Mosaic / Music / Reviews / October 16, 2008

Christmas on Mars a psychedelic experience

“Christmas on Mars” is the long-awaited, seven years in the making, fantastical film freakout featuring The Flaming Lips. The soundtrack and overall feeling are a considerable departure from their music, though many of the themes, including interactions with space and human mortality, remain intact.

Lips front man Wayne Coyne says in a Pitchfork interview that he “wanted it to feel like some kind of drug-damaged foreign film that you found in your collection that was actually made 60 years ago.”

This rings true with the exception of the “hard-ass American” head-of-personnel whose vulgar one-liners inject some much needed and unexpectedly entertaining comic relief. The comedy in “Christmas on Mars” is mostly dry and ironic humor that keeps the mood light amongst themes involving imagery of dying infants and female genitalia, the most memorable instance of which involves a marching band.

The music for the film is co-produced by long time partner Dave Fridmann, who directs alongside the band. Limited showings at rock festivals and 22 art house and small time theaters nationwide have been taking place since the theatrical premier at the KGB Complex’s Kraine Theater in New York City. Unusual showing times and locations, such as screenings at 7 a.m. and a one in a revival tent, have contributed to this unique film experience. The movie was filmed largely at Coyne’s Oklahoma home and is nearly all black and white with moments of intense and overexposed color for psychedelic emphasis. Sometimes this feels a bit overly forceful, but part of the film’s aim is to give your senses something new to encounter.

With “Christmas on Mars”’ influences including Stanley Kubric’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, David Lynch’s “Eraserhead”, and to a lesser extent, “The Wizard of Oz”, you know that you are in for a wild ride.

“Christmas on Mars” also gives the audience time to mull ideas and events over, unlike the common tennis-match-dialogue and events that fall over each other in a race to explain themselves.

The beginning is intensely psychedelic (and LOUD), but takes on a narrative structure as the story and characters come into play.

Coyne comments on the beginning in an interview with Scene-Stealers.com, saying “it’s extremely loud and it’s extremely jarring sometimes. But I think like a lot of things, when it becomes intense, it becomes a different experience.”

He goes on to say that if it becomes too loud, “just put your hands over your ears.”

Even the most seasoned Lips fan may feel the urge to bow out during this point in the movie, and some have, but it would be a mistake of impatience to do so. The mood of the film changes often and unpredictably, so if you see it, just sit tight until the end because the constantly morphing atmosphere of the film is a large part of what makes it a uniquely fascinating experience. The only element of the film’s atmosphere that could be considered consistent is an abundance of audiovisual psychedelic mind explosions.

Casting for the film includes all three members of the band as well as Adam Goldberg (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Hebrew Hammer”), Fred Armisen (“SNL”), Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse frontman), Steve Burns (“Blues Clues”, yeah that Steve), and Elijah Wood whose scene appears to have been tragically cut. These credits should not imply that the acting is consistently stellar throughout the movie; the first few scenes are laden

Zack Lazar


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