Human, all too human: 10 sci-fi films that show what it means to be alive – The Guardian (blog)

Posted: July 17, 2017 at 4:39 am

Surreal sci-fi: Jubilee, The Craven Sluck, Her, World on a Wire, Przekadaniec and Strange Days. Composite: PR

When putting together MoMAs new film series, Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction, its curator, Josh Siegel, set out to compile a list of pictures that defined the genre within more earthly parameters. He decided to seek out sci-fi that took place on Earth, had no aliens or invasions, and instead investigated what it meant to be human at the time of the films release. Before the retrospective, Siegel, along with museums chief curator of film, Rajendra Roy, discussed their favorite films in the series.

This is a Mike and George Kuchar fantasy about a housewife who seeks stimulation and finds it in the most unlikely place. Bob Cowan actually plays two roles. He plays the wife of the husband with whom the housewife is cheating, as well as the housewifes own husband. Its a challenging, tongue-in-cheek, demented performance. They were scraping money together to make these films, but they were fairly ingenious in their creativity, imagination and resourcefulness. JS

This is one of those films thats cherished by a certain film-going set in the Czech Republic, and is one of a number of post-apocalyptic films in the series. Its by Jan Schmidt and is about the last surviving group of women on Earth, who are left in a forest and have to survive on their own and seek a way of perpetuating human civilization. They sort of oscillate between these two atavistic or primitive states. Its very bleak, cruel, but also very beautiful. JS

This is a short by Andrzej Wajda. It was a collaboration with the Solaris author, Stanislaw Lem, who I think is probably the most widely read science-fiction writer in history, but somebody who is less well known in the west. The film is ostensibly a comedy about a race car driver who nearly kills his own brother in a race. He also almost dies, but he inherits half of his brothers organs after the incident. Then the insurance company denies coverage because they say that his brothers not really dead because he lives on in his brothers body. Its this kind of absurdist conundrum about the problems we face with getting denied medical coverage in the US. JS

With a small budget, George Romero was able to create something exceedingly enjoyable and fast-paced, while at the same time actually having something profound to say about American society on two levels. On one level its a film about a germ the military is working on that ends up in the water stream of a small Pennsylvania town and renders everyone in the town a homicidal maniac. But theres also this demented comic element that I think is deriving something from Preston Sturges films; throughout this kind of comical suspense film about germ warfare and anti-government groups trying to survive the takeover of their towns is this really interesting take on the American family. JS

This is a film originally made for West German television in the early 70s. Its close to us because we actually helped fund and finish the restoration that took place a few years back. Its really an amazing example of Rainer Werner Fassbinders vision taken into a new realm. He was able to bring his own unique, intense sensuality and sexuality into this realm. I think that has long-lasting implications and influences throughout other future-dystopian narratives, including The Matrix, to a certain extent. RR

This Krsto Papi film is based on one of Alexander Grins stories and involves a struggling, impoverished writer who is ostracized and basically a pariah. He stumbles on an underground society of rat people who he discovers are dining on champagne and roast pig, on the suffering of workers, and he tries to tell people about this conspiracy thats brewing in the sewers of the city. Its essentially a body-snatchers story. But it was attacked paradoxically as kind of an anti-communist allegory at the time by critics. In fact, what it really is is an attack on collectivity, its impact on feudalism in the mid-70s and the idea of falling into lock-step with the totalitarian state. JS

Derek Jarmans film came out in the late 70s at the height of the cold war. He brings this queer aesthetic, that was rooted in an anti-establishment, tear-it-all-down anarchy. I dont see how anyone walks out of that screening not making parallels to where we are today this feeling of utter hopelessness in the conventions and structures of society that we live in. Again, although its dirty and raw and super-punk, I would hope kids see it and say, Fuck yeah! RR

This is a slightly more contemporary pick, even though its over 20 years old. I think its incredible how when people talk about the implications of the current generation of virtual reality experiences, there are two areas where it seems like theres a viable future for it. First is in creating situations of empathy like Alejandro Gonzlez Irritus project that puts you on the border between the US and Mexico creates an incredible sense of empathy. The other is porn. Kathryn Bigelow really took on the idea that the future of intimacy and sexuality would take place in a virtual realm, which is incredibly spot-on and obviously very current. RR

Lynn Hershman Leesons film is 15 years old but the idea of cloning, and the decoupling of sexuality and reproduction, is such an intriguing hypothesis. Her ability to decouple the procreative nature of sexuality, but embed the lustful nature of human interaction even in the clones form, is fascinating. Were getting to the point where actual clones are on the not-so-far-off horizon. Leeson has always been interested in the relationship between science and art, and the practice of scientists in relation to creation, and this is a perfect synthesis of the two. RR

I wanted to include something that might be more familiar for audiences because we want this to be an accessible series. A film like Her obviously has contemporary weight for people in terms of the way they interact, meet each other and fall in love, fall in love with ideas of people, fall in love with actual devices: thats something everyone can dive into and think about in their own lives. RR


Human, all too human: 10 sci-fi films that show what it means to be alive – The Guardian (blog)

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