"That which suggests is superior to that which shows. Movies today show more and more. It’s paranoid dictator cinema. What we need is schizophrenic cinema." -- René Laloux
March 11, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

René Laloux is best known for his direction of the 1973 animated film La Planète Sauvage, titled Fantastic Planet in English, but his life in film started earlier. His first shorts came from his painting and shadow puppetry workshops with the patients of La Borde psychiatric clinic. Laloux continued to work in animation, making one short himself, then collaborating with four different artists (Roland Topor, Moebius, and Caza), turning out a total of 10 shorts and 3 feature films. [Surreal, NSFW videos and images inside]

Laloux filmed two shorts with the patients of La Borde psychiatric clinic: Tic-tac (Tick-Tock, 1957) and Les Dents du Singe (The Monkey's Teeth, 1960) (13:51). Between those two shorts, he made an abstract animation short by himself in 1958, using backlit, tinted glass. It was titled Les Achalunés.

Laloux's next films were collaborations with the "leprechaun-like" surrealist artist Roland Topor. They made three shorts: Les Temps Morts (The Dead Times, 1964) (9:47) [alternate video w/subs, 9:49]; Les Escargots (The Snails, 1965) (11:13) [alt: YT, 10:51]; and Le Jeu (The Game, 1975 - not online). Their most notable collaboration was La Planète Sauvage, (literal: The Savage Planet, retitled: Fantastic Planet, 1973). The film was a collaboration also between French and Czechoslovakian animators, but the project was started just after Prague Spring, a time of upheaval. Due to this timing, the film was created from 1969 to 1973. (Streaming online: English trailer, French with English subs (part 1 of 5), complete English dub, playlist of the dub in pieces, or oddly enough, rescored by a fan, using tracks by various electronic artists). Bonus bit: the soundtrack by Alain Goraguer has been sampled in various hip-hop tracks.

Following the success of La Planète Sauvage, René Laloux was able to start his own animation studio, where he was approached to help create an animated TV series. Laloux worked with a group that included Moebius, the surrealist alias of French comic book artist Jean Giraud, to create the series. Bolstered by financial support, they convinced the series producers taht the pilot could be extended into a feature-length film. The series never happened, but the movie Les Maîtres du temps (Time Masters) did, in 1982 (French with English subs, part 1 of 8). Falling short of the peak that was La Planète Sauvage, this film was little known outside of France, where it did relatively well in theaters. Probably due to the TV pilot history, this film differs from Laloux's first film in that there is no nudity and little violence. Two years after the release of their feature film, the duo of Laloux and Moebius released the short La Maîtrise de la qualité (Quality Control, 1984 - not online).

Laloux's third film could have been his second, if his attention wasn't taken elsewhere. Even before his collaboration with Giraud, Laloux was working with another artist from the new-found Métal Hurlant/Heavy Metal magazines. Caza, aka Philippe Cazaumayou, had discussed making a film based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon's novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (trans: The Machine-men vs. Gandahar) since the late 1970s. Throughout the production of Les Maîtres du temps, Gandahar was being promoted to potential supporters. Laloux ended up working with SEK Studios in North Korea, in part because of the reduced costs for animation. Gandahar was released in 1988 to critical and public acceptance in France, but it was edited for US audiences, where it then flopped. The US edit, retitled Light Years was the product of Harvey Weinstein (yes, CEO of Mirimax Harvey Weinstein). Most of the editing was in the first 36 minutes of the film, altered to remove some of the nudity. The soundtrack was re-scored, dialogue re-written (by Isaac Asimov) and voices re-dubbed by an all-star cast. Streaming online: French version with Spanish subs, or US re-edit in 7 parts (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7).

Laloux and Caza also made two shorts: Comment Wang-Fo fut sauvé (How Wang-fo Was Saved, 1987; in 2 parts on YT: part 1, part 2), and La Prisonnière (The Captive, 1988).

Laloux's final, uncompleted work, was to be a feature film with the artist Patrice Sanahujas (French site; Babelfish translation). A short teaser video with audio and still images "animated" through camera pans and zooms is online. Laloux also scripted the adaptation of L'Œil du loup (Eye of the Wolf, 1998), one final short animated film.
posted by filthy light thief (16 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic Planet was covered before, but some links are now dead (including the YT links).
posted by filthy light thief at 5:28 PM on March 11, 2011

The Weinsteins have a fantastic record for screwing things up, especially animation, though nothing will ever eclipse the sheer douchebaggery and incompetence they showed handling the 'Thief and the Cobbler'. I viciously hope that someday both Weinsteins need surgery, and the doctor decides to re-edit their organs to fit his 'new vision' and the operation flops.
posted by Vaska at 6:16 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is fantastic! (no pun intended).

I read about this guy when I first saw the video for Parachute Ending by Birdy Nam Nam. Never looked into his previous work as thoroughly as this though. Looking forward to smoking a joint and reading all this later tonight.
posted by inedible at 6:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beautiful post, thank you. The quote you opened with tingled my spine.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 6:18 PM on March 11, 2011

Fantastic post! I remember watching Fantastic Planet on that new-fangled cable thingy way back in the 80's. I'll be busy for a while now.
posted by svenvog at 6:19 PM on March 11, 2011

Good stuff.
posted by Artw at 7:02 PM on March 11, 2011

Le meilleur de l'Internet!
posted by Scoo at 7:33 PM on March 11, 2011

I wish I could favorite this FPP a hundred times. Thank you!
posted by newmoistness at 9:46 PM on March 11, 2011

oddly enough, rescored by a fan, using tracks by various electronic artists.

Oh, I can assure you there is not much odd about that. Fantastic Planet is, or at least was, a go-to staple of club VJs. The imagery and the pacing work well with music, in no small part because it becomes stranger with the context of the story removed.

When I was in the booth on a regular basis, the DJ I worked with complained to me, "God, I HATE that French hippie cartoon."

"Fantastic Planet?"

"I never want to see that fucking thing again."

*silently plots deployment of Laloux/Topor ONSLAUGHT*



This was the same DJ who harangued me about "that artsy-fartsy Maya Deren crap." Which got him a faceful, of course because what has two thumbs and LOVES artsy-fartsy Maya Deren crap?

We were the best of friends.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:06 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh my god, I have loved this movie for years! Thank you, thank you, I love you.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:08 AM on March 12, 2011

Great post! You've far surpassed my old one from 2006.
posted by smoothvirus at 5:42 AM on March 12, 2011

smoothvirus it was your post that led me on a mission to find and purchase the movie. i love it!! but you are right, this post is fantastic! thank you so much filthy light thief!
posted by phytage at 6:15 AM on March 12, 2011

Wonderful. Thanks so much for this.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:22 AM on March 12, 2011

It all started with the sad farmer and the giant snails, when I found out there was more to Laloux than Fantastic Planet. Happy surreal Saturday!

filthy light thief: ... then collaborating with four different artists (Roland Topor, Moebius, and Caza)

Heh. That should be "three different artists," or there should be a mention of Patrice Sanahujas as #4. And Moebius has been covered before, but many of the interesting links are dead, so I didn't mention it earlier.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:07 AM on March 12, 2011

How funny! Just yesterday I found Les Maitres du Temps on youtube. With subtitles! This movie warped my eight year old mind. It's a less known one, but has to be my favourite.
posted by Shusha at 10:00 AM on March 12, 2011

Being hipped to the existence of Fantastic Planet was the only good thing I got out of going to see The Cell.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:03 AM on March 12, 2011

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