The Films of Alex Proyas #1 – Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989)

0_48c7f_5fd43c2b_XLAside from Dark City (1998) and two or three scenes from Knowing (2009), the films of director Alex Proyas have somehow managed to elude me. Having recently been inspired by fellow staff writer Sean Lynch’s Nine Nights of Argento feature, I felt it was long overdue to finally fill that hole in my film watching and see what all the hype surrounding this director is all about.

Is he to sci-fi what my favorite horror director John Carpenter is to horror, as I have heard on more than one occasion from several different sci-fi junkies, whose opinions I all strongly respect? There’s only one way to find out; by watching all of Proyas’ films in chronological order. My take on his first film, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, after the jump.

four-stars4Well, it’s off to a good start. It appears that from the get go Alex Proyas has not only found my cinematic G-spot, but had efficiently fondled it to the point of my screaming More! More! More! Sex analogy necessary? Probably not. Anyway, my point is Proyas’ miniscule budgeted, elongated title debut gave me the same high I got when watching other similarly visual and cerebral stimulating films. As far as being a film to offer up minute after minute of aesthetic pleasure, I have no trouble putting this in the same company as Once Upon A Time in the West (1968), Mad Max (1979), The Thing (1982), There Will Be Blood (2007), Seven Samurai (1954), Possession (1981), Persona (1966), and The Great Silence (1968), just to name a few. Yeah, this film impressed me.

Simple is better, and it appears that Proyas knows this. Aside from the tone-setting vacant apocalyptic imagery of the opening sequence (see YouTube video below) the entire film takes place in one setting, with three people, and a storyline as bare-boned as the sandy Australian desert that this movie was shot in.

The film takes place in the house of brother and sister Felix and Betty Crabtree and is about their relationship with a stranger, whom they meet as soon as the opening credits have finished. What quickly becomes obvious is that these siblings social skills are not their strong suit. Betty apparently enjoys acting batshit crazy, screeching at her plate of beans, dressing up for Goth concerts that never happen, playing her fiddle, and making welcomed guests feel as uncomfortable as possible. On the other hand, her brother seems to be the more levelheaded of the two, and mostly keeps to his wheelchair bound self and his lofty dreams of building one of those flying machines that he’s read about in one of his books from a hundred years or so ago. Then there’s the stranger, who, for reasons unknown, and reasons we never learn about (again, keeping it simple) just wants to go north. Soon the stranger and Felix develop a rapport and begin building their flying machine, which makes Betty act even crazier and next thing I know, BAM, I’m smack in the middle of one of the strangest dramatic triangles ever! And I am loving every minute of it.

Magnificent set pieces, super far framed shots (often of a lone figure walking in the distance), only to be followed by close-ups so disgustingly close that they would make Sergio Leone giddy, and a constant peeked interest in every trivial interaction between these three actors make this one of the most enjoyable dramatic apocalyptic films I have ever seen.

Up next: The Crow

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Categories: Director Spotlight, Reviews

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