From The Man from Elysian Fields to Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s gangster flix, Performance, Mick Jagger has cropped in movies more than a few times. His performances have divided critics, to say the least, but when the roles were reversed, and Jagger was casting an appraising eye over cinema, the rock star was full of praise. His style, however, was a little more Gonzo than your usual piece of film criticism as he also documented his own strange tale of watching the movie with a perturbed audience.
In a Rolling Stone interview in 1968, Jagger discussed Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. “It was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen,” Jagger said. “It’s a very commercial movie. I really got hung up on the audience more than the movie. They kept leaving at the freaky parts ’cause they just couldn’t make it.” It is a peculiar contradiction to tout the movie as commercial in the very same sentence that describes its audience-repellent ways. Still, I’ve certainly read more mind-bending discrepancies in the work of ‘revered critics’.
Jagger continued, “People’s comments are the greatest: ‘you need a lot of imagination to understand the movie,’ ‘it’s a million-dollar put-on.’” Before the singer delved into the subtext, like all good reviewers, the singer helped to illuminate one of the movies great mysteries, by supporting the opinion of a female friend who believed the monolith in the movie was a “big block of hash.”
Elsewhere he delved into the wider allegorical mysteries of the movie, stating, “I think the point of the movie is that he [Kubrick] wants to get this whole thing across to the mass audience,” Jagger opined. “He’s fantastically interested in doing all these games with the spaceship models and all, that’s his hang-up, but it’s incidental. The point is to freak everybody out, which he is very good at.
“But if you have already been through all that then you can turn onto all the other’s levels.”
The avant-garde forefront of the movie may well have spun-out the more straight-laced folks in the audience, but the bohemian musicians in the cinema were used to it, and traversed the trippy terrain and got right to the subplot. David Bowie also watched the movie “stoned out of his gaud,” and was so spellbound that he was inspired to write ‘Space Oddity’.
It would seem that what musicians admire in Stanley Kubrick is what they recognise as the same artistic depth and shocking originality that they strive for in music. It is certainly a movie that catapults you to a place ‘2000 Light Years From Home’.