359. Les Astronautes – Walerian Borowoczy, Chris Marker

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SUMMARY: A man builds a spaceship in his garage and takes it for a flight round the city and then into space.

WHY IT’S HERE: Polish director Walerian Borowoczy’s early animated films largely consist of surrealist imagery created through stop motion animation of real life images and cut-out shapes. Unsurprisingly, Terry Gilliam cites Borowoczy as a big influence and that is perhaps clearest from the whimsical caper ‘Les Astronautes’, a film co-credited to Chris Marker but which was reportedly mainly Borowoczy’s work, with Marker lending his name to the project to help acquire funding. Unlike the impenetrable ‘Dom’ which Borowoczy made in collaboration with his Polish contemporary Jan Lenica in the same year, ‘Les Astronautes’ actually has a coherent plot, even if it is told by way of many surreal sidestreets. Following the adventures of an amateur inventor as he takes his new spacecraft for a spin, ‘Les Astronautes’ has a revolutionary feel in its animated innovation; a subversive bent in its whimsical hat-stealing and lady-peeping antics and a genuine warmth in its amusing jokes, which counterbalances the cold, drained colours of the imagery and surprises anyone who may equate experimentation with po-facedness. ‘Les Astronautes’ is a confounder of expectations and a wonderful gem of late-50s experimental animation.

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