The Mystery of the Third Planet
In the year 2181, Alisa Seleznëva and her father, Professor Seleznëv, along with pilot Zelënyj, set out on a space expedition seeking rare alien animals for the Moscow Zoo. After encountering fabulous creatures such as a flying cow and a chattering bird, they accidentally get caught up in a space pirate conspiracy of the cruel Doctor Verchovcev.
Undisputed cult animation of the Soviet era (though I am curious of other options and opinions), with proud propaganda behind it, the film is entertaining and juvenile, taking four years of hand-drawn production and a unique synth-induced original score by Alexander Zatsepin. Repetitive releases have been attempted in the US and on European television, albeit with re-dubbings and alterations, shading its sense and possibly shadowing its success.
Son of the White Mare
Some critics regard the movie as the greatest psychedelic film ever made, but the film was tainted by its tragic course; a restored version was to be released in 2020 but was halted by the pandemic, and its director died the next year. There is a lot of symbolism and spiritual imagery in this movie. In this epic story, the super-powerful Son, a goddess, must avenge and defeat the creatures that have taken over the world.
With over three years of research by late director Jankovics Marcell on Hungarian legends and tales, the film appears cursed indeed. It was panned, ignored, and forgotten for decades until it was recently redone in 4K. With its truly striking imagery, powerful narration, and original dubbing, this movie is truly a masterpiece: one we might consider when we return to the cinema.
Loc-Nar, a deadly and fundamentally evil green meteorite, falls on future earth in 2031. As a result of killing her father, the animation-corners a little girl sharing some of his deeds that are divided into various episodes, from futuristic neo-noir to zombie apocalypse.
It has opened a sex-craving, surreal and drug-induced universe whose atmospheres are rightfully irresistible due to its incredible collaboration of names such as Moebius, Dan O’Bannon, and Richard Corben.
Many sci-fi movies will take inspiration from it – allegedly, one of them is Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element.” That is not to say the movie is perfect, or all-in-all enjoyable, or if it makes any sense at all. That being said, heavy metal music is definitely a “hell of a ride” when you get down to it.
The Last Unicorn
When the last living unicorn hears a group of hunters discussing the tragic fate of the last of her kind, she leaves her magical forest – risking her immortality in the process – to find out the answer. As she faces witches, harpies, wizards, and semi-divine creatures, she will pursue the mysterious King Haggard, who may know where all the unicorns have disappeared.
This animation shows impressive depth (what an opening!) as well as metaphysical concerns about truth, illusion, magic, and destiny, and is significant on a number of levels, which are sadly reduced to cult status. First, we have the quality of the animation: childlike at first, then enchanting and somewhat raw at the same time, inspired (as shown in the titles) by Renaissance tapestries.
The movie also features a star-studded cast of voice actors, including Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, and Christopher Lee. In addition, the animation is based on a novel (and screenplay) with the same name by Peter S. Beagle, making it appealing to both children and adults. Rankin/Bass and Japanese Topcraft will later collaborate on the film Nausicaa and create Studio Ghibli.
Time Masters/Les Maîtres du temps
Claude leaves his son Piel on the apparently desolate planet Perdido after a fatal spaceship crash, urging him to contact his friend Jaffar, a galaxy-hopping adventurer. Using a special transceiver, an adventure will take place across space (and time) to save him.
This is Rene Laloux’s second filming effort, this time in strict collaboration with Moebius. Also here, we see the influence of the Hungarian school of animation and the same sci-fi writer, Stephan Wul. While the result is not as ‘revolutionary’ (read also political) as the previous “Planet Savage,” the visuals, metaphysics, and scenic visuals are still impressive.
Ancient and immortal beings live in a floating city, playing joyless games with their sophisticated wands and mysterious technologies, by warping elements and time. Amidst its mysterious and dreamlike imagery, the creatures create a ball-shaped element that, upon being set free, interacts with a nearby ‘explorer’ – forming some kind of playful bond that the creatures cannot comprehend, leading them to a seemingly hopeless situation.
Filmed in 1982 at the Cannes Film Festival, using rapid and engaging stop-motion techniques, it is the first and last feature-length film from Polish director Piotr Kalmer – expert of bizarre imagery developed with manual and artisan techniques for more than 20 years of short films.
There is also an original score composed by contemporary French musician Luc Ferrari, which adds to the surreal atmosphere of “The City of Time” (Chronos+Polis).