SF films leave a lot to be desired. There are not too many SF films that embrace themselves seriously, just as the literary genre of SF expects the same treatment. Most are over-budgeted special effects flops. Few that shine in the detritus: 12 Monkeys, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aliens, Alphaville, Bad Taste, Brazil, A Clockwork Orange, Existentz, The Mad Max Trilogy, Nausicaa and the Valley of Wind, Waterworld(hey, don’t diss. I’m well aware it was a box office flop, but it remains one of my favorite movies) off the top of my head. Feel free to throw in a couple more. Here’s a quirky and much-welcomed addition to the genre: The American Astronaut.
If you haven’t seen it, what the hell are you waiting for? This is a dense movie that is crammed with Popular Culture references and innuendos. There are many moments that entrap themselves in your memory, haunting in their repose, unnerving in motion. Poignant and silent at times, punctuated with moments of crass laughter, The American Astronaut chronicles a slice of life of a Solar System wanderer who whiles away empty hours between planets in a dilapidated ship. It is filled with ordinary paraphernalia of a life (bookshelves, accompanying books, a bed and its frame, a LP player, the wooden desk and its lamp, the dull gleam of an old razor) that renders it indiscernible from an earth-side living space. From planet to planet, silver miner Samuel Curtis barters his services for a moment of purpose, some clear illusion of forward movement. He is pursued by a Professor Hess, a madman intent on apologizing to Curtis before killing him. He also kills everyone the silver miner comes in contact with. I love how this movie portrays space travel: greasy, gritty, and… boring. The glamour of rockets faded to an everyday boring necessity, not unlike an automobile trip to work.