Cory McAbee’s “The American Astronaut”


I have to be clear on something, straight away: I don’t really know what it is that I watched, and I’m not sure if I was supposed to. This film’s narrative – if it can be called that – is intentionally hodge-podge, with unrelated events intersecting this-a-way and that, and building off of each other, and the film descends into a madcap frenzy very  early on.

Do I call it ‘brilliant?’ Because certain scenes certainly were. There is a prolonged phone conversation, near the middle of the film, between Curtis and the Professor Hess character, that caps off with the unexepted delivery of the line, “It’s my birthday!” that’s followed by an impromptu slideshow flashback, showcasing the pair’s past history together, that – apart from being black-and-white, bares no stylistic similarity with the rest of the film, and – it works; there are a lot of moments like these. And throughout,  the cinematography is just gorgeous, reminding at times of starkly contrasting fifties pictures, and still others of moody noir and certain early David Lynch films. It was even nominated for an award at the ISAs, and rightly so.

But, it was at a certain point – I think, about the time that the frog-boy character came into the picture (no, not even when the film’s credits featured silhouetted cowboys having standing-room seizures) – that I stopped trying to make sense of it all, because that approach just wasn’t working. To describe it as ‘rambling’ conjures up the wrong image, but – it seems like the type of story that you’d receive if you’d given Stanley Kubrick a couple of Quailudes, while on the set of “2001.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but not by much. It’s a branching, twisting stream-of-consciousness musical science-fiction film. Did it branch one too many times? It’s a little too early to tell.

Director McAbee – who also produced, wrote, and acted as the lead and composer – has created something entirely other, for good or ill,  and it’s going to require a bit more thought, it seems.

Also, having just seen the odd, broken slice-of-early-eighties short film “Red” a couple of weeks prior to this, I couldn’t help being reminded of that in certain parts, as well. But, that isn’t the director’s fault.

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3 thoughts on “Cory McAbee’s “The American Astronaut”

  1. […] Shared Cory McAbee’s “The American Astronaut” « The Filmist. […]

  2. […] An interview with Cory McAbee, director of that wonderfully bizarre post-musical The American Astronaut, and co-director Bobbie Lurrie about their newest film, Stingray Sam – and their musical […]

  3. […] harder blues, of catchy show-tunes and visceral table-beating. And then, in 2001, they released The American Astronaut – which I reviewed previously for the site; an extension of their work with TBNS, it introduced a […]

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