(1973) dir. René Laloux
René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet is a wonderful anomaly in feature length cinema, from an animation perspective, from a science fiction perspective, from a surrealist perspective,…heck from any perspective. Released in 1973, it is Laloux’s first feature length film (the DVD includes three of his earlier shorts which are also amazing), it is an adaptation of a Czechoslovakian allegorical science fiction novel referring to the Russian control of Czechoslovakia.
The animation style is unusual, limited, but the design style is what is much more radical. The designs are highly “drawn”, showing ink lines in figures both foreground and background, the style is highly illustrative, something one my more commonly see in a book, rather than animated in a film. The figures and design flow from early Surrealist designs, but tempered into a fluidity that speaks as well of the time of the film’s creation, the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, that psychedelica influence of design.
An adventure tale, if you boil down the narrative, of a repressed race of small human-like people, the Om’s, and their oppressors, the giant, blue, vaguely robotic Draags. But, like the style of the drawings, the narrative is limited, not overwhelming with description, open enough to feel less “explained” all the time, a sensebility that I think seemed to exist for a while in science fiction that left more questions and a lack of clarity that expanded the genre.
The only films that came to mind at all were a couple of other European animated films from the near time vicinity, George Dunning’s Yellow Submarine (1968) and Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro non troppo (1977) and director Ralph Bakshi’s work to an extent. But, this film is completely unlike anything else. I’d seen only part of it back in the 1980’s at a friend’s house and had been meaning to see it again all these years. It’s certainly the stuff of cult filmgoers and acid heads.
It’s only real downside is the soundtrack which comes and goes into the same sort of music one might expect from a porn film of the same period.
French illustrator, Roland Topor, worked with Laloux on this film, offering a large part of the design and aesthetics. He and Laloux worked together on some of Laloux’s previous short films, which, if you do see this film on DVD, I recommend watching if you enjoyed this feature. It’s a brilliant, amazing film. Vive les anomalies!