2019 SPOOKY MOVIE INT'L FILM FESTIVAL Selection - Josh's review of MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF AL
Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe.
Featuring interviews with: Diane O'Bannon, Roger Corman, Ben Mankiewicz, and Tom Skerritt.
Considered by many to be the most ground-breaking sci-fi/horror film of all time, the film, Alien, continues to frighten movie-going audiences - still standing the test of time more than forty years since it's initial theatrical release. So, considering this kind of ttack record, the question then becomes: What inspired such a monumental film?
Well, director Alexandre O. Philippe seeks to answer just that question with his new documentary, Memory: The Origins of Alien. In the film, Philippe interviews film historians as well as those who were close to the film's late screenwriter, Dan O'Bannon, to not only unlock what provided the writer with the inspirations for the sci-fi classic, but also to decipher how the film thematically taps into our deep seated human fears: both societally and psychologically.
The documentary starts first by highlighting Dan O'Bannon's roots: a Midwestern kid who grew up afraid of bugs, yet still loving the works of HP Lovecraft as well as the stories found in Greek mythology and comic books. It is also during this section of the documentary that learn about O'Bannon's initial struggles to make Alien after the failure of his first movie, the sci-fi comedy, Dark Star.
Phillippe eventually segues O'Bannon's story into his meeting with other individuals who would become major collaborators & fellow creatives in the story, illustrator H.R. Giger and filmmaker, Ridley Scott.
For Giger, who would be pivotal in creating the look of the Alien, his friendship and collaboration with O'Bannon - per O'Bannon's widow - would develop because of their shared interest of the works of Lovecraft. Because of this shared love of Lovecraft as well as O'Bannon's fascination with Giger's art work, we learn how these elements in tandem inspire O'Bannon's to push the movie in more exciting directions while still being true to his original concept of Alien. Lastly, we have director Riddly Scott, who brought additional elements of visual flair to the film. For example, we learn that it was Scott's idea to make the alien spaceship crescent shape to represent the ancient symbolism of how a crescent was a symbol of death and downfall.
Aside from the backstory of how the minds behind Alien all came together, one of coolest parts of the movie - for me - is how Philippe's film photographs the original art work of Giger. For example, in many instances - as the audience - you can feel as if you are viewing Giger's works as a painting or sculpture etched in some ancient temple - highlighting each of his works as a revered works of art.
As mentioned before, the true focus here is O'Bannon's influence on the film. This choice to focus on the screenwriter, rather than Giger and Scott (who are relegated to secondary story beats), provides a much appreciated fresh perspective, as so many for their documentaries/BTS highlights their influences on the film. With that said, for anyone who is a fan of Alien or anyone who is a student of filmmaking and science fiction, Memory: The Origins of Alien is a film well-worth your time.
Overall rating: A+