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.
“MEMORY was a script that Dan O’Bannon started in 1971, abruptly hitting a wall at page 29. But after the idea gestated for several years, it ultimately took the form of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece ALIEN. If MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN were only a comprehensive account of ALIEN’s origins—ancient myths, comic books, H.P. Lovecraft, sci-fi movies and parasitic wasps—it would still be fascinating. But how did ALIEN lodge itself so indelibly into our cultural imagination? Philippe’s real interest lies in the deep resonance of myths and our collective unconscious. The strange symbiotic collaboration between ALIEN creators O’Bannon, Scott and H.R. Giger suggests a greater synchronicity across history, art, and storytelling, a synchronicity that gives us the Furies, creatures of Renaissance painting and even chest-bursting aliens.”
b) 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.
His argument of the film would have been that all of that hinged on the success of that one scene. Had the execution of that scene failed, everything would have fallen apart. There would have been no successful Alien without a successful, believable chest burster scene and therefore there would have been no Alien franchise without a successful chest burster scene. (Well, that would obviously be the idea to have considering that it was this scene that sold the script to Brandywine, and people had been telling Dan when he was showing the script that the Chest Burster scene was his Psycho show scene )
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. He would have ended up having a very entertaining behind-the-scenes piece but quickly he realized there’s a lot more there.
- 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: The argument of the film is that all of that hinged on the success of that one scene. Had the execution of that scene failed, everything would have fallen apart. There is no successful Alien without a successful, believable chest burster scene and therefore there is no Alien franchise without a successful chest burster scene. (https://bloody-disgusting.com/interviews/3543550/sundance-memory-origins-alien-didnt-need-ridley-scott-sigourney-weaver-exclusive/)
- Point Of View: The Psycho project focused on the single scene. It may have easy to have made a similar film about Alien focusing entirely on the chest-burster sequence.
Alexandre O Philippe: That was definitely the original impulse. It doesn’t work because you can’t approach the chest burster scene the way you approach the Psycho shower scene. If you do, you can end up having a very entertaining behind-the-scenes piece but quickly you realize there’s a lot more there.(http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
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 early unfinished script that led to 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|
d) 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 remembered going frame by frame on his VHS player trying to figure out " Oh, my gosh, how did they do that?” and he wasn't very old at the time. He was just trying to understand how that was done and he didn't know, and perhaps this moment led to his documentary.
- 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: It’s a bit fuzzy actually. My first memory of Alien was being entranced by the poster. A really good friend of mine had the poster in his room and every time we’d go and visit, we’d look at it. I remember completely dreading the idea of watching the film so it took me a few years until I finally got to watch it. (http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
- HtN: Which you feature in Memory: The Origins of Alien…
AOP: Yes. It left such an impression on me. I remember going frame by frame on my VHS player trying to figure out, “Oh, my gosh, how did they do that?” And I wasn’t very old. I was just trying to understand how that was done and I don’t know, maybe that was the moment that led to this. I’m not entirely sure but I think definitely my passion for horror film, for horror cinema, just goes way back. Yeah. (http://www.hammertonail.com/interviews/alexandre-philippe/)
e) 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)|
f) 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe : Not a film that was supposed to be successful at the
time . This was er er a climate , this was a time when people were
ready for the cute friendly cuddly alien , uh right, and in fact a case
in point , look at 1982, just three years later , audiences had a choice
if you will between ET and The Thing and they overwhelmingly embraced ET
Interviewer: So ET phone home rather than er,
Alexandre O Philippe: That's right
Interviewer: Rather than Kurt Russell in the Arctic
Alexandre O Philippe: In a very Lovecraftian tale
Interviewer: So it's it's what we explore, why was Alien such a hit, erm, was it a hit because it expressed ideas and images on the screen that we , I believe, needed to process, um in our collective unconscious, that we still now today need to process, like the consciousness today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc9B7Zwsu3w)
g) Influenced by films and books
The documentary explores Dan's original screenplay for They Bite from 1971 was the seed for Memory, and then came Memory, followed by Star Beast and then finally Alien. However 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: The story was about mythology, the collective unconscious, and this extraordinary mish-mash of comic books, movies, and other influences that went into the cauldron of story that Dan O’Bannon put to paper. 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/#more-535589)
h) 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. He was challenged over the matterby Kerry Deignan Roy, his producer at Exhibited Pictures and his partner in crime on those films, but she definitely understood the idea behind it later. He was also challenged by Chad Herschberger, his wonderful editor, but it was never going to be negotiable.
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.
Of course this scene was indulgent. If nothing else it’s a radical interpretation of a very short segment of the Oresteia by Aeschylus. When he was filming the scene, he was telling the actresses that in Ancient Greek mythos, the lead Fury (played by Mickey Faerch) was as scary as hell.
When he put on his analytical brain, he would go, “Oh, maybe I’m going a little too far here. Maybe this is a little too esoteric.”
He had a consultant on set and Philipped turned to him saying “Just tell me, are we going too far? What would Aeschylus think of this?” The consultant looked at Philippe and said, "well, Aeschylus was a drunk, he would have loved it!"
Besides, Philippe decided that those ideas were very important to reframing Alien, especially within the context of today. It was the 40th anniversary now and Alien was dealing with ideas and images that the human collective needed to process and that we still need to process as a collective today.
- 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/)
- Point Of View: Can you talk about the opening scene with the dramatic recreation of the Furies, what it means to you, and whether it always made the final cut? Alexandre O Philippe: The opening was the first thing that I wrote. There was never a question that it was going to start any other way. I was challenged by Kerry Deignan Roy, our producer at Exhibited Pictures and my partner in crime on those films, but she definitely gets it now. I was also challenged by Chad Herschberger, our wonderful editor, but this was never going to be negotiable. To me, this opening scene encapsulates everything. It introduces a very potent dramatic question but it engages your senses without giving you a narrative. It presents you with this question of what is the connection between the great Furies and the Alien? Documentaries should be cinematic, throwing the audience into a universe and trusting if they’re patient and you give them images that are powerful enough, they’re going to stay with you. (http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
- Alexandre O Philippe: Of course it’s indulgent. When you have to go to Greece and Italy and do this crazy thing on a spaceship set with three actresses and metal mouthpieces and the blue laser and all of that, it’s definitely going a little overboard for an opening sequence in a documentary! But it’s really about setting up the foundation for the film, about making us think of Alien in a different way. If nothing else, it’s a radical interpretation of a very short segment of the Oresteia by Aeschylus. I remember when we were filming the scene and I was coaching the actresses that in ancient Greek. Mickey Faerch, the lead Fury, is fucking scary as all hell. We had a consultant on set and and I turned to him said, “Just tell me, are we going too far? What would Aeschylus think of this?” He looked at me and he said, well, Aeschylus was a drunk, he would have loved it! [Laughs](http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
- Alexandre O Philippe:The opening sequence with the Greek Furies, all of that sort of
connection is something that if I put on my analytical brain, I would
go, “Oh, maybe I’m going a little too far here. Maybe this is a little
too esoteric.” But no, I think it works and I’m standing by it
completely, because I think those are ideas that are very important to
reframing Alien, especially within the context of today. It is the 40th anniversary now and Alien
was dealing with ideas and images that we needed to process as a
collective and that we still need to process as a collective today. (http://www.hammertonail.com/interviews/alexandre-philippe/)
|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/)|
i) 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.
If Dan O'Bannon hadn't been been connected to the resonance of this particular myth, then somebody else would have had to do that because we as a collective have summoned that story with the need for it to show up on the screen so that we could process those images and ideas.
- 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: 1979, if Dan O'Bannon had not as Will Linn said, as stenographed a larger song, as Alien is, if he had not been connected to that resonance of this particular myth. Somebody else would have had to do that, because we as a collective summoned that story, we needed that story to show up on the screen and we needed to process those images and those ideas. (https://itmodchatcast.podbean.com/e/chatcast-1-alexandre-o-philippe-on-memory-the-origins-of-alien/)
|Orestes and the Erinyes|
j) 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 Variety calls this painting ground zero for Bacon's "Ghoulish aesthetics"
He understood that someone might think that connection with that painting was just a little tidbit of trivia but he wasn't so sure. We know that Giger based his original concept for a chestburster on this before the idea fell away and Ridley settled for a chestburster created by Roger Dicken based on the head of Necronom IV and the thing could be said to been loosely reminiscent of the figures in the Bacon painting and so perhaps there was something enough of it still in the final Chestbursting scene
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)
It’s cool stuff, right? It’s one thing that you can just say, “Oh,
yeah, well, you know, this is just Ridley Scott putting one thing and
just showing an image to Giger” and think no more about that. But that’s
precisely what I’m trying to say, is it’s all these things. The images
resonate with certain artists for certain reasons, and those reasons are
not necessarily conscious. They do come from the unconscious. The fact
that Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger met and the way that they met through Dune, and that they had the same preoccupations, that they were both working on their own Necronomicons,
that they were both obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and the fear of the
unknown, all of those things put together … the parasitic wasps, the
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.
- Alexandre O Philippe: One thing that got me excited about
exploring this film was the idea that Ridley Scott had shown H.R. Geiger
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures of the Crucifixion.
You can look at this and say, well, that’s just a little tidbit of
trivia. I’m not so sure. If you look at all of the elements that make Alien,
and all of the coincidences and all of the extraordinary changes that
happened during the making of this film, you have to wonder, was there
really something else there? Memory is a film about Alien, but it’s really a film about our collective unconscious. (http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
|Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907)|
k) 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 who was one of his executive producers and the agent of HR Giger, about the Egyptian influence on Giger. Leslie was able to point Philippe in the direction of Egyptian mythology, and the influences of Egyptian mythology on Giger, and therefore on the Xenomorph and on Alien.
The subject of the lion goddess Sekhmet finds its way into the film.
Philippe also came by early Alien storyboards in Dan's archives where what the derelict ship appeared to be a pyramid. He also noticed early Ridley Scott storyboards where the it appeared to him as if the derelict ship were the interior of a temple with Roman-esque columns and a big urn, (but I might just add here if he had been looking at the Elliot Scott storyboards and this would have been what would be the birth temple interior)
- 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/)
- Alexandre O Philippe: And then Les Barany, who’s one of our executive producers and was the agent of H.R. Giger, pointed me in the direction of Egyptian mythology and the influences of Egyptian mythology on Giger and therefore on the xenomorph and on Alien. (http://www.hammertonail.com/interviews/alexandre-philippe/)
- Nerdist: The film relishes in exploring the mythic roots of the the story, which draws from everything from the Egyptian god Sekhmet to an eight-page EC Comics story, “Seeds of Jupiter” (which featured another chestbursting alien creature way back in 1951). (https://archive.nerdist.com/memory-the-origins-of-alien-sundance-review/)
- nofilmschool.com: Direct influences on the film were Egyptian mythology, including Sekhmet, the warrior goddess; (https://nofilmschool.com/cinephile-sundance-doc-reveals-how-alien-penetrated-movie-history-and-our-collective-1)
- Alexandre O Philippe: Beyond Greek mythology, there's also a strong Egyptian influence, HR Giger was very strongly influenced by Egyptian mythology visually, and in fact I found some really early storyboards that were pre-Ridley Scott from Dan's archives and you can see that the derelict ship was actually a "pyramid" (?) at the time and so it was meant to be a temple, in fact really early drawings by Ridley Scott, when he was design of concept stage of the film itself, where the derelict was literally a temple, the interior of the derelict looked like you have sort of Roman looking columns and this huge urn, and it looks really like ancient, so it's, it was really a lot of fun to delve into that stuff. ( Monsterpalooza panel for the upcoming documentary “Memory: The Origins of Alien” with director Alexandre O. Philippe https://podcastmacabre.com/2019/04/22/episode-177-xenomorphs-savini-and-bruce-oh-my/ )
- ⓢ Addentrandosi nella simbologia del film, qual è il peso della classicità?
Alexandre O Philippe:Dan O’ Bannon e H. R. Giger erano profondamente affascinati sia dalla cultura classica che dall’Antico Egitto. Se si guardano i primi storyboard il relitto della nave aliena era molto diverso da quanto siamo abituati a vedere. Aveva la forma di una piramide, poi di un tempio classico. Il richiamo all’antichità è rimasto nella versione finale del film, ma sotteso. Anche la mitologia greca ha avuto un’influenza, seppure indiretta. E’ stato il trittico di Francis Bacon Tre studi per figure alla base di una Crocifissione che raffigura le Erinni ad avere ispirato la scena del chestburster. Ridley Scott ha mostrato il dipinto a H. R. Giger perché l’alieno fosse esattamente così.
(translation: ⓢ Going into the symbolism of the film, what is the weight of classicism?
Dan O ’Bannon and H. R. Giger were deeply fascinated by both classical culture and Ancient Egypt. If you look at the first storyboards the wreck of the alien ship was very different from what we are used to seeing. It had the shape of a pyramid, then of a classical temple. The reminder of antiquity has remained in the final version of the film, but it underlies it. Even Greek mythology has had an influence, albeit indirect. It was the triptych by Francis Bacon Three studies for figures at the base of a Crucifixion depicting the Erinyes that inspired the chestburster scene. Ridley Scott showed the painting to H. R. Giger why the alien was exactly like that. (https://www.rivistastudio.com/alien-ridley-scott/))
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.
m) 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)
n) 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 newspaper 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)
o) 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)
p) 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/ )
q) Patriachal Guilt emerges
Philippe thought that Alien came out when aliens were being depicted as friendly, cute, cuddly, but Alexandre's statement turned towards ET at the end of 1982 being the cute and cuddly alien.
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 "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.
However he felt that it was a movie that needed to come out at the time to express this certain energy, in tune with this Furies myth. It was a completely esoteric idea that Alexandre O Philippe believed in.
Chris Gore of Film Threat had gone to see Alien when he was about twelve or thirteen at the Ameicana cinema in Detroit in Michigan. In the movie theatre, a group of about twenty people, as soon as Kane started to be in agony, got up out of their seats, ran to the bathroom scared and they could hear the sound on dolby sound, as if they could sense it coming. Philippe found Gore's story interesting that in that it was the men and not the women who were running to the toilet, and it was something that he felt he could give as an example of his Patriarchal Guilt theory
- 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)
- Alexandre O Philippe: If Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Geiger and Ridley Scott had not been on the frequency of this particular myth, somebody else would have to be. That was a movie that needed to come out at that particular time. It’s a completely esoteric idea but I do believe that. (http://povmagazine.com/articles/view/memory-alexandre-philippe-interview-documentary)
- Chris Gore of Film Threat :Well it's interesting because that
scene the chestburster scene, and I saw Alien when I was a kid, I mean I
was er, I don't know, twelve, thirteen when it came out, erm, and that
scene effected, first of all I knew it was coming.
Alexandre O Philippe: Mmhmm
Chris Gore: Because I saw something in a magazine, and I had heard people talk about this scene, I am in the movie theatre which was the Americana theatre in Detroit, Michigan, when a group of people, as soon as you see Kane er, start to be in agony, I saw twenty people get up out of their seats and run to the bathroom scared.
Alexandre O Philippe: Wow!
Chris Gore: I didn't originally when I first saw the movie, I didn't actually see the scene. I went to the bathroom standing with a group of men, hearing the screams in the dolby sound in one of the biggest movies in detroit, so I actually didn't see the scene the first time, it was , it's, I mean, it was described in the documentary by several of the people you interviewed as being iconic, I think it's more than that, it is a scene, and this is what I think it deserves its own movie, that it changed movies, and I think that there's another one that you'll agree with me on this one is the scene in Dawn of the Dead where the head explode, I have never seen that in a movie, I saw it also for the first time in the theatre, didn't know it was coming, there's no warning for that and that also scarred me in a similar was because it's something at least I have never seen anything even close to that on screen, so I think the chestburster scene for you do, do.
Alexandre O Philippe:Yeah
Chris Gore: To explore all you know, every potential influence, I think one of the things that surprised me the most was the comic books
Alexandre O Philippe:Yuh, yuh, I mean it's, well you know, first I want to talk about your, your, your story, I, I find it literally fascinating and I never, er, and I know people were throwing up, I know people, I think somebody broke a leg I think on the, on the first screening just trying to run out or, ah, but this idea that, that erm, a bunch of people were expecting the scene and ran out before it, it actually happened is fascinating to me, that they were ex, that they were, so you experienced it from a bathroom with a bunch of guys, and you heard the sound
Chris Gore: Heard the sound, it was a bathroom with adults
Alexandre O Philippe: That's amazing
Chris Gore: This is
Alexandre O Philippe: That's amazing
Chris Gore: Yeah, and this is a theatre that was in Detroit, so it was like every type of person, you know this was like all types of people just standing up, it was all men.
Alexandre O Philippe: Damn
Chris Gore: And they were scared, so they were all
Alexandre O Philippe: So they all knew, they all knew what was coming
Chris Gore: They, kind of saw, they kind of sensed
Alexandre O Philippe: Sensed it
Chris Gore: They kind of sensed it was like
Alexandre O Philippe: That's remarkable
Chris Gore: I knew, I, yeah
Alexandre O Philippe: That's remarkable (Film Threat: Memories of Alien with Alexandre O Philippe, 28th January 2019)
- Alexandre O Philippe: You know when a scene like that has an impact especially on men which is interesting
Chris Gore: See
Alexandre O Philippe: It was the men running to the bathroom
Chris Gore: Yes
Alexandre O Philippe: And not the women
Chris Gore: No, it was all men
Alexandre O Philippe: Well, there you go. So what does that tell you? Yahhahahah! Er, and I think it had that, you , this, you know, without giving away Memory, you know, this idea, and that statement that I make that I make in the film that there was an unconscious patriachal guilt which 40 years later were starting now to talk about, openly in our society but there was an imbalance, which was what by the way the Greek Furies represent that needed to be, that we needed to process, that we still need to process, and that's what makes Alien such a remarkably contemporary film (Film Threat: Memories of Alien with Alexandre O Philippe, 28th January 2019)
- Alexandre O Philippe: There were certain images, erm, and and ideas that came out, that erupted onto the screen, ahm, the most important one being the chestburster, er that I do believe resonated with audience on an unconscious level. We now know of course, what, the way that women were treated especially in Hollywood at the time. Ah, we're now finding having this discussion out into the open forty years later, part of the argument of my movie is that in the chestburster, which you have is a unconscious patriarchal guilt that came out, that erupted onto, that, and you know. it's, it's it's documented the way people reacted, you know. it's, it's it was men who were running out of the theatre, not women.
Um, I, somebody told me this extraordinary story of of, right before the chestburster scene, sensing what was going to happen, he ran out and went to the bathroom and there were about twenty men there in the bathroom, and they were, they couldn't take it, they were, they were, hearing, they were listening to the scene from the bathroom of the theatre, and so I think, I think today now, now that we're having this conversation, I think Alien is an extraordinary, er, extraordinarily uh, contemporary film as a matter of fact. (Marshy Movie Time (James Marsh – Films (22-3-2019))
r) 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)
s) The xenomorph as a mythical beast part 2
Philippe believed it when Will Linn 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)
t) Ash the mysogynist
The film had a whole segment from Clarke Wolfe on Ash, dealing with his misogyny which was an unplanned turn in the movie for Philippe. She doesn't claim to be a great fan of the Alien movies, but 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. She heard about the "Hollywood mythos" that the Ripley character was originally for a man and if this was true, she wondered how this scene would have played out with a man as Ripley. 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 Clarke 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/)
- (From the Leading the Wolfe Episode 33 TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY with Michael T. Kennedy from December 11, 2018 , leading from Michael T Kennedy talking about Robert Patrick in Terminator 2 and how when he kind of smirks when he's talking to to the John Connor's foster parents, it's fun to think about how someone programmed that into a machine)
Clarke Wolfe : This is my, I will give a little , little uh, plug or headsup mecause my friend Alexandre Philippe who who has been on this podcast and he made the Hitchcock documentary about the shower scene
Michael T Kennedy: I loved it
Clarke Wolfe : Yes
Michael T Kennedy: So good
Clarke Wolfe : He is a, he talked to me about the Exorcist because he was working with William Friedkin
Michael T Kennedy: Oh yeah , I remember that episode
Clarke Wolfe: Working closely on something, but he is making a movie announced recently, he is making a movie about Alien and uh
Michael T Kennedy: A documentary
Clarke Wolfe: Yes
Michael T Kennedy: Oh cool
Clarke Wolfe : An um, I sat with him and did with him an interview and we talked a lot, I don't want to give anything away, but I'm told that part of this made it into the movie, we talked a lot about Ash and what
Michael T Kennedy: From Evil Dead?
Clarke Wolfe : Nope
Michael T Kennedy: Oh
Clarke Wolfe : From Alien
Michael T Kennedy: Oh from Alien, I'm sorry yuh
Clarke Wolfe : Yeah, yeah, and erm, and we were talking about like androids
Michael T Kennedy: Yeah, yeah, yeah
Clarke Wolfe: Programming
Michael T Kennedy: Right
Clarke Wolfe: Erm, what is programmed into Ash, in Alien, is when you really think about it, like if you watch Alien through the lens of that and you watch that character
Michael T Kennedy: Uhuh
Clarke Wolfe: Focus on that
Michael T Kennedy: Focus on the programming
Clarke Wolfe: It is horrifying
Michael T Kennedy: Oh my gosh, that's so cool
Clarke Wolfe: Like it's so, and to your point about the T1000, you're right, the smirk is programmed
Michael T Kennedy: Yuh
Clarke Wolfe: And the uh
Michael T Kennedy: You think about the actual
Clarke Wolfe: Yes
Michael T Kennedy: Work it took to make these
Clarke Wolfe: Yes
Michael T Kennedy: Machines, it's, yes, it's terrifying that there's some fucking genius in the movie
Clarke Wolfe: Mmhmm
Michael T Kennedy: That we never see
Clarke Wolfe: Mmhmm
Michael T Kennedy: That literally was like clicking a keyboard away
Clarke Wolfe: Yep
Michael T Kennedy: and the code he wrote
Clarke Wolfe: Yep
Michael T Kennedy: that makes him smart when he talks to
Clarke Wolfe: Yep
Michael T Kennedy: His person he wants to kill, the parents
Clarke Wolfe: Yes, and I would
Michael T Kennedy: I want to watch Alien now like that
Clarke Wolfe: Please watch it is fun, and I'm sure, Alexandre told me that that scene did make it in, so, we'll see but that was, that was to me the two things, and we've never done Alien on this show before but
Michael T Kennedy: I almost picked Aliens
Clarke Wolfe: Yuh
Michael T Kennedy: But
Clarke Wolfe: The two, the two things that stood out to me are are Ash and how the, I mean we could do a whole, we could do hours on that.
Michael T Kennedy: Yuh
Clarke Wolfe: But the idea that, um, Sigourney Weaver, that Ripley is is remembered in reviews and by critics and scholars for being cold for making decisions, the unemotional decision
Michael T Kennedy: (Giggle)
Clarke Wolfe: And er, and just looking at her performance, you know, from a , from a, from the lens of, wait a second, you know what yeah, she did the right thing, like that's and and and looking at it through the lens of, of, if the Hollywood legend is true, the Ripley was written by a man, written for a man
Michael T Kennedy: Yuh, it was initially
Clarke Wolfe: Yuh
Michael T Kennedy: The character initially, I think the character was a man
Clarke Wolfe: Yuh, then, what , how would that scene have played
Michael T Kennedy: HAL would have hailed it a hero
Clarke Wolfe: How would the rest of the movie have played
Michael T Kennedy: Right
Clarke Wolfe: it's really really, like, I don't love the movie Alien personally
Michael T Kennedy: I, I prefer Aliens
Clarke Wolfe: Yes
Michael T Kennedy: Yeah
Clarke Wolfe: But looking at it in certain ways
Michael T Kennedy: Mmhmm
Clarke Wolfe: Is endlessly fun
Michael T Kennedy: I need to go back and revisit those movies or actually or actually do and Alien 3 this week on our show
Clarke Wolfe: Um, it's pronounced Alien Cubed
Michael T Kennedy: Okay, thank you
Clarke Wolfe: I'm kidding of course. I just always love the little three above
Michael T Kennedy: I have to mean, it's so cute
Clarke Wolfe: It's so good
Michael T Kennedy: It's so crazy that it's David Fincher, again Studio meddling
Clarke Wolfe: Right (Leading the Wolfe Episode 33 (https://www.clarkewolfe.com/podcast/2018/12/11/episode-33-terminator-2-judgement-day-with-michael-t-kennedy)
u) Memory premieres
The documentary premiered at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, USA on January 24th 2019