Fantastic Planet (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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Nothing else has ever looked or felt like director René Laloux s animated marvel Fantastic Planet, a politically minded and visually inventive work of science fiction. The film is set on a distant planet called Ygam, where enslaved humans (Oms) are the playthings of giant blue natives (Draags). After Terr, kept as a pet since infancy, escapes from his gigantic child captor, he is swept up by a band of radical fellow Oms who are resisting the Draags oppression and violence. With its eerie, coolly surreal cutout animation by Roland Topor; brilliant psychedelic jazz score by Alain Goraguer; and wondrous creatures and landscapes, this Cannes-awarded 1973 counterculture classic is a perennially compelling statement against conformity and violence.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Alternate English-language soundtrack
- Les escargots (1966), an early short film by director René Laloux and illustrator Roland Topor
- Laloux sauvage, a 2009 documentary on Laloux
- Italiques: Roland Topor Special, a 1974 French television program on Topor s work
- Archival interviews
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Brooke
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Top Customer Reviews
Here is a brief bit of my viewing experience with this movie.
I have always LOVED this movie. It is so singular and bizarre both as animation and sci-fi, it cannot help but leave an impression on the mind of anyone who has seen it. It is like a half-forgotten dream. Even if a person has only caught 5 minutes of it, they'll always remember it. I originally saw this movie at the drive-in, with my parents in 1975. I was only FOUR years old. It was the second feature, and starting at 10:30 PM, as a four year old it was nearly impossible to stay awake. But I kept drifting in and out, WANTING to stay awake because what I was seeing was so strange and certainly NOT Disney.
Then when I was in junior high in the early eighties, it appeared on NIGHT FLIGHT. I couldn't believe it. It was THAT movie. A total flood of memory. I taped it, commercials, animated shorts and all. Then when I was in college I ordered a Masters of Cinema VHS and later I found a vintage poster of it at a print shop in Boston. In the early 2000s when the soundtrack came out as a french CD import, I got that. Then I owned that crappy DVD where you couldn't turn off the english subtitles that also didn't match the english dub that was being spoken. Finally I owned the Accent cinema DVD and I was pretty satisfied with that. I've never seen this movie on a Blu-ray.
But I can say all the sources I've ever seen do have one thing in common: Print damage and seemingly washed out colors in many scenes. But they also have in common a WARM temperature which as a viewer makes the FANTASTIC PLANET, seem like a dry, arid climate. It's filled with yellows, earth tones, hazy skies. This is the feel/look I'm used to.
So here is what I see on my new Criterion Blu-ray after watching it completely and then switching back and forth between it and my Accents DVD. The Criterion version has ZERO print damage. The image is incredibly sharp and reveals details not available in previous versions I've seen. It also has a deeper contrast. The image is pretty lush. Things like sparkles, glows, computer beams and flashes are boosted. The rendering and the environments seem more three dimensional.
Is it BLUE? Well..yes, the temperature has dropped considerably. This drastic temperature flip is pretty shocking. Is it on purpose? Maybe. I'm not sure of what I thought of this new "look," especially given all the other benefits of this edition. One thing you'll find is the Draags are consistently, deeply, richly blue thru the whole picture and not blue, then light blue, then faded purple or chalky grey over the course of the movie like my previous DVDS. The entire picture is consistent and stable and other colors are not lost - reds are red, greens are green. People like Terr look consistently fleshy and pink - though COOL. I'm under the impression that to get those Draags consistently blue, that YES, there was a temperature manipulation that has slightly effected the totality of the image - especially on the more neutral colors in Fantastic Planet like the faded peach or yellow skies. It's very discernible in simple scenes. For instance the still of the wall with the message about de-ohmizing the park. It does look blue hued from the wall to the sky. Definitely scenes filled with Draags or underground cave scenes with people seem more BLUE. This cooler temperature and added contrast also makes certain scenes seem darker and certainly gives the movie a different look/feel. The end result of this, is that it looks like the denizens of Fantastic Planet have moved from Arizona to Portland! I don't know if I'd consider all this a drawback, but I did have a very hard time adjusting to this, despite the high quality of the actual video. But I'm happy to inform anyone who is waffling, that the film does NOT look like those screen caps! It doesn't feel like everything is awash in some dominating blue tint that spoils the film. It doesn't look like a processing accident.
I think those screen caps online are a case of comparison illusion. It's like when you are in art school and you learn in graphic design thru playing with colored squares that you can drastically change the appearance of one color by the color you place next to it. By placing the more faded, more yellow screen caps of past sources next to the more saturated, cooler Criterion cut, we got a very exaggerated visual contrast that made Criterion's version look overtly blue. But the impact of this coolness on the viewing experience is something to consider.
I question given all previous sources having shared this earthy like quality, if behind the scenes the radical difference in palette for the Criterion version wasn't debated. I am wondering how they arrived here.
A couple of small things I noticed. The movie is now so sharp that the artistic "hand" of the film, the outlines, the crosshatching on figures, is so prominent that it seemed a little bit busy. It took getting used to that amount of detail. You'll notice right in the beginning of the film that you can actually see the coloring marks on the Draag heads! I also experienced some judder while watching.
Finally, the audio coming from my speakers is FANTASTIC (planet)! Every chirp, gurgle, cracking crystal, beep and coo will flood your room like an alien jungle come to life while you are engulfed by Alain Gorageur's wah-wah guitars and acid jazz score.
I have not viewed the special features yet.
If you love Fantastic Planet, I could recommend taking a plunge on this blu-ray or if you have the possibility of renting it first to do so. It's benefits are NO print damage that I could notice, more detail, deeper contrast, greater saturation and consistent image quality with superior audio. But then there's that BLUE. As someone who has enjoyed this film for over 40 years now, I can say the blueish-ness of this was hard to take. If you find you are adverse to this new cooler color presentation, I'm sure someone will snap it up as a "watched once" blu-ray for a couple of dollars less. I'll always give Fantastic Planet 5 stars as a movie, but maybe 3 and half to this Criterion version. It still seems, after all these years, Fantastic Planet STILL hasn't been presented just right.
I am going to wait a couple of weeks and rewatch it, to see if maybe I am letting this palette change undermine my ability to appreciate possibly a correct, beautiful presentation of the film. It could just be I'm so used to SEEING it a certain way. I'll update again in a couple of weeks.
I have now watched this BluRay 3 more times and have decided short of a couple of small scenes where the blueish tone seems quite prominent, that this is the sharpest, cleanest version I've seen (granted, I've never owned the Eureka version). By the third viewing, I've adjusted to the cooler palette and it is not nearly as jarring as my initial viewing. Color-wise (disregarding the temperature change) this is also the most saturated version I've seen. A final observation: To my eyes, the high definition makes the animation look more fluid with the lumage process - Fantastic Planet looks more animated than ever before! You can see it right in the opening scene with the mother running - less stiff looking running of the mother accentuated by strong three dimensional relief against the background.
The French audio track is a revelation in sonic depth I had never heard before. The one mild disappointment is the well known English track that most people know this film by. Compared to the French track, listening to the English track is like playing the movie through a decrepit 60s transistor radio speaker that's half under water. It's dull and lifeless, yet that's the way I've always seen this film so it feels like home. Criterion is likely not to blame here. They probably only had single mono English track to work with that was poorly produced and/or preserved.
The special features are surprisingly rich despite this being an old, esoteric film from a time when supplemental material was rarely produced. All told, this is an essential record of a pivotal feature animation that confidently stands out from literally everything else ever produced and remains engaging after almost 50 years.
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