A Life of Film + [2001]

The American Astronaut (2001)

A low-fi western science fiction musical comedy, inspired in no little part by German expressionism. Yeah, that got my attention too.

This is a fun filled, somewhat absurd movie. The interior of the space ship is kinda like a dingy motel room. Most of the outer space sequences are shown with the use of still images. There are gruff looking men performing what are perhaps the stupidest dances ever committed to celluloid. The music is quite brilliant. Every once in a while it is nice to be reminded that not every movie in this beloved genre of ours needs to be grimdark serious business. Of course, I could easily turn that around and talk about some pretty fucking disturbing themes and undertones; this one has that in spades - but that is not the impression you walk away with. The impression is that you've just visited a very strange vision of the future, one that despite being horribly unfuturistic, still works beautifully. This is culminated pretty early on with an inspired sequence involving a stand up comic plying his trade. Himself and his audience misunderstand the joke because they're looking at it through an entirely different perspective, and it doesn't really make sense to us, the actual audience, from theirs. It actually goes two layers deeper that I'm not going to ruin by outlining here, but I thought that was a touch of absolute genius. Well, at least I think that's what's going on, you can never be too sure with these things.
The film showed its sly cunning dressed as nonsense, which I almost would have drawn up to a fluke had it not been for another taking place in an interstellar barn. While the sum of this movie's parts is one thing, when you consider the actual parts, you find something else entirely. You know, I really really wish there were more absurd movies around. Hell, I'll take movies that just use some absurd elements. Maybe I'm just getting jaded and cynical in my old age, but to me, taking something completely out of context and turning it on its head, and then saying something about it is infinitely more interesting than artsy fartsy symbolism along the lines of '...and the fragmented lighting in this scene is a visual representation of the character's inner turmoil...' snoooooooooooozzzzze. Absurdity on film can be powerful, and it really is too bad that it's so criminally underused - I can't think of more than a couple of others, and then those are more just weird for weirdness' sake. Despite all this talk, the movie is oozing rustic charm and an obvious and deep love of early sci-fi cinema by the filmmakers. On the one hand, scenarios are presented simply and with a complete disregard for logic, which contributes to the film's overall sense of offcentre humour and yet on the other they contain such perverse ideas that they can make your blood curdle if stop to consider them. This incredibly strong duality married with all the other weird shit you'll encounter makes for an interesting cinematic experience that is quite unlike anything else.