Sunday, August 25, 2019
The Blue Meanies
This is my entry in the Vive la France! Blogathon hosted by Silver Screen Modes and Lady Eve's Reel Life
When the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, things turned topsy-turvy. A film that was being made at the time, Fantastic Planet, had to relocate its production to France. The themes of social unrest, racial prejudice, oppression and genocide, you see, were not very well received by the Czechs' new masters.
But the French were sympathetic to the themes and production went in to making the film in Paris. Rene' Laloux, the French director and animator, worked in conjunction Roland Topor, a French animation artist to bring the novel by French science fiction writer Stefan Wul to bring the story to the screen of a race of blue-skinned aliens, called Draags, and their relationship to tiny humans, the Oms (a variation of the French word for human, "homme").
The Draags consider the Oms to be nothing more than pets. Apparently at some point in the past Draags had brought Oms to Ygam, the Draag world, unaware that even though they had a lifespan that was much shorter than the average Draag, they were also quite a bit more active in the rocreation category. This leads to a relative infestation of Oms on the planet.
The Draags spend most of their time in meditation. Which is revealed later to be instrumental in their own form of procreation. But they also seem to resent the prevalence of Oms and have a cycle in their year in which they wipe out much of the Om population (much like we do with roaches). The political and social themes of Fantastic Planet hinge on the fact that the Oms just want to live but find themselves at odds with the Draag population.
The film won a special prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. It made the top 50 of the greatest animated films in an article by Rolling Stone.
Fantastic Planet La planete sauvage (1973):
Several young Draags torture a female Om and her young baby and end up killing her. Just at that point Tiwa and her father Master Sinh, one of the leaders of the government happen to come by and the young Draags run off. Tiwa sees the young baby Om and pleads with her father to let her keep him as a pet. He agrees, but only if she collars the thing so it can be controlled.
As the young Om, whom she names "Terr" ( a variation of the French word for "Earth"), grows up, she ends up brining him along for her lessons in school. A short circuit in Terr's collar ends up with him learning the same things she is learning, thus becoming just as educated.
When Tiwa begins to lose interest in her "pet" as he grows older, eventually Terr decides to run away, taking with him the headband Tiwa uses to learn her lessons. he eventually meets up with a band of renegade Oms, and using the headband educates his newfound tribe of Oms.
When Terr and his band learn of the proposed mass extermination of Oms by the Draags, he attempts to lead them to safety. They find temporary safety at an abandoned rocket factory, where they make plans to leave Ygam and go the one of the moons of the planet, appropriately named "The Fantastic Planet".
But the Draags discover their new place and continue their genocide at the rocket factory. Terr and some of the Oms eventually do escape and make it to the Fantastic Planet where they discover the truth behind the Draags' obsession with meditation.
Despite this being a cartoon, it is not really anything that would be appropriate for youngsters. It is truly an adult cartoon. The political themes alone make it tough for family viewing. What director Laloux refers to as "schizophrenic cinema" is definitely only for a rather limited viewing audience, and the themes may leave you a bit shattered. But it is entertaining in it's own right. Fortunately a version exists in which it was dubbed in English, making it easier on those of us whose French is limited to "haute cuisine" and a few other food related French terms. (featuring the voices, among others, of Barry Bostwick, Hal "Otis Campbell" Smith and Marvin "Robby the Robot" Miller).
Drive safely, folks.