The Science Fiction Western Musical You Might Have Missed

It was 2001, and a lot was going on in the world, so you might have missed this movie. I bought American Astronaut because I heard great reviews. It was a Sundance Festival Official Selection, and in Toronto as well. It’s won numerous awards. Black and white, some great cinematography moments. See the trailer here.

But for a sample of this bizarre movie, check out this Youtube moment:

As a movie, it’s stunning visually in an episodic way. Film noir-like, each scene seems to have been thought of as a separate selection–as if in a university film class– and so they don’t all weave together well. The plot is hard to follow–until a moment in the bar when the plot is explained–but afterwards, every moment that you believe you will identify with this story and these characters, you are shoved out into the cold on your own. I did get through the whole thing, but wished there was more time spent on Venus–the focus of the mission–and in the showdown between Curtis and Hess–the focus of the movie.

You can’t say the dialogue is bad, only that it is weird. My friends and I laughed a lot. You have to experience it for yourselves, though I can’t recommend it. Entertainment Weekly says, “Imagine a Laurel and Hardy skit directed by Salvador Dali.” And that sums it up. It’s surreal.

If you are looking for a coherent plot, you won’t find it. Sympathetic, understandable characters, nope. Believable motivations, or a world with certain rules–nope.

But you will find a dance contest on an asteroid, a locomotive and barn in space, a planet full of Victorian women, and that great dance scene in the men’s bathroom…and great camera angles and solid cinematography. Good music–yep, it’s fun.

I think that my friends will probably make me pay for many years to come for subjecting them to the film…but I told them it gave us good bonding time. Like going through a car wreck, with a good soundtrack.

One thought on “The Science Fiction Western Musical You Might Have Missed

  1. Anthony August 20, 2008 / 9:59

    I love that film! My future wife and I saw it at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2000 or 2001, I can’t quite remember. We loved it so much, when it screened later that year down in Seattle we drove down to see it twice at the Grand Illusion.

    I’ve had the DVD since it came out, and also ended up ordering a few of the Billy Nayer show CDs. Good stuff.

    This film would be awesome for a midnight screening in Whitehorse.

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