As part of this year’s celebration of Science Fiction with the BFI’s Days of Fear and Wonder, this month’s Cine-City festival has assembled a programme of rarely seen cult Sci-Fi’s such as The Tenth Victim, the Quiet Earth, Sexmission, X: Man with the X-Ray Eyes and also Science Fiction classics such as Fahrenheit 451 and Je’taime Je’taime. As part of this programme of Science Fiction screenings, Cine City have asked British experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers to personally select several films that will be shown at the film festival. This weekend’s selection of Sci-Fi shorts was chosen by Rivers and included Chris Marker’s experimental classic La Jetee (pictured above), Walerian Borowczyk’s stop motion collaboration with Marker, Les Astronautes, Christopher Girardet and Mathias Muller’s Meteor and finally, Michael Robinson’s Victory over the Sun.
First up was Chris Marker’s La Jetee, a landmark in experimental cinema and Science Fiction released in 1962, and also the main inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys starring Bruce Willis. This haunting narrative tells the account of a post nuclear World War III investigation into the possibility of time travel and its ability to change the events of the past, whilst also engaging with a prisoner of war’s memory before the nuclear attacks and his relationship with an ethereal figure whom he has the chance to develop a romance with. The most interesting aspect about La Jetee despite its transcendental ideas about memory and time is the fact that the visual story telling is nearly entirely created from still black and white photographic images. This atmospheric nature of this extraordinary film is highlighted by the lack of dialogue other than the solitary voice of the narrator and the ghostly whispers of French dialogue which helps construct the contemplative visuals of the film.
The next film to be shown was Les Astronautes, a collaboration which included Marker and was released in 1959. Les Astronautes is an animated film that shows a scientist creating a spaceship to discover unknown cosmic territory. Like La Jetee, although not thematically or stylistically linked, in Les Astronautes Marker and Borowczyk exhibit an experimental semblance of cinema by animating it in a way that could be compared to the collages of the Dadaist art movement. Whilst utilizing a strong experimental creativeness in the visuals for Les Astronautes, the fantastic electronic score which gives the film an otherworldly tone was created by Andrzej Warkowski and would have been particularly radical at the time considering only a few other features around that time such as Forbidden Planet had used electronically composed soundtracks.
Following Les Astronautes was Meteor which was released in 2011 by avant-garde filmmakers Matthias Muller and Christopher Girardet. In keeping with the theme of the programme, Meteor also displayed an experimental take on Sci-Fi cinema and was created entirely and embraced elements from other films by directors such as Francois Truffaut and Ingmar Bergman to create a visual collage and allegory for infantile vision and inventiveness.
Lastly, Michael Robinson’s 2011 abstract short film Victory over the Sun. Apparently taking its title from a Russian futurist opera, Victory over the Sun highlights the relationship and struggle between modernity and failed perceptions of the future. Robinson also creates a visual collage constructed through his Father’s home videos of world fairs and also vibrant hallucinatory computer graphic visuals to seemingly create the notion of an unsuccessful utopian future, albeit possibly through an excessively abstract and conceptual work.
By Ryan Bellett.