La Planete Sauvage Blu-ray

Monday, 26 July 2010 07:04

“La Planète Sauvage” (aka “Fantastic Planet”) is an intelligent, weird and wonderful animation from director René Laloux and author Stefan Wul. The story takes place on Ygam, an incredible alien planet where the dominant race of giant blue people called Draags subjugate the tiny Oms (humans). The Oms are playthings of the Draags, a source of idle amusement that can be discarded or even exterminated on a whim.

A Draag child called Tiwa adopts a baby Om out of curiosity after its mother is callously murdered by another Draag. Tiwa looks after Terr (as he is named) much as we would a pet hamster or a doll. As one Draag week is the equivalent of an Om year, Terr grows up much faster than his owner, and the Om learns quickly thanks to Tiwa’s personal electronic teaching device. Outside the city, clans of free Oms fight for their survival.

La Planete Sauvage on Blu-ray and DVDEvery so often, the Draags cull the Oms to stop them becoming too numerous and to stem their advancement. When Tiwa grows tired of Terr, the little Om escapes with the learning machine and joins a clan. He helps the other Oms become educated and use their new-found knowledge and cunning to evade the next wave of extermination, and eventually fight back against the oppressive Draags.

Laloux’s movie is utterly engaging. The excellent animation, artwork and original soundtrack (by Alain Goragher) all have such a unique, ageless quality to them that it still feels fresh and innovative almost forty years on from its original release.

Ygam is an inspired world full of wonders and dangers. Bizarre, Terry Gilliam-esque creatures and plants prey on the Oms and each other. Some look innocent and harmless but are deadly, and others look terrifying but might be benign. Every step the delicate Oms take could be their last.

The film’s audio-visual power is only half the story, however, because the socio-political themes running through it provoke a lot of thought and draw comparisons to our own life experiences. Issues such human rights, animal cruelty, prejudice and cultural divisions are very much in the foreground. Humans are used to being top dogs, but here they find themselves at the mercy of an alien and vastly superior race, and have to resort to scurrying around like mice.

The Draag are essentially a peaceful, contemplative race; their murderous actions are more the result of ignorance and a lack of understanding (think of us stepping on ants) than outright aggression, and that makes the two races’ interaction more emotionally complex.

This new Blu-ray version of the film features a super-sharp, restored transfer, and it really brings out the detail and subtle shading of the hand-drawn artwork. There is a small amount of grain but it is virtually insignificant. As well as the sublime French vocal work (with accompanying new and improved subtitles), there is an optional, high quality US English dub, and a separate musical soundtrack which is broken down into individual pieces.

The disc also features five of Laloux’s live-action/animated shorts from the 1960s and 1980s, including one darkly humorous number about an unfortunate farmer’s experiences with gigantic snails. The final special feature on the disc is an engaging documentary about the director and his work; Laloux turns out to have been a very disarming, entertaining man. How he remained sane during the protracted, five-year production period of this movie is anyone’s guess! A 40-page colour booklet rounds off the extras nicely.

“La Planète Sauvage” (1973) is out now on Blu-ray (a 2006 DVD edition is available separately), courtesy of Eureka’s “Masters of Cinema” label. The running time of the main feature is 72 minutes approx, certificate ‘PG’ and the movie retails for £22.99 or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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