Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Absurd Astronaut

Has anybody out there seen Cory McAbee's absurdist surreal black and white musical sci-fi western The American Astronaut? I ask that in all seriousness because the movie is indeed an absurd black and white musical western set in space (specifically Jupiter, Venus and the space in between) and I can't quite think of any movie like it. At times it feels like the deformed lovechild that would be the result of Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World procreating with David Lynch's Eraserhead.

I saw The American Astronaut last night at ACMI, which have "Freaky Friday" nights every week where they program cult fare. McAbee's film premiered last year and has since made regular returns to ACMI and I have wanted to see it, but hadn't had the chance. I'm certainly glad I saw it. Although I think much like Maddin and Lynch's films the finished product doesn't quite measure up to the initial idea behind it (although Eraserhead is still a great film, it is probably my least favourite Lynch film apart from the dire Dune).

Nevertheless, the cinematography by W. Mott Hupfel III is superb and was rightfully nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his trouble. He also lensed the lovely-looking Notorious Bettie Page so he's certainly a name to keep an eye on. Meanwhile the music by The Bill Nayer Show is actually quite good - surprisingly so considering many lower budgeted musical fare tend to have bad songs. And the film has some very memorable moments and images. I particularly loved the sight of McAbee (he's also the lead actor) entering the Ceres bar (left) and the final scenes on the planet Venus (featuring the "girl with a vagina made of glass", ahem).

If you get the chance to see The American Astronaut I'd definitely recommend it, even if it is a flawed picture. As far as I'm aware it is unavailable on DVD down here, which is why I so wanted to catch it at ACMI, but as for the rest of the world... you would know more than I would. B-

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