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Fantastic Planet Comes Alive (With Music)

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on May 2, 2011 5:40PM

2011_05_fantasticplanet.jpg If you have never seen the trippy animation classic Fantastic Planet, this week's screening with live accompaniment by Del Rey may be the perfect opportunity. René Laloux's 1973 film, known in its original French as La Planète Sauvage, is a visual delight and a wholly unique experience: think Hieronymus Bosch using Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animation techniques for late-60s science fiction. Though the imagery is unforgettable the film's fatal flaw is revealed whenever a character opens his mouth: the script is frighteningly bad.

Adapted from Stefan Wul's Novel Oms en série, Fantastic Planet tells the story of a race of human-like "Oms" kept as pets by a race of giant blue aliens called "Draags," and specifically the tale of one Om named Terr who begins life as a domesticated Om, escapes to freedom among the "savage" Oms, and--using the Om's learning device--organizes a revolt in the face of genocidal extermination. Widely assumed to be a not-so-thinly-veiled allegory of Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the film is admirable but bludgeoningly simple-minded in the elaboration of its themes, too resolutely humorless to approach the Swiftian territories it clearly aims for, and so propped up with wooden dialog that emotional identification with the characters is impossible. But did we mention that it looks spectacular? Haunting? Dream-like? It is all of those things.

Which is why enlisting a veteran Chicago post-rock instrumental ensemble to forge their soundscapes in response to the spectacle on screen strikes us as such a good idea. The imagery is otherworldly and psychedelic, and everything else is predictable and pedestrian. Replacing that bad stuff with something new is certainly worth a shot. What's lost in the original sound design and Alain Goraguer's jazzy acid rock score will hopefully made up for by Del Rey's sonic textures, which the band will perform again at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona later this month. Dronemeisters White/Light are also on the bill, performing a live accompaniment to a silent film from local experimental filmmaker Alexander Stewart.

Del Rey's live Fantastic Planet performance happens this Thursday, May 5, at 9 p.m. at Lincoln Hall,2424 N Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $12 and available online.