Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fantastic Animation

Back when I was a college student in the seventies, I went to see a showing of an animated film from France, actually a French-Czechoslovakian production, called Fantastic Planet.  

 Being a cartoon, or anime as they call them nowadays (although arguably that term ought to be reserved for Japanese animation), it was not all that big a deal to dub English voices onto it, that's one of the advantages of animation as opposed to live action.  Not that you can't dub live action movies and video, but then it's painfully apparent that it's been dubbed, and film purists find that unacceptable, whereas animated movies are by their very nature dubbed, so it doesn't matter all that much.

Anyway, Fantastic Planet, or as it was originally known as, La Planète Sauvage (meaning, The Savage Planet), was a trippy little film that fit right in with the seventies, which still retained much of the spirit of the psychedelic sixties.  The film was originally released in 1973, directed by René Laloux, and it won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival that year.  It was released in the US by Roger Corman's film company, New World.  

Here's the link for the Internet Movie Database page for Fantastic Planet, there isn't a whole lot of information about it, but on the linked "trivia" page one item reads, "Said to be based on the Soviet Occupation of the Czech Republic."  I find that interesting, but a bit of a stretch.  No mention is made of this, apart from a vague comment about the Cold War, on the Wikipedia entry for Fantastic Planet.  

The film, it's worth noting,  is an adaptation of a 1957 science fiction novel written by Stefan Wul, entitled Oms en Série (translating as Oms by the Dozen, om being the word for the humans in the story, and a homophone for the French word for man, homme).

 The storyline is not an unusual one in the science fiction genre, there's a bit of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels in it, and Swift's fantasy is sometimes considered one of the first, or perhaps  the first science fiction story.  Fantastic Planet involves a role reversal where humans are treated in much the same way as we treat animals, and have to rise up against their oppressors.  I just watched the remake of Planet of the Apes on HBO, I had seen it in the theaters and didn't find it as iconic as the original, but the remake did a good job in depicting human beings as domesticated animals.  All of the Planet of the Apes movies, and the TV series based on the movies, were American productions, but the original novel was written by Pierre Boulle, a French novelist also known for having written The Bridge Over the River Kwai, which was also made into a movie.  Planet of the Apes was originally published in French in 1963, under the title La Planète des Singes.  But enough monkeying around.

Really, the main point of attraction in this film is its imaginative imagery, its ability to capture a sense of the alien in visual terms that goes far beyond the science fiction of its day, and even the science fiction of today.  In this sense, fantastic really is the best word for it.

So, as it turns out, not too long ago I was having an exchange over on my MySpace poetry blog, and it made me think about this film, and I checked on YouTube and discovered it could be found there, chopped up as usual, and in several versions.  So I picked out one that I thought worked better than the others, and strung the pieces together, posted it over there as a response to a comment, and now I'm including it in a post over here, just for you, because that's the kinda blogist that I am, you see.  So, without further ado, ladies and gentilebeings, I give you, Fantastic Planet:

And for more on the topic of French science fiction, see my previous entries, To the Moon, Alice, and The Jetty Stream.  I'll have to do a post about Alphaville one of these days, we're discussing that movie in my Science Fiction Genre class at Fordham University this week, but I'll leave that for another time, and just end by saying, viva la science-fiction française!  

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