At this time, I am compiling this article from interviews and other articles long before I will get to see the actual documentary itself and obviously I can not wait to see it. I am reading these various things on the internet only with half a clue what's actually to be found in the documentary. Now I have found out that it's not strictly about O'Bannon's early script Memory after all, but covers various different things about the film. I'm still looking for contexts about what's being said here and there.What the film maker Alexandre O Philippe might say in interviews might only at times dimly make sense because interviews don't always give the interviewee time to say everything that he or she might want to in a way that should always make sense, and the various reviewers might not actually have much of a clue about what they're talking about but at this time, this is what I have to go on.
a) Tackling a different beast
Tackling the project of working on a documentary about Alien, there was a point in 2018 where Alexandre Philippe put on his dramatic writer hat and ask himself the question "What is the story of this film?"
His film Memory, was about Alien, a film about the resonance of myth and about our collective unconscious. but it was originally about the Chestburster and then still would be in the sense that the Chestburster is the "moment" of Alien. it was the moment that everything led to, and the "moment" had to work in order for Alien to resonate with audiences, He followed his intuition about this scene because it could not be approached or structured in the same way as he made about shower scene in Psycho as the "moment" for his earlier film 78/52. It was a different beast altogether.
- Lisa: Memory
deconstructs the DNA of the Chestburster scene as an idea, tracing
where the idea came from. The structure of your film starts with the
zeitgeist, big picture idea, mythical level, and then goes down so
specifically to the instant the film was shot, and then opens back up
again in a really satisfying way. Where in the creative process do you
start finding that structure?
Alexandre O Philippe: This particular project has been very unique. I’m big on structure. I come from a dramatic writing background, so to me, structure and the script is everything. If it doesn’t work on paper, it’s sure as hell not gonna work on the screen. But what’s very interesting about the making of Memory is that I feel that a lot of the process of it came out of the unconscious, and I had to trust that. There’s a real intuition about where I had to go with this film. Well, it is about the Chestburster, but it’s a film about the resonance of myth and about our collective unconscious. I mean, let’s face it, it’s a film about Alien, but it’s a lot more than a film about Alien, right? I had to follow the intuition that this is not a scene that could be approached or structured in the same way as the shower scene in Psycho. It’s a different beast altogether. What intrigued me a lot initially was the connection between the Chestburster and Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.”
Brad: Blew my mind.(https://filmschoolrejects.com/alexandre-o-phillippe-sundance-2019/)
Philippe realised that the Chestburster title wasn't going to work , if for no other reason that he didn't like the title because it was too on the nose, At one point it was going to be called Nemesis, and then became Dan O'Bannon's Alien, which he liked as a nod to Frank Pavich's documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune". Still he wanted a one word title as homage to Alien and at the end of the day, he with his associations started thinking about what this film represented , what it was and how it was a love letter to Dan and so it felt right for him to call it Memory, after Dan O'Bannon's original unfinished script for Alien, and at some point along its development, he would go to Diane O'Bannon, the widow of Dan O'Bannon and ask "Do you think Dan would like it?", and her response was that she was thrilled
- Another way the film is a love letter to O’Bannon is that you settled on the title Memory, which was the original name of his script. What were some of your alternative titles and how did you land on this one?
Alexandre: That was an interesting journey too. For the longest time, the title was Chestburster, but we knew that ultimately wasn’t going to work, if for no other reason than I didn’t like it as a title. It was too on the nose. At one point, it became Nemesis, and that morphed into Dan O’Bannon’s Alien, which I kind of liked as a nod to Jodorowsky’s Dune. By the way, [director] Frank Pavich is the one who introduced me to Diane O’Bannon, so there’s a huge connection there. But I kept wanting a one-word title as an homage to Alien, and at the end of the day, when we started thinking about that this film represents and what it is and the fact that it’s a love letter to Dan, it felt right to call it Memory. Of course, I went to Diane and asked “Do you think Dan would like that?”, and she was thrilled, so it came together beautifully that way. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
|Alexandre O Philippe|
c) Philippe's introduction to Alien
As a child, he was watching a lot of horror films, and one of his best friends at the time was Edoardo Ponti, the son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, who was a big film buff. He would go to his place in Geneva and watch movies, because he would get hold of these horror movies on VHS that were not available in Switzerland, and by this method, Philippe got his big introduction to film aged 12.
Edoardo Ponti had an original poster from Alien in his room and Philippe remembered the tagline
"in space, no one can hear you scream.” He was entranced by it, and there was this duel emotion of “I can’t wait to see this,” but also he dreaded seeing it. The actual moment when he saw it though would fade from his memory, perhaps he waited a few years, but he was sure that he watched it on VHS and that he was amazed
- Interviewer: Do you remember your first reaction to seeing Alien and the things you responded to and obsessed over?
Alexandre: No, and it’s funny because people asked me the same question about Psycho, and I don’t have the actual first memory of watching the film, but I can tell you that I have very strong memories about the poster. As a kid, I was watching a lot of horror films, and one of my best friends at the time was Edoardo Ponti, the son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, and he was a big film buff, and I would go to his place in Geneva to watch movies, because he would bring these horror movies on VHS that we did not have a Switzerland. That’s how I got my film schooling at age 12. But he had an original one-sheet from Alien in his room, and I remember the tagline “In space, no one can hear you scream.” I was entranced by it, and there was this duel emotion of “I can’t wait to see this,” but I’m also dreading seeing it, so I think I waiting a few years, and I’m pretty sure I watched it on VHS for the first time, and it blew me away.
Interviewer: It’s funny you say that because what I remember seeing first was the trailer with just the letters of the title coming up a little bit at a time, and there was a tension to the trailer that I’d never seen before.
Alexandre: Yes, yes. And if you look at it now, the trailer seems cheesy because it has that egg, right? It looks very simple, yet it’s so effective. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
c) Dan O'Bannon's Archives
Philippe was introduced by Frank Pavich who made the Jodorowsky's Dune documentary to Diane O'Bannon, the widow of Dan. He soon went to visit her at her house in San Diego .
She opened the door and there were all these boxes lying around: drawings from Dan, scripts, versions of Alien, story notes from Dan, sketches of the creatures, obviously pre-Alien before he even met Giger, storyboards from Ron Cobb at the time when the Derelict ship was just a pyramid. he read the script for They Bite which was a precursor for Alien Also there were the two different versions of Memory, the script that was almost thirty pages long.
There was a version A and a version B with slight differences, these were things that fans of Alien have been talking and speculating about for decades. He was holding them in his hands near enough thinking "Holy shit! What's going on here?"
It was as if it were the right encounter at the right time, as if Diane was waiting for the right person to walk in and to commit to really paying tribute to Dan in a meaningful way. She basically opened the archives and just said "'Go for it"
- Alexandre O Philippe:When I went to see her in San Diego at her house, she opened the door and there were all these boxes lying around: drawings from Dan, scripts, versions of Alien, sketches of the creatures – obviously pre-Alien before he even met Giger, storyboards from Ron Cobb at a time when the Derelict was just a pyramid. And then of course there were the two different versions of Memory – the script which is only about thirty pages long. There’s a version A and a version B with slight difference. (https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)
- Alexandre O Philippe:You know, and there's a lot of er, er, well there's a lot of drawings, you know, never seen before, you know, drawings and auto portraits of Dan and story notes and all kinds of stuff. Um yeah, I was introduced to er Diane O'Bannon, his widow, ah through Frank Pavich who did Jodorowsky's Dune, another really interesting beautiful little sort of connection there, I I feel from Dune to Alien once again, you know and erm, and er , you know when I went to her house for the first time, she had all these boxes, um, opened everywhere, in the living room, and then I walk in and I'm seeing these, you know, storyboards from, early early from Ron Cobb or you start seeing when there was a pyramid, I'm seeing these story notes from Dan and these drawings, the script for They Bite which was also another precursor of of Alien, which is a remarkable screenplay by the way, erm, and then you know, and then the two versions of the screenplay called Memory which is an unfinished script, erm, there's version A and version B, and you know, those are things that the fans, you know, have been talking about for decades, have been speculating about and suddenly here I am holding this thing in my hands, you know and then I'm like "Holy shit! What's going on here?" you know, and erm, and er, Diana's just wonderful, I er, I think it was, it was the right encounter at the right time. I think she was waiting for the right person to walk in and and to commit to really paying tribute to Dan in in a meaningful way, and , and I think she sensed that, you know, in us and I'm really delighted that she, I mean, she basically opened the archives and just said "Go for it"(Film threat http://filmthreat.com/news/memories-of-alien-ft-alexandre-o-philippe-film-threat-podcast/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: So all of these things, plus an encounter with Diane O’Bannon [widow of the screenwriter], who is also one of our executive producers and opened the archives for the very first time, came together to make me realize that there is way more here than I thought initially. This is an origin story, and it’s about time that Dan gets his due, and I’m glad the love-letter aspect comes through. In many ways, I feel like he guided me. There’s been an energy behind this project that is otherworldly—that’s the best way I can put it. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
|Panel from "Seeds of Jupiter" (1951)|
d) Comic book references
He was able to explore old comic books such as EC comics Weird Science story "Seeds of Jupiter" from 1951 and Tim Boxell's Defiled from the Death Rattle comic (1972)
|Panels from Tim Boxell's Defiled|
- See: Alien: Tim Boxell's Defiled inspired Dan O'Bannon's Alien
- See: Alien: Seeds of Jupiter from Issue No.8 of Weird Science a story which inspired the chestburster
- Film Threat Um,
but what you did is you took a deep dive, a deeper dive that to to the
roots of that scene and the roots of Alien, beginning with of course Dan
O'Bannon's mind, where he, all of his pop culture influences. I think
the thing that impressed me the most of what you, what you dug up were
the, the comic books, there were comic books that sort of alluded to
something, something similar, um, uh
Alexandre O Philippe:Yuh
Film Threat: What was this guy, Peach Pit, his nickname
Alexandre O Philippe: Yeah, yeah, Seeds of er, seeds of er, Jupiter, from er, 1951, EC comic, um yuh, which is remarkable and then, but later on, the story Defiled from Death Rattle, which is er, underground comic by Tim Boxell. He, wasn't the house, he was with us er, it was very cool to show the film with him, because I don't think many people know that story, you know erm, , yeah, mean, but I think you know, I think what makes, it's funny in a way, you know I think that the, in, what you're talking about, you know, Memory of course is a film about the Chest Burster, it's a film about the Alien, but, but in many ways it's not, in many ways it's a film about the resonance of myth and about our collective unconscious right, and I think that's what makes it fundamentally different from anything that has been made about this particular film and what I'm hoping is it will make people look at, not just Alien, but of course the, the importance of the Chestburster scene through a completely different lens, you know this idea that erm, that Alien became a success in 1979, the time when people were ready for the cute cuddly friendly alien, when really it wasn't supposed to be a success because Alien expressed ideas onto the big screen that erm, we needed to process as a collective, those moments do you know, when a, when a, when a scene like this has that kind of an impact, especially on men,
(Film threat http://filmthreat.com/news/memories-of-alien-ft-alexandre-o-philippe-film-threat-podcast/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: When you look at his original screenplay for They Bite from 1971, that was a seed for Memory, and then there’s Memory and Star Beast and Alien. Then there are these two comics—Seeds of Jupiter and Defiled—all of that he was aware of, and he never tried to hide it. That story had been told before, but told in B-movie fashion. This was the first time that this story really broke out of the B realm into the A-movie realm, and that’s why it became such a success. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
e) Influenced by films and books
The documentary explores how Alien was influenced by films such as Roger Corman's Queen of Blood, and there was also O'Bannon's love for Planet of the Vampires which he screened for Ridley but Ridley didn't like it. The documentary also covered It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The Thing From Another World, as well as the messages of imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo and H.P. Lovecraft’s "At the Mountains of Madness",
- Bloody Disgusting: Films like Roger Corman‘s Queen of Blood influenced O’Bannon’s screenplay (https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3543334/sundance-review-memory-origins-alien-takes-us-inside-chestburster-scene/)
- Polygon: He falls down the rabbit hole of O’Bannon’s love for Planet of the Vampires (https://www.polygon.com/2019/1/29/18199621/memory-origins-of-alien-documentary-sundance)
- The filmstage: Even if may have been inspired by the likes of films such as It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The Thing From Another World, Planet of the Vampires, and Queen of Blood, as well as the messages of imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s vivid voyage in At the Mountains of Madness, (https://thefilmstage.com/reviews/sundance-review-memory-the-origins-of-alien-shows-the-collaborative-effort-of-making-a-sci-fi-masterpiece/)
f) The Furies waking up on the Nostromo
Philippe wanted to established a mood and tone right off the bat, and establish ideas and themes thatw ere going to be explored throughout the film. To him, it creates immediately a major dramatic question. In the opening scene, the viewer is brought to enter a cave, the idea was that the viewer is entering the bowers of the derelict, and it's a very deep dark place that one doesn't emerge from until the very end. Soon, one asks what are the furies doing on the deck of the Nostromo? Why are they being summoned to life? What’s going on? What is the connection with Alien? In his film, Will Linn of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, immediately makes the thesis statement that the alien is very much a Fury that is here to correct an imbalance which in this case was Patriarchal guilt. That was the prologue to this film for Philippe. Then this created a dramatic question. What is the connection between the Furies and the Alien? What makes Memory a mythological take on the movie? Then it becomes a slow burn of trying to understand that connection.
- Alexandre O Philippe: In the opening scene, we enter a cave. Really, the whole idea was that you're entering the bowels of the derelicts. It's a very deep, dark place. And you don't emerge from that darkness until the very, very end. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
- Alexandre O Philippe: “It comes back a little bit later on when we circle back to Francis Bacon and the Furies, I didn’t want to keep hitting the nail on the head so to speak. To me, it was about establishing mood and tone right off the bat, and establishing ideas and themes that were going to be explored throughout the film. To me, it creates immediately a major dramatic question. What are the furies doing on the deck of the Nostromo? Why are they being summoned to life? What’s going on? What is the connection with Alien? Will Linn with the Joseph Campbell Foundation, immediately makes the thesis statement that the alien is very much a fury that is here to correct an imbalance? That, to me, is the prologue to the film. It creates this dramatic question. What is the connection between the Furies and the Alien? What makes Memory a mythological take on the movie? Then it becomes a slow burn of trying to understand that connection.” (https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543552/sundance-alien-documentary-reveals-sexual-metaphors-film-exclusive)
- Screendaily: A silly, highly amusing three-minute prologue – a fiction insert detailing the reawakening of the Furies at the behest of Clytemnestra in the Temple of Apollo – establishes quite firmly that we’re in the realm of myth and fantasy and viewers may, or may not, want to proceed with caution. (https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/memory-the-origin-of-alien-sundance-review/5136146.article)
- The documentary opens with a scene featuring the ‘three
Furies’ inside of a Nostromo-like set. What was your intention behind
this dramatic scene and how did this spaceship set come about?
Without giving too much away about Memory because I think it holds a few surprises, I really wanted to establish visually and viscerally the connection that exists between the chestburster and ‘the Greek Furies’ in the sense that there are mythological roots to Alien. So that particular scene really came almost unconsciously. It came from my unconscious, and it felt like the right thing to do in the sense that it sort of froze the audience immediately in this world that has certain elements of mythology. There’s obviously [in the film] the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, there’s very few shots from another Temple at Valtera in Italy, and then we get into this spaceship and here are the great Furies and we have the blue laser and the blue mist which of course Alien fans will instantly recognize.
The Furies have these metal dentures that the fans will also recognize of course, but here they are speaking in ancient Greek. So it’s this sort of blend of the Alien universe and Greek mythology, which the idea was to create instantly a question: what is the connection between Alien and the Great Furies? And that’s a question that is of course answered over the course of the film itself. So it was definitely out there. I had many conversations with my producers about this. I felt very strongly about having that sequence. It’s almost a kind of pure cinema opening sequence. So far I’ve seen that it resonates with the fans so I’m very happy with that. (https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)
|The Furies asleep (source: http://filmthreat.com/reviews/memory-the-origins-of-alien/)|
|The Furies awake (source: https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)|
g) The nature of the Furies
Philippe had talked to William Friedkin about the Exorcist project that he was working on, and they had discussed the devil. Friedkin had talked to the Vatican about it, and they told him about how their exorcists don't see the Devil as an actual physical being with horns and a tail, but instead it is a force, it is an energy that happens, that has to be reckoned with sometimes. Philippe believed that everything the human race do as a collective creates a ripple effect. So the Furies come back through time and they come back through mythology, through stories, through films, through things that humans do in society when there’s something we do and there’s a certain guilt that comes out, and they need to process that. And so, he think that’s the whole argument that he would make through Memory.
- Lisa: But this idea of, “Okay, we’re going to follow this idea back to its origins,”
and you go to Egyptian myth and you dive in Giger’s work and all of
that. There are just so many research rabbit holes that you can totally
get lost down. How do you prioritize? There’s potentially no stopping
Brad: Yeah, there’s a lifetime of research.
Alexandre: For sure. For sure, yeah. To me, and this is where I have to put on my dramatic writer hat and go, “What is the story of this film?” It’s not, “What is the story that this fan would wanna see versus that fan?” Because there are always gonna be people who say, “I wanted more of this,” or, “I wanted more of that.” What is the story of this film? The story of this film is still about the Chestburster, in the sense that the Chestburster is the moment. It is the moment of Alien in the way that the shower scene is the moment of Psycho. It is the moment that everything led to it, and the moment had to work in order for Alien to resonate with audiences, and so many things could have gone wrong.
The reason that I have the opening sequence that I have, which I’m not gonna spoil, but the whole idea is that it is more than just a piece of material prop that is coming out of the chest or fake chest of John Hurt. The argument is that the emergence of the Chestburster in Alien is the reemergence of the Greek Furies showing up onscreen in 1979 to address unconscious patriarchal guilt that we need to work through as a society and to restore a balance that truly needs to be restored. And that’s what the Furies do. So if you wanna get really, really esoteric, then you wonder, “Well, are the Furies actually real? Do they really exist?” Well, it’s a force.
It’s like when I talked to Friedkin — The Exorcist project I’m working on — about the Devil. He doesn’t see the Devil. He’s talked to the Vatican. The Vatican exorcist doesn’t see the Devil as an actual physical being with horns and a tail, but it is a force, it is an energy that happens, that has to be reckoned with sometimes. I think everything we do in life and everything we do as a collective creates a ripple effect. So the Furies come back through time and they come back through mythology, through stories, through films, through things that we do in society when there’s something we do and there’s a certain guilt that comes out, and we need to process that. And so, I think that’s the whole argument that I make through Memory.(https://filmschoolrejects.com/alexandre-o-phillippe-sundance-2019/)
|Orestes the Erinyes|
h) Francis Bacon connections
What intrigued him initially was the connection between the Chest Burster and Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion" tryptich from 1944 which. Francis Bacon had admitted later in 1959 were sketches for the Eumenides (The Greek Furies) which El Mundo and Variety appeared to connect with Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” perhaps there's something more in the documentary showing suggesting this, as Varity calls this painting ground zero for Bacon's "Ghoulish aesthetics"
We know that Giger based his original concept for a chestburster on this before the idea fell away and Ridley settled for a chestburster based on the head of Necronom IV that would have been loosely reminiscent of the Bacon painting.
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944
- See also: Alien: Ridley inspired by Francis Bacon
- El Mundo: Y así hasta llegar a la escena. El vicio casi fetichista del director por descomponer cada plano del mito adquiere de nuevo un nuevo significado. Como ya hizo en la ducha de Hitchcock, también ahora, el plano del nacimiento del alien se convierte en algo más que un golpe de genio. Lo que demuestra 'MEMORY' (ése era el nombre en el guión original de la película) es que las infinitas reelaboraciones de la secuencia y del propio bicho no fueron sólo la consecuencia de un trabajo errático, también hubo algo de predestinado, de obligado por el tiempo. Como 'Las damas de Avignon', de Picasso, o la propia Crucifixión de Bacon, en ese conjunto de planos sangrientos se condensa la propia imagen de su tiempo, de ese final de los 70 que tanto se parece a ahora mismo. Además de atisbarse la propia esencia intemporal de cada uno de nuestros miedos, de cada una de nuestras esperanzas.( Google Translation: And so on until you get to the scene. The director's almost fetishistic vice in breaking down each plane of the myth acquires a new meaning. As he did in Hitchcock's shower, also now, the plane of the alien's birth becomes something more than a stroke of genius. What 'MEMORY' shows (that was the name in the original script of the movie) is that the infinite reworkings of the sequence and the bug itself were not only the consequence of an erratic work, there was also something predestined, of forced by time. Like 'The Ladies of Avignon', by Picasso, or Bacon's own Crucifixion, in that set of bloody planes condenses the very image of his time, that end of the 70 that is so similar to now. In addition to glimpsing the timeless essence of each of our fears, each of our hopes. ) (https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/cine/2019/01/26/5c4bf36c21efa0f13e8b4598.html)
- Variety: Yet the most telling aspect of the scene is how the creature’s face (no eyes, those small jutting teeth), its presence, was conceived. Philippe treats the visual aspects of “Alien” as a detective story, and the alien fetus turns out to have been directly inspired by a seminal painting of Francis Bacon: the right-hand panel of “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,” his 1944 triptych that became, like a ghastly version of Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” ground zero for Bacon’s ghoulish aesthetic. (https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/memory-the-origins-of-alien-review-1203115299/)
- Francis Bacon: "'Sketches for the Eumenides (the Greek Furies) which I intended to use as the base of a large Crucifixion which I may do still'. (Francis Bacon in the '50s by Michael Peppiat)
When we look at it, as you say, “Oh, yeah, it’s just a bunch of coincidences,” and well, okay, sure. Fair enough. That’s an argument to be made. My argument is that when a movie like Alien becomes as successful as it did in 1979, at a time when people were actually ready for the cute, cuddly, friendly alien, as Clarke Wolfe says very early in the film, I wanna look at this and say, “Why?” Why did this movie, against the grain and against the odds, become so successful? Because it was presenting us with ideas and images that we … and I believe this very strongly … that we, as a collective, needed to process and work through. Forty years later, we’re still processing and working through and finally having a conversation about, 40 years later, what makes Alien extraordinarily contemporary as a film.
|Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907)|
i) Egyptian roots of Alien
Philippe having became more obsessed with the mythological roots of Alien was able to talk to HR Giger's agent, Leslie Barany, about the Egyptian influence on Giger
- Alexander O Philippe: I started to get really obsessed with the mythological roots of Alien, and talking to Giger’s agent, who is one of our executive producers, about the Egyptian influence on Giger. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
j) Diane O'Bannon
In her interview Diane says “Dan didn’t steal from anyone, he stole from everyone.”
- theplaylist.net:“Dan didn’t steal from anyone,” Diane says when interviewed, “he stole from everyone.” (https://theplaylist.net/memory-origins-alien-sundance-review-20190129/)
- Time Out: “devouring him from the inside,” his widow Diane remembers.(https://www.timeout.com/us/film/memory-the-origins-of-alien)
- Indiewire: Still, the documentary only hits its stride when it hones in on O’Bannon’s widow, Diane, who extends a wonderful invitation into her late husband’s world. She walks us through his childhood, his battle with Crohn’s Disease, and his time with John Carpenter, all of which shaped him in their own way. (https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/memory-the-origins-of-alien-review-sundance-1202036731/)
- Indiewire: Most of all, Diane provides an overview of Dan’s more direct creative influences, which were vast and powerful. “Dan didn’t steal from anyone,” she says. “He stole from everyone.” H.P. Lovecraft, Francis Bacon, and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Greek monsters, Egyptian myths, and American comic books.
j) Ron Shusett
Ron Shusett helped Dan to take the unfinished script Memory script into another realm with his Facehugger idea, where it came to him while near enough asleep that when the character who eventually is renamed Kane approaches the alien life form, "The alien fucks him!"
- Screenwriter Ronald Shusett offers his own two cents: “The alien fucks him!”(https://www.polygon.com/2019/1/29/18199621/memory-origins-of-alien-documentary-sundance)
k) Chest burster scene
Variety news observed that Veronica Cartwright was interviewed for the movie, she described the chestburster beast as a monster penis and it was no accident. It was operated as a puppet, sunk in red good or store-bough animal guts, which made the set smell vile and when the crew members of the Nostromo reeled back in cringing shock at the blood spray, it wasn’t all acting. No one knew, on the set that day, how badly they were going to be splattered. El Mundo observed that Veronica pointed out with laughter that the the animal that emerges up in the blood does not cease to be a phallus in the most evident and graphic male violation that a screen has ever experienced
- Variety: the filmmakers wound up with a skittery beast that looked like what “Alien” cast member Veronica Cartwright, interviewed for the movie, describes as a monster penis (and that was no accident). It was operated as a puppet, sunk in the red goo of store-bought animal guts, which made the set smell vile, and when the crew members of the Nostromo reeled back in cringing shock at the blood spray, it wasn’t all acting. No one knew, on the set that day, how badly they were going to be splattered. (https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/memory-the-origins-of-alien-review-1203115299/)
- El Mundo: Y como bien señala la actriz Veronica Cartwright entre risas, el animal que surge entre la sangre no deja de ser un falo en la más evidente y gráfica violación masculina que ha vivido jamás una pantalla. (deepl.com Translation: And as actress Veronica Cartwright points out with laughter, the animal that emerges in the blood is still a phallus in the most obvious and graphic male rape that a screen has ever experienced.(https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/cine/2019/01/26/5c4bf36c21efa0f13e8b4598.html)
k) Resonances in Giger's artwork
He saw the design of the Derelict along with its entrance, its caves and the eggs, as well as the xenomorph, he saw it as overly sexualised imagery which he understood came from Giger, and then he felt that this style resonated with Dan O'Bannon and Ridley Scott, not because of that, but because of the Lovecraftian resonance, whatever you might want to consider that to be. But to open that up, he also felt that there was no question that Alien would not have been the success without the universe that Giger had created. For Philippe, it spoke to our ancient past, to mythology and to overt ideas of sexuality and subversions of sexuality. It was resonant to people for different reasons.
- Alexandre O Philippe: “You look at the design of the Derelict and the entrance to the Derelict and the caves and the eggs, the head of the xenomorph. It’s all there. It’s overly sexualized imagery but I think that comes from Giger, and again I think his style resonated with Dan O’Bannon not because of that. I think his style resonated with Ridley Scott not because of that but because of the Lovecraftian influence. There is no question to me that Alien would not have been the success that it was without this universe that Giger created. That’s what’s so great about it. When you crack it open, it speaks to our ancient past. It speaks to mythology. It speaks to very overt ideas of sexuality and subversions of sexuality. It’s all there so Alien is so resonant I think for all of us for different reasons.”(https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543552/sundance-alien-documentary-reveals-sexual-metaphors-film-exclusive)
l) Various experts
In memory, various experts who seem to be a panel of academics and bloggers tap into a variety of undercurrents to discuss a variety of different perspectives on Alien, of how Alien is a reflection of patriarchal guilt (the Xenomorph as a fantasy of male penetration and rape) the perils of colonialism (traveling to new planets), the threat of terrorism (enemies from within), the struggle of the working class (the ship crew's internal disagreements), and, finally, in the last act, the myth of self-destruction: the problem of our times.
- No Film School: In Memory, experts discuss how Alien is a reflection of patriarchal guilt (the Xenomorph as a fantasy of male penetration and rape) the perils of colonialism (traveling to new planets), the threat of terrorism (enemies from within), the struggle of the working class (the ship crew's internal disagreements), and, finally, in the last act, the myth of self-destruction: the problem of our times. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
- Indiewire: Philippe’s other talking heads rechristen the Nostromo — the doomed commercial space tug that responds to the siren’s call of a distress signal coming from the planet LV-426 — as a grim kind of Rorschach Test. From there, the film hesitantly wanders down a handful of different paths, as an articulate (if random) panel of academics and bloggers tap into a variety of undercurrents that range from the fear of the unknown to the force of patriarchal guilt. None of these ideas are fleshed out beyond their basics, and stray asides about male rape and the #MeToo movement deserve more time than Philippe affords them, but the director never misses a chance to refer back to his rich supply of archival material, and he’s skilled at tying even the most random tangents back to the behind-the-scenes details of how “Alien” was made. ( https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/memory-the-origins-of-alien-review-sundance-1202036731/ )
m) Patriachal Guilt emerges
Philippe thought that Alien came out when aliens were being depicted as friendly, cute, cuddly, which is almost true about Close Encounters of the Third Kind, at least they appeared friendly and the little aliens running around looked cute. Mork and Mindy came out in September of 1978 on the TV screens with Robin Williams behaving cute and friendly in a zany way and Mork
He thought that Alien was unconscously a MeToo movie in terms of Patriarchal Guilt, he didn’t think Dan O’Bannon, Giger, Ridley Scott, Brandywine or Fox set out to make a movie that was going to address those ideas in a conscious way. It does seem that the psycho sexual nature of this film was purposeful, Ridley wanted the chestbursting creature when it came out to look very rude and very carnivorous. he tilted the head back because it seemed more reptilian and more phallic that way. Part of Dan's idea about the life cycle was that it was about the idea of men having to deal with men being raped and indeed.
Philippe talks about how Axelle Carolyn said in the documentary, that if they had gone to the studio and said, "We're making a male rape movie in space. Give us 11 million dollars, " that there was no way they would have said yes.
The thought perhaps ought to have been about what it was that Giler and Hill saw in that Chestburster scene that they could capitalise on. One might wonder what was actually being being discussed about the script by the likes of Alan Ladd with his Weekend Read group going through the scripts, where they were discussing buying a concept rather than a detailed scripts, they found themselves comparing the chestburster scene to shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho, and went by gut instincts to go with the script.
Philippe didn't think that back in 1979 when the people came out from watching the film, that they could be saying saying "Oh my Gosh, this is a move about patriachal guilt" but he thought that it resonated with audiences precisely, because those were the ideas that unconsciously were already in society, and forty years later, society was beginning to talk about it.
- Alexandre O Philippe: “We’re talking about a time in history when audiences were ready for a friendly alien, and this is not at all what we have in Ridley Scott’s Alien. So, one of the main questions we explore in Memory is: what was it about this particular film that resonated with audiences in 1979? And so, one of the arguments that we make is that there was an unconscious patriarchal guilt in our society that we needed, and still need, to process. In fact, it’s fascinating to me that we are collectively starting, just now, forty years later, to have an open conversation about this patriarchal imbalance, obviously with the #metoo movement, and a sense, or at least an understanding, that women were not and are still not treated the way they should be, and deserve to be. And so this theme of unconscious patriarchal guilt is, I would say, the central theme of the film, and one that we explore very deeply. And we connect this particular theme with the Greek Furies, and what they represent as well.”(https://gritdaily.com/alien-origins-memory-sundance-40th-anniversary/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: “When a movie becomes as successful as Alien does, at a time when it goes against the grain – which it was going against the grain of the friendly, cute, cuddly alien that I think people were ready for at the time -what does that mean? What does that say? It says to me that there were certain ideas and images that we needed to process as a collective, that we needed to start thinking about as a collective, In that sense, yes, I think the patriarchal guilt that was in our society, and I’m talking about an unconscious guilt… it’s something we still need to work through. There’s an imbalance there that we still need to work through.”(https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543552/sundance-alien-documentary-reveals-sexual-metaphors-film-exclusive)
- Alexandre O Philippe: “I don’t think it was necessarily a MeToo movie, I think it was unconsciously a MeToo movie. I don’t think Dan O’Bannon, Giger, Ridley Scott, Brandywine or Fox set out to make a movie that was going to address those ideas in a conscious way. I don’t think that when people went to the theater in 1979 and watched the film, I don’t think that they immediately came out saying, ‘Oh my Gosh, this is a movie about patriarchal guilt.’ But I think it resonated with audiences precisely because those were ideas that unconsciously were already in our society, that now 40 years later, interestingly enough, we’re starting to talk about.”(https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543552/sundance-alien-documentary-reveals-sexual-metaphors-film-exclusive)
- Ridley Scott: And when it came out , I wanted it to look very rude - and totally carnivorous (Cinefex 1, p43)
- Ridley Scott: We decided that the big chap, in embryo form, would have a head either tilted down or titled back. We tilted it back because it seemed more obscene that way, more reptilian, more phallic. " (Starlog, September 1979, p25)
- Alexandre O Philippe: But this idea that there were forces at work that were beyond the conscious thought of O'Bannon, Giger, Ridley Scott, Brandywine, all those people. I completely believe in this, because as Axelle Carolyn says in the film, if they had gone to Fox and said, "Oh, we're making a male rape movie in space. Give us $10 million." Of course, nobody would've said yes. (https://www.thehorrorchick.com/2019/01/sundance-2019-interview-memory-director.html)
- Alexandre O Philippe: I completely believe in this, because as Axelle Carolyn says in the film, if they had gone to Fox and said, "Oh, we're making a male rape movie in space. Give us $10 million." Of course, nobody would've said yes. (https://dailydead.com/sundance-2019-interview-memory-director-alexandre-o-philippe-on-exploring-the-lasting-influence-of-alien-and-his-upcoming-the-exorcist-documentary/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: There’s a lot of stuff they were doing that was on a frequency, they tuned in of what was going on and needed to be said, but as [filmmaker/actor] Axelle Carolyn says in the film, if they had gone to the studio and said, “We want to make a male-rape movie set in space; give us $10 million,” nobody would have made that. (https://www.slashfilm.com/alexandre-o-philippe-interview-memory/)
NFS: And the fact that Alien has so many psycho-sexual implications.
Alexandre O Philippe: I'm absolutely convinced that a lot of it was unconscious from their part. I don't think that O'Bannon, Giger, or Scott fully realized the story that they were executing.
Ridley Scott talks about making a haunted house movie in space. I think that's what they were focusing on. The eruption of what one could argue is unconscious patriarchal guilt onto the screen, or certain ideas that we need to confront as a society that we are 40 years later now starting to talk about...I don't think anybody thought about it that way.
I don't think you can think about that. If Dan had gone to the studio and said, "We're making a male rape movie in space. Give us 11 million dollars," no way they would've said yes. So clearly the executives didn't have a clue what they were doing. I think Dan was having a lot of fun with it. Giger was, as somebody says in the film, possessed—in doing his art and tapping into, as Will Lynn says, the cauldron of stories that was his imagination. And Ridley Scott, as the visionary that he is, put all this together and orchestrated it in this extraordinary fashion.
Now we can look back and say, yeah there's a lot more to it than I think was consciously happening at the moment [of production]. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
n) The xenomorph as a mythical beast part 1
Philippe thought of the alien creature as completely a mythological beast, but this thing didn't come out of the blue, it tapped into mankind's myths, other stories, other images that resonated with different cultures as well, and those were the creatures that came from the unconscious. He didn't think that one could every put the creature, which he called the Xenomorph, into a box and say "that is what it is'
Perhaps he had discussions about whether the alien beast came from Pazuzu and it came from Kali, or that it comes from Bosch painting. He could see how one could see so many different mythological beings or creatures in it, but one wouldn't necessarily see it and go "Oh, this is Pazuzu, this is a Renaissance demon," but it carried elements of it. Then again it was also very much a creature of its own, it has become it's own myth, living in our collective imagination as a modern myth
With that , Philippe felt that the beast was actually all these things. It was a creature that comes from the cauldron of imagination that was Giger’s. He thought of the designs as something that came from Giger's dreams and nightmares , his unconscious and unconscious, (although of course I should add that the sort of sleeping dreams and nightmares that Giger was aware of having didn't really result in such things as his Alien beast design, but his daydreams would have been another matter)
- Ridgetop for AVP Galaxy: As opposed to another strictly behind-the-scenes documentary,
you really focused on the mythology and feelings surrounding Alien, as
well as the perfect storm of collaborators who came together to produce
something truly memorable. 40 years later, how do you feel that Alien
has had the kind of staying power that it has?
Alexandre O Philippe: I think Alien precisely has the kind of staying power that it has because it tapped into something deeper. I think that Alien is now a myth for our age. I think the Xenomorph is completely a mythological creature. It’s a mythological creature that doesn’t just come out of the blue. It tapped into other myths, other stories, other images that resonate with different cultures as well, and those are creatures that come from the unconscious.
I don’t think you can ever put that Xenomorph into a box and say ‘this is what it is.’ It comes from Pazuzu or it comes from Kali, or it comes from the Bosch paintings or whatever the case may be. It’s all of that. It is a creature that comes from the cauldron of imagination that was Giger’s. In terms of its designs it comes from [his] dreams, it comes from [his] nightmares and it comes from his unconscious and resonates with our collective unconscious. You couple that with the story that is Alien and how great that is and how much of a myth it is as well, then you end up having a movie that is going to resonate forever. It was the right story at the right time, executed by the right people, and that’s why it will always be one of the greatest films ever made. (https://www.avpgalaxy.net/website/interviews/alexandre-phillipe/)
- N.B. I haven't read anything before about the Alien and Pazuzu connection apart from what I first wrote back in Friday 6th September 2013 There probably have been lots of conversations about the idea which I've not been a part of, just because of the general associations that one can make. See for my personal exploration of Alien connection with Pazuzu see Alien: Conjuring the Demon
- Alexandre O Philippe: You look at the Xenomorph itself, and you can see so many different mythological beings or creatures in it. You don't necessarily see it and go, "Oh, this is Pazuzu, this is a Renaissance demon," but it carries elements of it. And it is also very much a creature of its own. It has become its own myth. Alien lives in our collective imagination as a modern myth. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
o) The xenomorph as a mythical beast part 2
Philippe believed it when Will Lynn said that you can never get to the bottom of Alien. With that, he believed that you could never get to the bottom of the making of Alien, and everything has to do with the unconscious with artists tapping into images and ideas that we've been carrying for millennia as human beings and these have a very profound resonance.
Philippe saw the Xenomorph as a completely new thing, He didn't see something in another movie that resonated on the same level. But it existed before Ridley showed up, it was in Giger's Necronomicon, generally as Necronom IV and V. This is what Dan showed to Ridley Scott who would then say "That's it"
He saw it as a creature very rooted in Giger's imagination, that was very rooted in Egyptian mythology , in the passion for Lovecraft and the fear of the unknown. It was a creature that was essentially waiting for a story to attach itself to. Dan O'Bannon would be the person who came along with the story, and the creature pounced on that in a way. It sounded esoteric for him to say that, and he didn't mean that the creature was physically real.
But these were interesting thoughts for Philippe, with the idea that the alien beast existed in human thoughts and dreams. He need was to have a conversation about it. It's no longer just in our unconscious, but in our conscious thoughts, It carries a certain energy and resonance. Myth was an energy and this we could tap into to to learn certain things. Alien is a cautionary tale.
- Alexandre O Philippe: To quote Will Lynn again, he says you can never get to the bottom of Alien. I would add to that that you can never get to the bottom of the making of Alien. Everything has to do with the unconscious....artists tapping into images and ideas that we've been carrying for millennia as human beings and have a very profound resonance. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
- Alexandre O Philippe: The Xenomorph was a completely new thing. And no, I can't think of another movie that has resonated at that level. It existed before Ridley showed up. It was in Giger's Necronomicon. He showed that image to Ridley, and Ridley would say, "That's it." And he would stick to his guns. Obviously, the executives were not very happy about this. This thought [the Xenomorph] was too grotesque, too outrageous, too sexual. That's why Dan and Giger absolutely needed Ridley to respond to that and to have the strength to say this is what it's going to be. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
- Alexandre O Philippe: I see it as a creature that came out of Giger's imagination, but that was very rooted in Egyptian mythology and in the passion for Lovecraft and the fear of the unknown. It was a creature that was essentially waiting for a story to attach itself to. Dan was the guy who came along with the story, and the creature pounced on that, in a way. It sounds a little bit esoteric to say that... and of course I'm not saying the creature physically exists, but those are really interesting ideas to think about, right? When a creature exists in our thoughts, in our dreams. We can have a conversation about it. It's no longer just in our unconscious, but in our conscious thought. It carries a certain energy. It has a certain resonance. That's what myth is. It is energy. And then we tap into that energy to learn certain things. Alien is very much a cautionary tale. (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
p) Ash the mysogynist
The film had a whole segment from Clark Wolfe on Ash, dealing with his misogyny which was an unplanned turn in the movie for Philippe. She was quite sure that he was a robot programmed by men to carry out oppression, although there's surely nothing to say this in the actual movie. Her argument and the way she framed it was so compelling and thought provoking for `Philippe, fitting into the much larger frame, that he felt he had to explore it in the film.
- Alexandre O Philippe: we
have this whole segment on Ash, and Ash' misogyny which I was not quite
frankly planning to explore until Clarke Wolf who was er, you know in
Film Threat: I know Clark Wolfe, I love Clarke, she's great
Alexandre O Philippe: She's awesome. And erm, and er, but you know her, her argument, and the way she frames it in a way that she, you know, she talks about it is so compelling and so thought provoking that it, and it fits so well in the larger argument of the film that er, yep, that was a thread that we had to, that we had to explore so (http://filmthreat.com/news/memories-of-alien-ft-alexandre-o-philippe-film-threat-podcast/)
- Weliveentertainment: Clarke Wolfe articulates the strongest case that Ash is the ultimate representation of misogyny, because he is a robot programmed by men to carry out oppression. (https://weliveentertainment.com/welivefilm/sundance-2019-franchise-fred-remembers-memory-origins-alien/)
The film relishes in exploring the mythic roots of the the story, which draws from everything from the Egyptian lion goddess Sekhmet. I am yet to find out about the connection!
r) Memory premieres
The documentary premiered at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, USA on January 24th 2019