Tuesday, April 28, 2009

man on the moon

Last night I attended a screening of Moon, the new independent science-fiction movie starring Sam Rockwell. The film was directed and conceptualized by Duncan Jones (better known to David Bowie devotees as Zowie Bowie). The director was in attendance and took the time for a quick Q&A session after the film. This release marks his debut in feature films, though he already has a slew of music videos and commercials under his belt.

For those who haven’t been following the production and promotion of this film for over six months (I know, I read way too much io9), it follows Sam, an astronaut/miner who’s approaching the end of his three year contract working alone on the moon. As his return to Earth approaches, he is confronted with the existence of another Sam at the station, and it is unclear whether Other Sam is an android, a clone, or the hallucination of a man who has suffered from a psychotic break.

Jones wrote the story with Rockwell in mind, and the collaboration between the two artists couldn’t have been more seamless. Since the film is set on a remote moon base and features multiple Sams, you’re getting all Rockwell, all the time. He’s more than up to the task of carrying the emotional weight of the story, while also finding the necessary moments of humor that keep the film from drowning in its own isolation. Because make no mistake, this movie is heavy. The story is a thoughtful exploration of identity and loss, and there were moments that made me feel so lost and lonely that I felt sick to my stomach.

The director, who was extremely gracious and good-natured, filmed the movie on only two sound stages and for an impressively limited budget of $5 million. He used models whenever possible, rarely relying on CGI, except for the digital set extensions of the moonscape. In scenes featuring more than one Sam, Jones would identify the Sam that he felt was driving the scene, shoot that character first, then shoot the second character’s reactions based upon the first shots. It was a complicated process in which Rockwell wore an earpiece with the recording of the first Sam’s scene, so that he could time his reactions accordingly. There were moments in which Sam’s face was digitally pasted over that of his stand-in or stunt double, but most of the shots feature two genuine Rockwells, shot and layered The Parent Trap style.

The finished product is an intense character study featuring a wonderfully layered performance by Rockwell. The film is beautifully shot and scored, and will hopefully help Jones gain more substantial financing for future projects. His next movie will also be science-fiction, but set in a gritty urban future (sounds like he’s leaning towards Berlin for the location). He refers to the project as his Bladerunner, and if it’s half as impressive as the director’s first feature film, I’ll be there opening night.

In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy my craving for totally confusing and depressing science-fiction with Dark City, which we’ll be screening tonight at Jagercon. Starring Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Connelly’s eyebrows. Snap! (Who am I kidding? I would kill for those brows.)

the Moon trailer

the Dark City trailer, for good measure

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