Sundance 2019: Alien documentary director names his top 5 sci-fi films
'Memory' filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe is a big fan of 'Blade Runner,' 'Solaris,' and 'The Thing'
Alexandre O. Philippe has spent the last couple of years in the world of facehuggers and Xenomorphs directing the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien, which explores the creation of Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction classic, and receives its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday.
“Memory is the origin story of Alien, but it really is a full-on mythological take on the film,” says Philippe, whose previous film was the Psycho documentary, 78/52. “It’s an exploration of the power of cinema, the power of myths. It’s a very unique look at the original Alien film.”
What are Philippe’s favorite sci-fi films? While the director’s top five does not feature Alien itself — “I think that’s obvious,” says the filmmaker — the list does not lack spaceships, dangerous extraterrestrials, or Ridley Scott.
Blade Runner (1982)
“At the very top of my list has to be Blade Runner. There was a time in my teens when I was pretty much watching Blade Runner every day. To this day, the climax, with Roy Batty, you know, ‘Tears in rain,’ for me it remains the most transcendent scene that I have ever experienced. I cannot watch that scene without having tears in my eyes. It’s a film that is so profound in terms of what it says about what it’s like to be human, what it means to be human. The idea of the villain, so to speak, to essentially turn out to be the most human of all the characters — that’s an extraordinary film. I can never get over the fact that Ridley Scott made Alien and Blade Runner back-to-back and gave us two of these absolute masterpieces. It’s amazing. I’m obviously a huge fan. [Laughs]”
“As a contemplation on the nature of love, and as an existential film that carries so many questions, that makes you think so deeply about our nature, it does it so beautifully. The pacing of that film is haunting. Everything about that film is haunting.”
“Without Metropolis, the kind of sci-fi movies we’d have today would be probably very different, visually. I mean, Blade Runner borrows from Metropolis as does Star Wars. We can go down the list. But what I love about that film too is what it’s about, this idea of the head and the hands wanting to join together but needing the heart to do that. I mean, it’s such a beautiful idea that I think really resonates together in our current climate.”
The Thing (1982)
“You look at that film, almost forty years later now, it just amazes me how it has not lost an iota of its power, and how scary it is, and how the practical effects just hold up — they’re far better than any CGI stuff we’re getting today. It is so well-written and so well paced. It is obviously so Lovecraftian in its influence. I just absolutely adore that film.”
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)/Under the Skin (2013)
“For the fifth one, I’m actually going to go with a tie — Under the Skin and The Man Who Fell to Earth — because I think they’re related in a way. I love them both. They’re obviously very different films, and yet they both really are extraordinarily unique expressions of what it’s like to feel alien, what it’s like to not feel like the people who are around you, and how you deal with that.
“Under the Skin, that’s the kind of film that makes me really happy that someone has made a film so radically unique and different, and that there are people out there that are actually willing to back that and make it a reality. And then, of course, The Man Who Fell to Earth. At some point, I am going to want to explore deeper the cinema of Nicolas Roeg. The way he tells a story, and the way he directs a film, is so completely idiosyncratic. He works in ways that I don’t think I can quite understand. You look at a Coppola film, or you look at a Lynch film, or you look at Ridley Scott and you can in a certain way wrap your head around what they’re doing. Nicolas Roeg to me is a real mystery.”
See the poster for Memory: The Origins of Alien, below.