The Silent Majority

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The American Astronaut

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THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT

Space is a Lonely Town.

That’s the only clue you get when you hold a copy of The American Astronaut, a lingering hint of what you’re in for. Displayed to you on the cover is the image of one Samuel Curtis (writer/director Cory McAbee), the astronaut in question, in a full space suit that looks like it was built out of the remains of several other, cheaper, space suits.

The story follows Curtis as he transports a young male stud (the aptly named ‘Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman’s Breast’) to the all-female planet of Venus. At his tail is the merciless ‘Birthday boy’ Professor Hess, whom has taken it upon himself to kill every person Curtis comes in contact with so he can forgive Curtis and then murder him. Along the way we meet deformed Nevadans in a homemade space-barn, tap-dancing barflies and an interplanetary fruit smuggler.

Oh. And it’s a musical.

To classify The American Astronaut as anything other than “fun” is exasperating. A Homeric Odyssey set in space with a western attitude, featuring stunning musical numbers, memorable characters, beautiful black and white cinematography, and colourful roughnecks from all corners of the galaxy.

And despite this initial description, the film is not the inconceivable mess one would assume it to be. Not weird for the sake of weird, more weird for the sake of itself. Written, within the vaguest realms of plausibility, insofar as it has its feet firmly planted in the seven or eight genres it belongs to at any given moment. It knows the power of a good song and dance number, and will deploy them when necessary. That is what sets The American Astronaut apart from other so-called surrealist cinema. Every shot of the film, despite its abstract eccentricities, feels sublimely necessary.

See? It is much easier to say “fun”.

Surrealism has very rarely been widely accepted as quality entertainment. Most people fail to grasp the notion of it, and associate it as little more than surreal distractions. Something done weird enough that someone, somewhere, will see and think is brilliant and/or hilarious.

Looking for genuinely well produced and well executed surreal entertainment is a challenge. Very often their audience is handed works that rely heavily on abstract images and themes in lieu of little things like ‘a good story’ or ‘witty dialogue’; things which The American Astronaut has in spades. It doesn’t make you feel stupid for enjoying it. You don’t need to lower your standards “get it,” nor will you need to take a film theory class to understand its symbols and methods. One may see the cover and not quite grasp the meaning of a phrase like ‘Space is a Lonely Town’, but at its core, this is the basis of how one can appreciate the film itself.

Maybe it isn’t supposed to make sense. Maybe it will only make enough as much sense as it needs to. And maybe you’ll like it anyway.

– – J.D. Renaud

J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.

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Written by thesilentmajoritysays

February 1, 2009 at 1:22 AM