Retro Rental: If You’re Excited for ‘Prometheus’ Watch ‘Eden Log’
[Each week, inspired by what's in theaters or in the news or even just by random firings of neurons, "Retro Rental," by film critic James Rocchi, looks at an older film on disc or download that links up to the here-and-now ...]
With Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' coming soon -- a rumored return to the universe of his 1979 'Alien,' a more definite return to science-fiction for Scott most certainly and a showcase for actors like Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Idris Elba … Well, it's to be looked forward to.
And we've got a suggestion for an older film to watch to help get you excited (and no, it's not 'Alien').
The flurry of fake-TED 'Prometheus' talks and phony robot-ads and whatnot in the prelude to the film have all been studiously avoided by me, especially the trailers. (I've kind of giving up on watching any trailer, actually; I'm trying to enjoy this summer's films without having the marketing department spoil them for me, and it's going quite well.)
So, what I know about 'Prometheus' kinda ends and begins with the title -- and for those of you who didn't take Classics at school, and, yes, prehistoric spoiler alert, in mythology Prometheus was the gent who was good enough to steal fire from the Gods for man -- yay -- a crime for which he was lashed to a rock with eagles tearing at his liver, which perpetually re-grows so that his agony might be the eternal price of his hubris, booooooo. And I don't know what, if anything, the myth of Prometheus has to do with the film 'Prometheus,' but I'm betting there's a reason why the film isn't called something less metaphorically resonant, like 'Skintight Outfits in Space,' or 'Fass-bot 3000.'
So between thinking about science fiction and mythology -- and coming back from Cannes earlier in this week -- my mind, with France hovering over its lobes, turned towards a similar sci-fi fable, one Mr. Scott would probably approve of for its mix of low-fi, low-budget big idea and its outer-space version of another classic tale. 'Eden Log,' released in France in 2007 (but dubbed into English on Netflix Watch Instant, a shift that's not quite as bad as cineastes would fear) begins in darkness, as a man hurls himself up from the mud in grunting wordlessness and moves towards a flashing light in the distance; struggling to remember, moving forward, going from mud to metal, he learns that he's in the bowels of a huge complex called Eden Log -- a paradise built around a huge bio-engineered tree that grants life and knowledge but that requires the labors of a lower class and then feeding with human flesh, a heaven with roots in hell. Directed by Franck Vestiel (who also co-wrote,) it's impressively ambitious, especially in light of its production values, where a few coins are rubbed together to evoke billion-dollar ideas.
Simon Abrams of Slant Magazine points out that as much as 'Eden Log' is riffing on the book of Genesis -- which is a lot -- it also references the French science-fiction stylings of 'Heavy Metal,' the magazine we know better here in America as a movie, with its constant visions of dark and awful futures that don't treat their male heroes or female supporting characters especially well. And he's right -- with its snarling mutants and hallucinations induced by genetically induced tree sap, the whole thing can get rather lurid. There's a sex scene -- of course our muddy, mutant-chased Adam runs into an Eve, it promises that in the name on the tin -- that's not only disturbing but that also works as a purely cinematic rendition of what happened after the originals ate from the tree of knowledge, sex and animalism and desire and guilt in one set of shots, and if there were an award for 'Most Catholic Science-Fiction Film, ' well, we'd have a winner.
'Eden Log' has a low budget, but that's part of its scuzzy energy -- it's like if you gave someone 20 bucks to make a far-future version of the Adam and Eve story after making them watch a lot of James Cameron and Ridley Scott and taking van art and video games as their prime source of inspiration. And if you're looking to get into the mood for 'Prometheus' -- or kinda-sorta warmed up the mix of future-technology and age-old metaphors and myths we've been promised -- the primordial vision of life, death, sin and knowledge 'Eden Log' spins into science fiction will be a good place to start.
'Eden Log' is available on Netflix Watch Instant