Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fantastic Planet

In 1972 Fantastic Planet (dir. René Laloux) was an unusual and significant step forward in the development of animated films. It uses muted pastel colors, a limited palette, and stylized, childlike illustrations to portray its characters. The film is about a planet where alien creatures with blue skin and big eyes keep humans as pets. They don’t regard humans as anything more than curiosities, as animals, and they periodically conduct exterminations to reduce the numbers of humans, whom they regard as pests. The humans who are not kept as pets live in settlements outside the alien city and try to escape notice.

It's easy enough to see the potential for allegory here: we can think of our pets, or of the livestock we raise for food. We can think also of race or nationality and how one national or racial group might tend to regard other groups as inferior.

In 2016 this film is more a historical curiosity than anything else. It is slow, and we spend a lot of time watching the humans walking from one place to the other or the aliens doing whatever it is that they do (they meditate a lot, and this is connected to their process of reproduction). This film was made during the age of psychedelia, and certain elements remind me of the Peter Max-style of animation in the film Yellow Submarine (1968; dir. George Dunning), made a few years earlier. There are many scenes of bizarre and fantastic creatures that are imaginatively and amusingly depicted, but which have no pertinence to the central plot.  The film argues that if we could all settle our differences and live together peacefully, everyone would benefit.  Oh that it were so simple.

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