This is a movie snob’s guide to finding the best indie flicks screening nearby this month.
11:55 p.m. April 6-7
If drugs intrigue you but you don’t want to drop acid, try watching Fantastic Planet (1973).
This joint French-Czechoslovakian animated movie is about exploring humanity through watching giant blue aliens as they watch humans, who the aliens keep as pets on their trippy planet.
Directed by Rene Laloux and written by illustrator Roland Topor, Fantastic Planet is an outrageous effort. The animated scenes are crudely drawn, forcing a cubist-like surrealism. The images are immediately arresting.
The unreal animation is used to elicit the most base, very real, very human feelings of self-preservation, family, and fear.
Then you see the animated aliens.
The scenes of the aliens observing the humans are so fucking weird and quiet. It's amazing.
The creepy, old-world painting come to life vibe is more than rough ‘70s animation technology, its intentional, at once sparking the viewer's curiosity while constantly reminding us that there is a chasm before comfortable.
Fantastic Planet genuinely feels like an acid trip, with moments of nonsense followed by other nonsense that feels intense and, then, suddenly hilarious.
Big Fish & Begonia
Landmark Lagoon Cinema
7 p.m April 18 in Chinese with English subtitles; 7 p.m. April 19 in English
Are you ready for even trippier animation exploring life? This time travel to Chinese cinema, where the animated feature Big Fish & Begonia examines the afterlife.
The movie’s world has layers of existence within it: there is a plane beneath the ocean, where humanoid dolphin creatures grow up before making the trip up to the ocean and to land.
The story, directed by Liang Xuan and Chun Zhang, follows a little girl after her older brother dies. She spends her formative years figuring how to bring him back to life.
The look of this movie is modern and sharp. But instead of just cute animals that can talk (which this movie also has), animation is used here to imagine the world and existence outside of what we call life. It’s full of layers that can and must be revealed — like our brother’s life depended on it.
1990: The Bronx Warriors
9 p.m. April 25-26
Today’s special effects is especially disappointing when considering the visual effects rendered here before all that tech.
In 1982, director Enzo G. Castellari made 1990: The Bronx Warriors, a movie about a near future New York City that's abandoned its Bronx borough, which has devolved into post-apocalyptic, ungovernable mayhem. The Bronx is controlled by rival gangs, each holding territory throughout the dilapidated region.
The post-apocalyptic visuals, including a New York City borough in ruins, is rendered using real-life 1980’s New York.
Through specifically curated shots of actual New York, old-school effects like smoke, and using real-life gang members as marauding hordes are amazing, especially considering there was no use of CGI.