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Space travel has become a dirty way of life dominated by derelicts, grease monkeys, thieves, and hard-boiled interplanetary traders such as Samuel Curtis, an astronaut from Earth who deals in a rare goods, living or otherwise. His mission begins with the unlikely delivery of a cat to a small outer-belt asteroid saloon where he meets his former dance partner, and renowned interplanetary fruit thief, the Blueberry Pirate. As payment for his delivery of the cat, Curtis receives a homemade cloning device already in the process of creating a creature most rare in this space quadrant... a Real Live Girl. At the suggestion of the Blueberry Pirate, Curtis takes the Real Live Girl to Jupiter where women have long been a mystery. There, he proposes a trade with the owner of Jupiter: the Real Live Girl clone for the Boy Who Actually Saw A Woman's Breast. The Boy Who Actually Saw A Woman's Breast is regarded as royalty on the all-male mining planet of Jupiter because of his unique and exotic ... Written by
This film is billed as a sci-fi, musical-western comedy. Sounds both original and strange doesn't it? The American Astronaut proves to be both of these (and strange definitely in a good way, believe me).
The story is centred around space trader Samuel Curtis (played by writer and director Cory McAbee), who we find in a bar on an asteroid belt, landing in order to make a deal. The scene in the bar is extremely funny, and introduces us to the fact that this is partly a musical. In the bar, unbeknownst to Curtis, is his intermittently-reoccurring nemesis, Professor Hess. Hess, a psychotic killer, pursues Curtis throughout his subsequent journey, in which he performs a number of deals, culminating in travelling to Venus to provide a suitable male to the women of Venus, in order that they release the body of their late suitor, Johnny R), and the dialogue between the two is one of the highlights of the film.
This film is stylishly shot in black and white, and Cory McAbee manages to convey the idea of outer space extraordinarily well with some simple direction. Especially impressive is the collage of still photographs showing Curtis explaining why Professor Hess is in his pursuit - it is funny, original, and ingeniously simple. Shot on a low budget, this film does not suffer from the fact in any way. McAbee's use of light and shadows is reminiscent of Orson Welles' direction in Citizen Kane - simple, but astonishingly effective.
With a superb soundtrack from McAbee's band The Billy Nayer Show, and the script as impressive as the direction, the film's slightly abrupt ending is the only chink in this otherwise flawless masterpiece; although even that has an upside, in that it leaves you wishing to hear more of Samuel Curtis, and the others.
Hopefully more from the same director will do.
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