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Fantastic Planet – Alain Goraguer
Unique, otherworldly and consistently beautiful, Goraguer’s music for Fantastic Planet is by turns haunting and invigorating.
Published on December 30, 2011 | Filed under Audiodrome: Music in Film

Based on the novel Oms en Série (Oms by the Dozen) by Stefan Wul, René Laloux’s French language animated feature Fantastic Planet focuses on the plight of a race of tiny humanoid creatures called Oms who are enslaved by blue giants called Draags. By stealing a device used by the Draags for intellectual advancement, a young Om named Ter organises a revolt against the giants who have begun exterminating undomesticated Oms. With themes such as freedom, self-determination, race, peace and reconciliation, the film has often been viewed as an allegory for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and various sociological struggles throughout European history. Co-written by Roland Topor, who also co-wrote The Tenant with Roman Polanski, Fantastic Planet won Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1973 and was distributed in the States by Roger Corman. A French-Czech co-production, the film features some of the most bizarre and visually stunning imagery you’re ever likely to see in a film; giant blue creatures using astral projection to cavort with waltzing headless statues in space; crystals forming like dew and then shattering when someone whistles; a carnivorous tree with a cage-like appendage to ensnare its feathered prey in. Topor’s ravishing artistry had a profound effect on films like Tarsem Singh’s The Cell – Jennifer Lopez’s character is even glimpsed smoking a joint and watching Fantastic Planet. Awash with alien landscapes and all manner of curious creatures and plant life, its trippy and curiously melancholic atmosphere is enhanced by a truly idiosyncratic score courtesy of renowned jazz pianist Alain Goraguer, who prior to composing the music for Fantastic Planet, had worked alongside the likes of Serge Gainsbourg.

Goraguer has concocted a heady psychedelic brew of strutting guitars, sweeping strings, ethereal vocals and fluttering woodwind. Fusing funk, jazz and prog-rock, the album is made up of vignettes which are variations on the same haunting theme and perfectly accentuates the film’s otherworldly tone. The Avant-garde jazz of I’oiseux, with its nervous woodwind and snarling guitars, is very reminiscent of some of Ennio Morricone’s more abstract, discordant giallo scores. Playful pieces like Ten et Tiwa utilise quirky percussion, flutes and guitar riffs that could have flounced right out of a blaxploitation flick, while tracks such as Generique alt boast guitar solos that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Pink Floyd album. Tenor sax solos are also scattered throughout proceedings, but nowhere more luxuriously seductive as on Strip Tease, a dreamy haze of a track that exudes a yearning melancholy. Elsewhere gorgeously breathy vocals are utilised on the likes of Meditation des enfants, while a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar accompanies a delicate flute on Conseil des Draags. The darker, more unsettling moments of the film are evident in the likes of Le Fusées, which unfurls as a menacing carousel waltz and Mort de Draag, a frantic, percussion-heavy piece.

Goraguer was obviously a massive influence on Air, particularly their moody soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides, the lush and haunting melodies of which stem directly from the music of Fantastic Planet; especially tracks such as La Femme, Strip Tease, Meditation des Enfants and Deshominisation (I) – all floaty, evocative mood pieces. Hip-hop producer Madlib was also influenced by Goraguer’s tripped-out score; he sampled it on his album The Unseen in 2000.

Unique, otherworldly and consistently beautiful, Goraguer’s music for Fantastic Planet was reissued on CD in 2000 on DC Recordings and is really worth seeking out.

Strip Tease is by far my favourite track on the album and fans of Air’s The Virgin Suicides will not fail to be seduced by its bewitching sax solo and alluring atmosphere. Enjoy.

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Author:
James is the author of ‘Dario Argento’ (Kamera Books) and a contributor to Exquisite Terror and Diabolique Magazine. He likes Gothic horror, Italian gialli, Eighties slasher flicks and creepy old B-movies. And films starring Vincent Price.
James Gracey

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