Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fantastic Planet Sydney Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Festival, Diary #1

Last Saturday was a good day for sci fi. We kicked off the day with Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009), which I’ve been meaning to see for the last few weeks. I’ll put off writing a review for that one, since this post is about the first – of, we hope, many to come – Fantastic Planet Sydney Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Festival. Organised by the masterminds of A Night of Horror Film Festival, Dean Bertram (PhD) and Lisa Mitchell, Fantastic Planet promises a wide range of sf&f features and shorts, forums and parties. What a great occasion for yet another Macabresque diary!

We found out about the pre-festival event before we went in to see Moon. Upon learning it was taking place in the inimitable Mu Meson Archives, we decided to go and immerse ourselves in more indie sci-fi goodness. The night’s program included screenings of La Crème (Reynald Bertrand, 2007) and 1 and 0 nly (Martyn Park, 2008) as well as a Q&A with director Martyn Park and producer/star Christopher Baker.

The French film La Crème is a fantasy/comedy about an unemployed salesman, François Mangin, who receives a mysterious jar of facial cream, which seems to have magical qualities, as a Christmas present. Whenever he uses the cream, people seem to think that he is a celebrity and he starts to use this as an advantage. There are side effects of course, like being accused of rape during sex when the effect of the cream wears off, and the danger of losing his wife because of the attention he gets from women.

An obvious satire on the celebrity culture, this indie French film had the feel of a rather light-hearted early Godard film. The performances of the actors were quite successful, especially those of Nicolas Abraham and Laurent Legeay, who had a nice chemistry as two rival, unemployed, almost nihilistic characters. I believe La Crème would work better as a short film, as it seems like the point is to make a commentary about the superficiality of celebrity culture, rather than telling a story. It was enjoyable enough, but you won’t miss anything if you don’t see it. That being said, we haven’t actually been able to see the end of the film because the dvd jammed, but Dean Bertram and Jack Sargeant (writer of many wonderful books such as Deathtripping and Naked Lens) mimed and narrated the last two minutes of the film for us, which I think, was better than the whole film.

The second film was the much more interesting Australian indie feature 1 and 0 nly by Martyn Park. It is one of the smallest feature films I have seen, with a crew of four – the director, the actor, the composer and the production designer (and a bird named Sir William Wallace). It tells the story of genius scientist and environmentalist Frank James Morley, who develops a way to eradicate all humanity off the face of the earth (by targeting their DNA codes only), deciding that human beings are no longer a part of the biodiversity of earth. As the 1 and 0 in the title suggests, there is a cyberpunk aspect to it as well – man converging with the machine, the rise of the digital flesh!

I must admit I was kind of annoyed and irritated by this, kind of ‘artsy’ sci fi film at first, mostly because of the constant banging of the electronic beats of the soundtrack in my eardrums, and there being no dialogues, or monologues for that matter. Sometimes there is a very thin line between a quiet, contemplative film and pretentious wankiness, and I think this film zigzags on that line. The influence of such genre films as 2001 and Solaris are obvious, but it’s not in the same caliber as they. Still, I enjoyed watching it, and I wasn’t bored despite the elements I just mentioned. The film managed to draw me in

itself in the end.

During the Q & A, the director Martyn Park talked about how he wanted the audience to think about what’s going on with the world and the environment, as it is something not everybody takes as seriously as they should. He also talked about other influences, such as Ghost in the Shell and other animes. Christopher Baker said they were making two different films in 1 and 0 nly – Christopher and the production designer Ray Rotton thought they were making a sci fi film whereas Martyn Park thought

he was making a more psychological film with the implication that Frank James Morley could actually be crazy, rather than a genius scientist and could be imagining that he killed the entire human race. I think I like the latter version better.

The Fantastic Planet is starting tonight at Dendy Newtown. You can find all the information you need at The macabresque diary will continue!


Simon said...

I was also lucky enough to catch the screening of this film at the Mu. And coincidentally I had also seen Moon that same day at the Verona (stop stalking me). I preferred this over Moon, (I didn’t find it pretentious or wanky) although the performance of Sam Rockwell in Moon was undeniably brilliant.
In your review, I believe you are misquoting the filmmakers in saying that “Christopher and the production designer Ray Rotton thought they were making a sci fi film whereas Martyn Park thought he was making a more psychological film”. This alludes that what they were doing was in-cohesive and random, which is clearly not the case. What I believe they said was, as there is only one man, and no one to bare witness to any of the events portrayed, the possibility of multiple interpretations allowed them to view what they were making from their own perspective without it affecting the ultimate direction of the film.
As Berkeley wrote "Esse est percipi" - "To be is to be perceived".


can y. said...

Thank you for your comment. I didn't think it was entirely pretentious or wanky. I thought it was somewhere in between that and quiet and contemplative. I think with films like this, there's always the risk of being perceived as pretentious. Anyway, as I said I ended up liking the film. And the Q & A session made me like it more.

I clearly remember Christopher Baker saying that they were making two different films. I don't think that necessarily means that what they were doing was incohesive, I think it implies that the film was open to multiple interpretations. After all, they were making the film based on one script but their interpretations of that same script was different.

Oh, and how do I know it's not YOU who's stalking ME?!

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