(2008) dir. Wayne Coyne, Bradley Beesley, George Salisbury
Christmas on Mars has been a long-time labor of love by Wayne Coyne and the rest of his band, The Flaming Lips. It reportedly took 7 years to produce, mostly in spare time, often even in Wayne’s own backyard, even as detailed in The Fearless Freaks (2005), a documentary about the band that touched on a little of everything in their world. For people, like myself, who like the Flaming Lips, there is probably a bit more generosity to this film than someone completely on the outside might think. While it’s not terrific, there is a sweetness and a creativity and occasional “visions” that resonate.
The film is austensibly about a space station on Mars that is just about to run out of oxygen, just as Christmas Eve is coming on. There is one female, either pregnant or nursing a baby. Many of the crew start having baby and vaginal hallucinations due to lack of oxygen, one even going mad and running outside to his death.
Then enters Wayne Coyne, a green-skinned alien with antennae, who doesn’t speak but roams the ship, repairing and rectifying the things that are broken. He dons a Santa suit and it’s clear that he’s sort of a Jesus character, an angel or alien, who magically makes everything alright, when things seemed the darkest. It’s spiritual. And sentimental.
The film is like a cross-breed between David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977), Solaris (1972), and Ed Wood. Psychedlic images intermingle with visions of babies, bloody eggs, breathing vagina faces, and stark coldness of old factories. The film, as I mentioned, was a labor of love for Coyne, made with Steven Drodz as the primary character, and the other band members, friends and family members populating the cast. It’s part of the film’s low-budget DIY character that the performances are largely bad, and the film does succeed more when no dialogue needs to be spoken. The more incomprehensible and image-driven, the more I liked it. Overall, though, it has some elements of tedium.
Wayne Coyne is talented in many ways, not just as a musician and singer, but as a visual artist as well. His drawings and paintings influenced the narrative and the design of the movie, of the whole story. So, it’s interesting at that level. Still, I’d be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone who wouldn’t have a natural inclination toward it.
But I kind of liked it.