A Guide to Alien Cinema

Alien culture is aptly named: it is the culture of a race of organisms that lives in a distant galaxy and tends to do things in a way that’s not just strange, it’s alien. No surprise, then, that when a human being watches a film made by aliens, she has no clue which way’s up. For all the sense she can make of it, she might as well be an eight year old child watching Eyes Wide Shut, or Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Owing to their impenetrability, perhaps, alien films aren’t well distributed on Earth, and people mostly go about their lives with little awareness of what’s happening in this important medium (important to the aliens). And while we grant that there’s sense in this opted ignorance — why waste the time? — we’d like to suggest taking a few minutes right now to familiarize yourself with several of the 2008’s top alien film releases so far. We’ve put together a “Cliff’s Notes” of sorts to bolster comprehension — translating lines of dialog into English, substituting Earthly objects for their alien counterparts whenever possible.

Graygl Horcoot (“The Plowman’s Scat”)
The Plowman’s Scat shows us one ocean-cycle in the life-test of wizard Unye. Unye is comfortable-sounding, broad, and says fathomable ideas, all of which make him a big talking point for his local newspaper equivalent, a periodical information digest that’s basically a handful of rocks (“Gorcoot”). Early in the film, we realize that Unye is perpetrating an elaborate trick (“Morcoot”) on himself that essentially amounts to murdering one’s own sense of reason, but it involves doing so without one’s own knowledge (critically, that lack of knowledge doesn’t mean the same as our words ‘unconscious’ or ‘subconscious’, because it is a person’s alternate mind (people from Unye’s planet have two or seven minds) that is murdering the primary mind’s sense of reason). Morcoot is also a serious crime, and so detective-type guys are on Unye’s tail for much of the film waiting for him to slip up. (Attempted Morcoot is actually a capital offense, so if one of Unye’s alternate minds is found guilty of it, Unye — including all his minds (except his graygl mind (roughly, “plowman’s” mind)) — will be executed.) But so then at this point we lose track of Unye and the film spends some time documenting horcoot erosion and levitation (basically, “scat” erosion and levitation). At the end, there’s a massive spinning horcoot erosion accompanied by a clanging sound called “gerg”. As an editorial aside, it should be mentioned that this ending was considered by viewers to be a sensational O. Henry-style finale along the lines of Citizen Kane‘s.

Pazd (“Swirls”)
Pazd tells a story whose primary characters are pools of colored light. In a bit of technical spiffery culturally similar to the advent of 3-D specs in Earth cinema, Pazd is shown without using light of any kind. In the opening scenes, an oblong pool of burgundy light undulates. At a point roughly equivalent to the end of act one, the “viewer” realizes that the pool of light isn’t burgundy, but yellow. This instigates a chain of events in which the yellow pool of light (first perceived to be burgundy) reveals a blue pool of light underneath it. During the film’s final 30 hours, several hairpins in the script expose that (a), the blue pool of light may simply be a refraction of the yellow pool; (b), the yellow pool is in fact burgundy, as initially perceived; (c), the blue pool is a refraction of a different yellow pool; and finally that (d), this other yellow pool is burgundy.

Stron Poar (“The Ambitious Animal”)
In Stron Poar, an animal resembling a much-larger horse (a stron) is fixated on the notion of “raxia”. Impossible to translate literally, “raxia” means roughly “countenance”, with the additional sense of “moderation”. The stron determines to submit itself to a series of tests, called “iax”, which if failed result in “lengthening”, similar to our idea of death; but if passed will allow the stron to “pronounce raxia” (which involves literally enunciating the word “raxia”). In the first test, the stron must fall into a “wind tube”. It succeeds. In the second test, the stron must “refute this”, which the stron does. Finally, the stron is asked to “refute wind tube”, which the stron very nearly does — a climactic and emotional victory, similar to Rocky going ten rounds with Apollo Creed, that had audiences returning for a second and even third viewing. It must be understood that, speaking physiologically, strons have nothing that we would recognize as an appendage or even an orifice — the closest they come to either is a pad. This makes refuting the wind tube a tricky affair. Additionally, their equine mane is liquid rather than hair, and can vary in temperature, but during “iax” a stron is not allowed to fluctuate the temperature of its mane.

Any of these three films makes for a fun evening or week at home with the fam, and besides feeling A LITTLE CONFUSEDat the conclusion, you’ll also — we think — enjoy the sense of being a little more plugged in…


… (this has been a thing about) Alien Cinema.