Tagline: Space is a lonely town.
Synopsis: Offbeat and curious Samuel Curtis, a outerspace trader, travels through the low rent district of the remote solar system with dreams of striking it rich and winning a favorite space saloon dance off, until an old friend tries to kill him.
Meat & Potatoes: Described as an “outer space musical” this little gem stands out as truly original – from the music to the musical scenes, the black and white cinematography, casting, and peculiar story…watch this film if you want something fresh and original. Watch this if you make films or want to make films or just have an idea floating around in the back of your head and watch why Cory McAbee‘s space odyssey was nominated for the special grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001. Cory McAbee, known in circles most likely more robust than my own as the frontman for the experimental rock band the Billy Nayer Show, calls this film a “space western musical”, that features an original soundtrack by the band and, “some of the most bizarre Rock and Roll scenes ever committed to film.” The American Astronaut has screened wide and far and gone on to win numerous awards. In addition, in 2006 Cory was commissioned by the Sundance Film Festival to create a short film for mobile distribution called Reno which premiered in 2007 at Sundance. He would go on to write and design STINGRAY SAM which premiered, once again in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Bits & Bites: When the alarm goes off in the film: “What did your father teach you?”, Curtis, the main character, has to answer “My father taught me to kill the sunflower,” which was something Cory McAbee once mistakenly thought someone said to him.
The costumes for the women of Venus were made from shower curtains.
According to the DVD director’s commentary, moviegoers would come up to Cory McAbee during film festivals and ask where he got the Old Man to recite the “donut” joke, not realizing it was accomplished thespian Tom Aldredge. Bill Buell‘s dance during “Love Smiles” was choreographed on the spot by director Cory McAbee by shouting things like “show us your karate, Bill!” and “the birds are attacking, Bill!”.
The DVD includes a very unusual “Director’s Comments” feature. Cory McAbee showed the movie in a Brooklyn pool hall, and had a question-and-answer session with the audience while the movie was screened. The audio recording of his interaction with the audience replaces the standard movie audio when the comments feature is selected.
You can purchase American Astronaut ->here<- You’ll also find some pretty nifty stuff at the general store, not to mention Cory’s blog and more information about his happenings near and far.
Similar Films (also referred to as movies or motion pictures): None, really. But if I must suggest a place to land or take off from — David Lynch, anything but more specifically the 1976 experience Erasehead (not just a film but a work of art, to some, and because it often appears in search results along with A.A).
On a side note, do yourself a favor and check out David Lynch’s award-winning daughter, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, her 1983 film Boxing Helena (nominated for the special Grand Jury prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival) and Surveillance – which is one of my top picks that won at the New York City Horror Film Festival in 2008 .
Additional ‘similar film’ recommendations would include the original Richard Stanley 1990 film Hardware – with Dylan McDermott no less because “It activates it exhilarates… it exterminates“, and perhaps Terry Gilliams’ retro-techno romp Brazil -> because it’s only a state of mind!
The Closer: Original, funny, inventive, and offbeat (or way-off-beat, as you see fit) — and don’t forget to check out the band, Billy Nayer Show for additional good times.