October 27th, 2007

Rene Laloux

The late Rene Laloux, known to US audiences as the director of Fantastic Planet, a film that embodied the essence of the illustrated French magazine, Metal Hurlant, also released two other animated features in the States, Masters of Time, a collaboration with Moebius, and, his last film, Gandahar. The latter was bought by a new company called Miramax, who called upon Isaac Asimov to "adapt" the property. Gandahar was released in 1988 in this country as Light Years, and stands as a hack job dubbed into English. Harvey Weinstein, who along with his brother Bob founded the company, claimed the director's credit, thus beginning a tradition of of interfering with films that he purchased for distribution.

Anyway, Gandahar has now been given a subtitled release in its original form, availiable through Xploited Cinema. Here's a plot summary:

On the peaceful world of Gandahar, the Council of Women under Queen Ambisextra perceive a new and unknown threat to the world. The warrior Sylvain is sent forth to determine the nature of this threat. He encounters a race of invincible metal men who are making their way across the world, petrifying every person they encounter and then sending the bodies through a portal to return reprocessed into more metal men. Sylvain traces the source of the metal men to Metamorphis, a giant pink brain floating in the midst of the Circumventing Ocean. But Metamorphis appears baffled as to how it could be the source of the metal men, even though all evidence indicates that it is. As the metal men make their way across the land, destroying the last defences of his people, Sylvain realizes his only choice is to accept Metamorphis’s offer to be placed in a stasis capsule and awakened in 1000 years time so that he will be able to destroy Metemorphis’s weakened future self, which is the real source of the metal men.

Gandahar offers a plethora of weird visuals – the under-race of The Deformed who come with multiple heads, arms protruding out of necks and stomachs or as walking torsos; a scene where the hero and heroine are drawn up into the bloodstream of a giant pink sea anemone; their being hatched from eggs and treated as the children of a dinosaur; and particularly the scenes with people trying to fight off the metal men using fighting crabs, pink hopping creatures that spew forth a forest of thorned trees, mouth creatures that devour the robots and so on. Gandahar has a lot going for it – bizarre mutants, spacey visuals, a genuine alienness and above all a plot that has a real scope involving travel thousands of years into the future and a time paradox plot that entwines past, present and future along with predestined prophecy – but alas it all comes directed at a rather torpid pace that Laloux never quite fires up. The animation is also somewhat limited. But if you're a fan of Laloux, as I am, you'll want this.

Later: My friend Jean-Daniel Brecque suggested I add these facts: Gandahar is adapted from a novel by Jean-Pierre Andrevon, _Les Hommes-Machines contre Gandahar_ (to which he wrote several sequels) and that Caza was Laloux's graphic designer on the movie. Still active as a "bande dessinée" artist/writer, Caza was once the number one SF cover artist in France.
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Lately, thanks to the agitation of Warren Ellis, there's been a bit of discussion online about the allegedly stale and outdated look and marketing strategies of most surviving genre magazines, and how that contributes to their declining circulations. Visit Warren's site for various posts and links:


I thought it might be useful in this discussion to remember the classic NEW WORLDS, which sought to break out and stand out of a similar state of affairs. Here's the cover of one of the few issues I own, Number 189. The art is by the famed Mervyn Peake, illustrating Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog." Hardly looks like anything around today, does it?

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This scan, BTW, is courtesy of the great Visco site run by Terry Gibbons. If you want hours of eye-candy, please visit:


And here's an interior illo, by Richard Glyn Jones:

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Posted by Paul DiFi.