Fantastic Planet

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My first Phish concert.

The Film: René Laloux’s 1973 psychedelic allegory

The Potable: One six-pack of Sweetwater IPA

There’s an old Jerry Seinfeld joke. He doesn’t own a dog, he says, because he believes that if aliens are watching us, they will naturally assume that the species having its shit collected and bagged is the species in charge. What’s the deal with poo bags? Nobody makes a fool of Jerry. But Fantastic Planet shows us that, if they exist, aliens are fully aware of the concept of pets. Their pets are us, we are their pets!

The stop-motion Franco-Czech head-trip takes place on a distant world where humans have become enslaved to a race of blue giants known as Draags. Our hero, Terr, is captured as an infant and raised as a house cat. He’s fed, cared for, but also robbed of essential dignities and frequently made to dress like an intergalactic dandy.

Still, Terr is in a unique position. The Draags educate themselves through futuristic headbands that transmit data neurologically. Because he is kept close to his owner during her lessons, Terr absorbs the information himself. One morning, feeling particularly bold, he makes a run for freedom, dragging along the headband, and ultimately finds a colony of wild humans. Armed with their newfound knowledge, the humans lead an uprising against those tyrannical blue men.

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As Fantastic Planet played on the television, my four-year-old pit terrier Annie slept in the corner. We often watch these films together, her curled up on her rug, lifting her head if a scene includes a barking dog. I began to wonder about her own happiness, her own potential for rebellion. Could this pup, currently scratching her face against the arm of the couch, one day slink off with my DVD collection to teach the pet’s next door about mid-20th century malaise and Paul Thomas Anderson?

There’s the old Woody Allen joke from Annie Hall. In the event of war, he’s a designated hostage. In the event of a canine uprising, Annie would probably just hide out in a Mattress Discounters store. She doesn’t like running, confrontation, or being away from the air conditioning for too long. Just like her old man.

I went to the fridge for another beer and tossed her an ice cube. It hit the wood floor, scaring her awake. She chewed half-heartedly for a few seconds, but mostly just let it melt against her pillow. “What a gal,” I laughed to myself before burping and going to bed.

That night, my head still swimming with booze, I had a deeply bizarre dream. I find myself on a basketball court in the middle of a vast desert. My sneakers have wings and turn out to be bluejays, but I am overdressed since I am actually in an olympic-size swimming pool and playing water polo. Bats swoop down, and one of them, the third-in-command bat, has the face of Annie! She flies but avoids the pool because she can’t swim, as a dog or a bat. I try to swat her away because I’m worried she’ll drown, but she bites me, and all of the other bats start biting me, too. The pool drain gets yanked and both me and the basketball court get sucked into my grandparents’ old bathtub, the bats laughing all the while.

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Another dream followed. A tribe of Martians shoot down my flying vacuum cleaner, landing me in the hands of hostile forces. But wait a minute, those aren’t hands, they’re paws. And that’s not a Martian, it’s Annie! She pees on my leg and throws me down a spiral funhouse slide. I end up, again, in my grandparents’ bathtub. Not sure what that’s about.

I woke up disoriented, my bedroom still lit by the last rays of the streetlight through my window. I turned and saw Annie, wide awake, staring at me through the bars of her crate. What did she know? How much can animals sense? My anxieties? My fears? Could this pup ever become violent? Against me?

We stayed that way for a moment, looking each other in the eye, before she farted and fell back against her pillow.

Verdict: makes ya think

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