Apollo 10½: A Childhood in the Space AgeNetflix’s new version of Richard Linklater, apparently marks his return to his most instinctive style of filmmaking. The stylized, low-stakes period piece tells the autobiographically inspired story of Stan (Milo Co.), a young man navigating his childhood amidst the space race that surrounded Houston, Texas in the summer of 1969. What’s notable is that the film represents the director’s third foray into animation and his first return to the format since his 2006 film, A dark scanner.
Although Apollo 10½ does not use exactly the same techniques (with a process presumably smoothed out since Linklater’s difficulties with A Scan darkly) it still uses a technique similar to rotoscopic animation used by Linklater to To scan and 2001 waking life. As Linklater is something of an innovator and pioneer of this specific style, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the reason for his fondness for animation was the same as other filmmakers who use it, i.e. say to explore ways to expand stylistic capabilities. However, looking at his trilogy of animated films, it seems that this is not the director’s primary concern. Linklater has always had a special and unique fondness for film as a time capsule, often capturing worlds or characters in a particular location over periods of a day or, on occasion, 12 years. It is clear by observing this obsession with time and space that his choice of animation for these three films is clearly no accident, but rather part of an adventure in altering the relationship of time and space. space directly into narratives where they are most suitably abstracted.
A clear illustrative example of this can be found in the flight into the unconscious which is waking lifethe film that launched Linklater’s experimentation with animation. waking life is a film that focuses on Wiley Wiggins‘ nameless character as he literally floats through a dreamscape interfacing with various characters about the meanings of life and the universe. So typical Linklater fare. What marked this from his previous work, however, was the problem of presenting the dream world – a dream world, in particular, which the viewer could experience vicariously alongside the main character as he moves placidly and indistinguishably through different places, as one would do while dreaming. With the rotoscopic style making the image never rest, the effect of the oscillating, ever-changing animation is to remove all temporal associations that come with movement. The consequence is that it suspends the viewer in this world for what seems like an ambiguous length of time, again creating a dream-like experience. While with Lazy or before sunrise the passage of time reflected in the daylight or the weary affectations of the general day of the characters give rise to the feeling of an imminent to finish interactions and film, waking life seems suspended in time thanks to its animation, capturing a unique and dreamlike experience.
Originally a novel by Philip K. Dick, A dark scanner was Linklater’s next animated film that used its style to its spatial and temporal advantage, in part to deal with the hurdles that come with adapting one of the revered sci-fi writer’s stories. center around Keanu Reeves‘undercover cop as he attempts to infiltrate the drug trade, the film is preoccupied with dystopian near futures, drug-addicted minds, and costumes that change a person’s image so quickly that their identity is imperceptible. It is because of these factors that Linklater’s use of animation in this setting is so apt, extending the visual implication of a spatially changing identity to the film as a whole in order to actively capture the anxieties around the film. identity and objectivity of the images that the film continues.
In addition to space, however, this impressionistic aesthetic is still used as Linklater’s predominant way of playing with time, just to very different effect. It’s through the animation that the film takes on a timelessness that makes it impossible to place on a dystopian timeline, adding to the feeling of being placed in a familiar, near-future world that has progressed through uncertain developments. Given that the original novel was written nearly 30 years before the film was released, this quality that the film is impossible to place over a time period made it ever more relevant then and still today. , the unique quality of the animation preventing it from becoming dated compared to today. photorealistic alternatives.
However, there are occasions, especially given Linklater’s penchant for nostalgia and late 20th century period pieces, where a dated quality is preferred, a notion that brings us to his latest animated release, Apollo 10½. The semi-autobiographical nature of the story makes the motivation behind the animation style even more complex on this occasion, especially given the fantastical story twists, with a plot strand revolving around Stan being recruited by NASA and sent on a solo mission. . It seems obvious given these facts that, to some degree, the animation was driven by a desire to make these deviations less awkward, as well as just giving the film a faded aesthetic synonymous with nostalgia. However, the objectivity at play in the animation not only helps accentuate the childish penchant for imagination and the ironic way Linklater plays with memory and reality, but it also provides a more interesting angle on time. . and the space the characters inhabit again.
The lack of distinct spatial parameters in the animation allows Linklater to create the feeling that you’re literally walking through his memories in his mind, with nothing made too aesthetically stable to imply absolute historical accuracy. Rather, the film captures the general essence of how it felt to be alive at the time. Again, the time capsule analogy can be used here, with the specific animation quality of space and time in Apollo 10½ suggesting a memory as nothing more than a faded moment with age. The ambivalence of memory suggested by this accentuates the film’s nostalgia in an almost tragic sense, taking it beyond a mere narcissistic autobiographical tale and giving it a fitting break to feel worthy of Linklater’s directorial stamp.
With Apollo 10½, it is clear that Linklater is a filmmaker in full thoughtful control of his films. Where his characters are carefree and carefree, ostensibly picking off obscure conversation pieces at random, he is calculated and shrewd about how best to present the concepts and themes of his films visually. It’s no coincidence that Linklater continually puts time and space at the forefront of his films, let alone uses animation to tackle projects dealing with spatially changing sci-fi tales, dreamy escapes into the subconscious and nostalgic creative stories from childhood.
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