17 septembre 2005

Star Suburb (1983)

Observés / Observed : A fascinating theme threading the retrospective of the autumn season at the Forum des Images. This is a very contemporean concern of our society. The paranoid anxiety of constant surveillance, the fear of conspiracy and manipulation, paradoxally associated simultaneously with a growing envy of exhibitionism/voyeurism to show off one's intimate life broadcasted on national TV. Exploring these 2 aspects, looking back at the visionary filmmakers who anticipated this slope of our world of boundless communication. This fantastic line-up starts off with a couple of unsuspected gems like an inventive short film (Star Suburb) or a made-for TV film (L'oeil de l'autre). Next, a landmark of S.F. literature I never had the opportunity to see until now: Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, a major inspiration of one of my favorite film, Gilliam's Brazil (which is also part of the program of course). A serie of dystopic films with an autonomous and coherent universe, a political and philosophical stance, developped as an extrapolation of the worried signals collected by writers at the time they were filmed. The scope and relevency of their insights vary from one to another. Making pertinent science-fiction daring the future and passing the test of time isn't easy.

Star Suburb, La Banlieue des étoiles (1983/Stéphane Drouot/France) +++
Half an hour of crispy science-fiction with a tiny budget and lots of imagination. Filmed on 16mm partly color, partly B&W, and miniature cardboard models. Openning on a slow pan from a painted planet off towards to cosmic darkness in the orbital suburbs: monotonous rows of social housing blocks, numbered and ordered by nationality. At the block 77, the french building section, the light of one window is on. A young girl lives alone with her brothers, a mutant cat and her aunt. A mysterious spaceship patrols outside with a spotlight. A living cell with bunkbeds as tight as the sleeping car of a train, fitted with removable, folded furniture. The film only switches to color when the spotlight enters throught the window. Like in all good S.F. short story the plot isn't spectacular and instead depicts a trivial event of a futuristic daily life, like if it happened today. A radio station offers cash prizes to whoever calls a number when their spaceship spots their lite on window, so the little girl dreams on. Almost no dialogue, yet this girl sets the right mood all along. The ratio of means v. achievement is admirable.

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