Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Brother from Another Planet

The Brother from Another Planet; science-fiction satire, USA, 1984; D: John Sayles, S: Joe Morton, Leonard Jackson, Steve James, John Sayles, David Strathairn, Rosetta LeNoire, Fisher Stevens

Running away from intergalactic bounty hunters (?), a mute human alien with black skin crashes with his spaceship on Earth, more precisely Harlem. The nameless man starts observing the society and the lives of people. He makes friends with some people in a bar and finds a job using his powers to fix every possible electric device. In the end, he starts criticizing drugs the most. When the two bounty hunters find him, he is saved by all the friends he made and thus stays on Earth.

In one of his best - if not the best - movies, "The Brother from Another Planet", which collected a lot of critical acclaim and achieved a success in art-cinemas worldwide, director and screenwriter John Sayles showed what he has to show: he crafted this science-fiction film without special effects, adding mild sarcasm and irony, blending it with comedy and melodrama. He achieved an independent movie almost from another dimension, a mysterious and wonderful view on different (alien) civilizations and cultures: even though the main protagonist does not say a single world throughout the entire story, all the characters speak for him and thus mirror the author's social commentary on our world, from capitalism, effects of drugs on youth up to using nudity to sell products (featuring a genius "throw-away" joke where he buys a gramophone record but just throws it in the trash can yet keeps the envelope because it features the face of a beautiful woman, all he ever wanted anyway).

It's a minimalistic film, which means that rarely something happens, but when it does it is usually deliciously rewarding. The sequence where he enters the bar for the first time, for instance, offers great ensemble dialogue from the characters with a neat sense for timing (one customer, Smokey, tests him by blowing a paper bag behind him. Since the mute hero winces, the customer concludes he is "not deaf". He then proceeds to give him a drink. The hero takes a sip of it, but his expression reveals it is too bitter for him, upon which Smokey makes his diagnosis: "Yes, he is definitely crazy!"). Still, the episodic story seems rather lost at times. The two alien bounty hunters, played by Strathairn and director Sayles himself, steal the show with their humorous "synchronised" movements, with the comical fight sequence at the bar being stylistically perfect and virtuoso choreographed (especially when the big one and the small one switch their places to confront the big and the small bar customer). A shining little film.


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