stanley Kubrick's cinematic masterpiece and sci-fi landmark, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Why did he do it? It's not as if he thinks he can improve on it. In fact, at his Extension 765 website, where he has posted his cut, Soderbergh wrote that if 2001 is not "THE most impressively imagined and sustained piece of visual art created in the 20th century, then it’s tied for first."

But, noting that he watched the film three times in 2014 alone in addition to reading a book on its making, he admitted:

"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..."

Soderbergh claims to have seen 2001 over the years in almost every format possible -- from 16mm film to a fresh 70mm negative on the Warner Bros. lot -- and went with a Blu-ray copy from which to make his edit (he also gets into why he thinks Kubrick would have embraced digital filmmaking had he lived longer). The new version is 110 minutes long -- a full half-hour shorter than Kubrick's 140-minute final cut -- and makes some significant changes to the original.

Soderbergh has done this kind of thing before. Rescoring Raiders of the Lost Ark and turning it black and white was one of his projects, along with making a mashup of the original Psycho with its 1998 remake. Soderbergh seems to love the original films, so he apparently does these experiments simply for fun and maybe to learn a little about what makes them tick. Head over to his site, take a look at his 2001 and see what you think -- did he improve on what many consider to be perfection? And is it even right for him to be mucking about with classic films, even for his own amusement?

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