Archive for National Film Board of Canada

This is the Universe

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2019 by dcairns

This National Film Board of Canada documentary was sort of Kubrick’s Bible when making 2001. It’s a short doc in which everything is fake but everything is true, and it’s part of the NFBC’s ongoing project to make me feel small. The special effects are really terrific — I’d argue that their Moon is even superior to Kubrick’s. If you’ve ever studied the reddish moon seen during an eclipse, when it’s not flatly reflecting the light back like Oliver Hardy, you’ll appreciate how in circumstances other than the norm, it has real heft and dimensionality so that you wonder how it can stay up there. The makers of UNIVERSE achieve that by building a biggish miniature Moon, whereas I think Kubes relied on (beautiful) paintings.

The VO should also sound familiar. After Kubrick had trouble finding an actor who could sound bland enough to be a computer (and blander even than his lead actors), he reached out to Douglas Rain, who recorded the entire role in under an hour I believe, wearing his slippers so he would sound really relaxed. That other space killer, Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, also did most of his work in carpet slippers, because the jackboots George Lucas had obtained were a really uncomfortable fit. If I ever get appointed Grand Moff, or even Ordinary Moff, I’m going to wear slippers all the time too, because who’s going to stop me?


Planet of the Andalusian Dog

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by dcairns

“God damn you all to hell!”

Yes, I’ve inserted Chuckles Heston (and Linda Harrison as Nova and Henry the Horse) into UN CHIEN ANDALOU. It’s what he would have wanted. And what better fate for an axiom of cinema?

I first saw UN CHIEN ANDALOU at a science fiction convention. It was the first, and for all I know last, such event to be held in Edinburgh. It happened at the Grosvenor Hotel and it was called Ra-Con. The logo was a raccoon. Possibly holding a phaser. Does anybody besides me recall this?

They showed SOYLENT GREEN, with Harry Harrison, author of the original novel Make Room! Make Room! there in person to denounce it. So Charlton Heston and UN CHIEN ANDALOU have long been connected in my mind, I guess. They also showed THE GREEN SLIME, which made less of an impression, although it turned out to be my first Kinji Fukasaku experience, not repeated until I saw BATTLE ROYALE at the Edinburgh Film Festival (and scored a free umbrella like the one Beat Takeshi sports in the film).

UN CHIEN ANDALOU screened as parts of a mind-blowing shorts programme that also included Jiri Trnka’s haunting animated allegory THE HAND, Jan Svankmajer’s BYT (THE FLAT) and something called 23 SKIDOO, which I’ve never seen since.

Ahah, here it is, on the INTERNET —

And like so much of what disturbed my frame of mind as a child, it’s from the National Film Board of Canada. It all makes sense now.

Big, isn’t it?

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , on June 15, 2010 by dcairns

I saw COSMIC ZOOM, a Canadian Film Board animation by Eva Szasz, when I was a small, microbe-sized child, and truly, it did freak my mind. As David Cronenberg has persuasively argued, it’s very hard to tell what will be upsetting to a child — he was terrified by a moment in THE  BLUE LAGOON (not the Brooke Shields version) as an infant, my friend Robert was terrified when he went to see BAMBI and was subjected to trailers for TOMMY and SHIVERS — go figure! — but even now I would guess that showing children a wordless movie that teaches that they are miniscule specs in a vast, indifferent and dark universe, prone to mosquito-bites and containing only viscous glop which, analysed at gigantic magnification, reveals only a featureless BLACK DOT (I swear I had recurring nightmares about that dot, which to me represented The End of the World — and I only just realized this film was the source)… well, it does seem possible that such a film might blow a few emotional gaskets in the Very Young.

Looking at it again, I dig the visual beauty, also the way the whole film occurs during the suspended decay of the last chime of a church clock, which seems very Cocteauesque. And Pierre Brault’s music is strangely disturbing, not just for the atonal swirl of the reverse movements back to “normal view” (to borrow a phrase from THIS ISLAND EARTH), but for the benign, tranquil quality which seems to embody the universe’s total indifference to human life and makes the film all the more terrifying.

I’m telling you, I’m shrieking through my fingers just at the size of CANADA, here.

In this age of Google Earth, what the movie does is maybe less amazing to the kids out there — the faux-satellite views of ancient Alexandria in Alejandro Amenabar’s AGORA didn’t wow me as they once might have, for the same reason — but the stylistic approach is still attractive, I think.