Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Criterion Collection - FANTASTIC PLANET on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Criterion Collection - FANTASTIC PLANET on Blu-ray

FANTASTIC PLANET (1973; RenĂ© Laloux)
On this planet (known as Ygam), the main inhabitants are giant blue slightly fishmen-like creatures (they are bald and their ears resemble fins) called Traags. They are highly intelligent beings, whose main focus is enlightenment through various odd forms of meditation wherein they can travel places with their minds. They have brought humans to their world (they call them "oms"), but the humans function basically as pets for their children. The story mainly focuses on one om who is taken in by one of the Traag leaders as a baby after his mother is carelessly taunted to death by some other Traags. The leader Traag allows his daughter to keep the om and she calls him Terr. Terr becomes educated in the ways and terrain of Ygam via the daughter's lessons (they use telepathic headsets that imprint their minds). As Terr becomes more educated and more ignored by the daughter as she gets older, he makes an escape from the Traag family. He stumbles upon a tribe of wild, undomesticated oms. The Traags call them savage oms. Basically, the oms have become pests for the Traags and have taken up refuge in their parks and other areas. It is Terr who helps educate the rebellious oms via a stolen headset. And so the conflict between oms and Traags becomes more heightened and the oms formulate larger mass escape plans as they begin to understand and use Traag technology. The whole thing reminded me slightly of THE SECRET OF NIMH. I might be inclined to say it was influenced by this movie - if not for the fact that the original children's book that NIMH is based on was originally written in 1971. 
This film is particularly unique in that it uses the lesser-seen cutout animation method as opposed to the more conventional cell animation we're used to. Cutout animation is a stop-motion technique that also features hand drawn characters, but their movement is much different (less smooth, but not distracting my so). The resulting effect is quite remarkable and captivating. It makes the story feel even more other-worldly. 
FANTASTIC PLANET was an international coproduction between France and Czechloslovakia. It is originally a French-language film, but both the original French and English dubbed audio tracks are included here. Apparently, Roger Corman distributed the movie in the U.S. - as part of the foreign and art house cinema that he frequently bought and brought to the states. I think people often forget that this was something Corman did regularly and in that way, did his part to enrich the culture of movies over here. I mean, I'm sure he did it a good deal for the money, but nonetheless - there are many films such as this one that would certainly be lesser known today had they not gotten that exposure in the 1970s.
FANTASTIC PLANET is one of those films that you watch and can immediately understand how it has become a cult item over the years. It truly is like few films you've ever seen and its science fiction backdrop and animation style make it not only captivating, but also kinda trippy. It's easy to see how this movie might have appealed to a post-60s drug culture in its strangely psychedelic nature. Viewed today, it is an absolute treat for fans of both sci-fi and animation. It's an important and fascinating film that is perfectly suited to the Criterion Collection. As you might imagine, the Blu-ray format always serves animation quite well and the transfer here looks great. This disc is a must own for sure.

Special Features:
-A New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
-Alternate English-language soundtrack.
-Les temps morts (1965) and Les escargots (1966), two early short films by director René Laloux and illustrator Roland Topor.
-Laloux sauvage, a 2009 documentary on Laloux.
-An Episode of the French television program Italiques from 1974 about Topor’s work.
-Interview with Topor from 1973.
-New English subtitle translation
-PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Brooke

This Criterion Blu-ray of FANTASTIC PLANET can be purchased from Amazon here:

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