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Posts Tagged ‘HR Giger’

5. Marie Antoinette

Director: Sofia Copola

Production Designer: K.K. Barrett

In 2006, young Sofia Copola (Lost in Translation) brought to the table of cinema a very different portrayal of one of history’s most notorious characters in a world of pastels, gold, pastries and excess. Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst in the namesake role, is a cinematic treat both for the eye and for the soul. Namely because it is one of the first and only sympathetic portrayals of the young French monarch, Marie Antoinette, and her arranged marriage to the equally young, equally naive Louis Auguste XVI. Criticized largely for its historical inaccuracies (despite being hailed by many in France as one of the better portrayals of Antoinette and winning multiple palms at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006) as well as for its long-winded second act, Marie Antoinette was only a moderate success at the box office, but visually, it is a treat unlike any other. Granted the privilege of being one of the few films allowed to shoot at the Palace of Versailles, the film has an insane oppulence to it that is scarcely seen even in period pieces. This is partially because of the palace/grounds itself and the historical scope it offers, but it is also attributable to Sofia Copola’s vision to purposefully deviate from history and interject colors, styles, motifs, palettes, music and language that admittedly would never have existed (or at least allowed in royal court) in late 1700s France. This clash of the historical and the modern, specifically in a period piece, creates such a subconsciously juxtaposed visual that it is hard not be awed by the sheer magnitude of what Copola is presenting. Add insanely designed pastries to boot and you’ve got a film that is as visually yummy as it is long…

3 Scenes to watch:

Copyright Columbia Pictures 2006

(Left: The Coronation, Middle: The Birthday Party, Right: The Hand-off)

Copyright 20th Century Fox

6. Alien

Director: Ridley Scott

Production Designer: Michael Seymour, Roger Christian (uncredited) and H.R. Giger

“In Space…No One Can Hear You Scream”

Alien. The 1979 science-fiction, low-budget horror film that arrested the minds and the hearts of theatergoers the world over. It’s almost ludicrous to even describe the plot it is so well known in modern culture…and for good reason. The story revolves around the towing ship Nostromo and its ship board computer “mother” that wakes up the crew from cryo-sleep with months until they reach Earth so that they will, according to protocol, investigate a distress signal sent from LV-426, a desolate planet devoid of life.  Aided by last-minute crew addition Ash, the doomed crew lands on LV-426 where they trace the signal to an abandoned, behemoth spacecraft. Yet, while 3 members of the crew search the derelict ship, they discover a massive, fossilized alien, named the “space jockey”,  whose ribs have been blasted open from the inside out, while all the while, back on the ship, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been decoding the original message only to discover that it is, in fact, a warning to stay away from the planet. Ash convinces her that it is too late to warn the other crew members and she believes him, the crew aboard the ship searching the cavernous recesses of the craft only to find a chamber of leathery eggs that respond when a layer of protective mist is disturbed…the egg unravels, a hideous arachnoid creature attaches itself to the face of one of the crew and hours later, an alien xenomorph explodes from the chest of the doomed crew member…the rest, as they say, is cinematic history. A history it owes to the claustrophobic and nightmare inducing designs of the production designers and they’re inspiration, HR Giger. From the hyper-sexual design of the Alien itself and the derelict space ship to the claustrophoic, dark corridors of the Nostromo, the entire film is a psychologically visual mind game.  Playing on the human mind’s psychosexual nature and the primal fears of the hunter versus the hunted.

Whether it be the wondrous cyberpunk interiors or the heart pounding, beacon filled, steam ridden finale of the Nostromo self-destruct sequence, Alien is a creature-feature unlike anything the world has ever seen and to this day, it still, despite many attempts, has yet to be duplicated…

3 Scenes to Watch:

Copyright 20th Century Fox

(Left: Derelict Spaceship, Middle: Nostromo Self-destruct sequence, Right: Nostromo Cryo wake-up)

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