The universe is a weird place. Just yesterday, we found ourselves debating the merits of Kubrick vs. Schwarzenegger here at Nordstrom HQ. That very night, listlessly cruising our Tumblr dashboard, we serendipitously stumbled upon two pieces of evidence that just might sway the debate.
The first is a collection of photos depicting director Stanley Kubrick on the set of his abstract, enigmatic 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film itself is dense, difficult (if not impossible) to decipher, and moves at a snail’s pace. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful to look at, and unflinchingly original to the point that it could be considered on par with the works of Beethoven or Picasso. (Read an eloquent essay on LIFE.com, from whence these photos originate, in which the Editor of that site convincingly draws those very comparisons.)
Whether or not 2001 is your cup of tea (Tang?), we think you’ll agree it’s inspiring to see a man so intent on realizing a vision, no matter how grandiose or perplexing, that only he could.
(The intricate sets, the eye-catching costumes, the intense atmosphere…Even amidst all that, we’re drawn to Kubrick’s elegantly disheveled, overturned tie. It’s exactly how a well-dressed man, utterly immersed in a hands-on job, should look.)
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The second piece of evidence in our abstract cinema vs. action movie dialogue is the video montage below, illustrating a favorite camera trick that Kubrick returned to again and again—in Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and more. You’d think, given the sheer number of examples, that this could become redundant; but it’s the otherworldly visuals and impassioned performances that Kubrick places within that lens, that make his camerawork come to life. Touché, sir—consider yourself back at the top of our Netflix queue.
[Photos by Dmitri Kessel via Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images and LIFE.com. Video by Vimeo user, and apparent extreme film buff, Kogonada. We found these via two of our favorite sources of inspiration: Nickel Cobalt and The Only Magic Left is Art. Individuals pictured do not endorse Nordstrom.]