On Friday, June 13th the Flaming Lips teamed up with deadCenter Film Festival and Rocktown Climbing Gym to present the band’s long-awaited film Christmas on Mars. The experience was unlike any I’ve ever encountered.
The show took place in an enormous red and yellow circus tent with 200 seat capacity. This tent housed a large stand-up screen about 14 ft tall and 20 ft wide, a massive sound-system, futuristic green-glowing orbs, and a huge digital projector. Seating was arranged in rows like an auditorium using fold-out benches. Outside the main tent was a smaller tent which served as the ticket booth and popcorn stand. Movie tickets and popcorn were free. Beer was also served (for a cost) and this was handled by the deadCenter folks.
The original plan to hold three shows, one at midnight, one at 2 am and one at 4 am, was changed after an Oklahoma storm rolled in. Tickets were handed out prior to the 10 pm slated time and the first show began about 11:30 pm as the tent was opened early to allow the audience a reprieve from the rain.
Prior to the movie, Wayne Coyne, the creative mind behind the movie and lead singer for the Flaming Lips, gave a brief introduction and thanked everyone for being there. Then was a short documentary film which consisted of Wayne answering some questions about the film and providing tid-bits about creating the film. This gave some insight into the process of making the movie and some hint of what to expect. Of particular interest was the question entitled, “Why is the movie so loud?” This was sort of a heads-up to the audience to get ready to be blown away.
So you’re wondering – what was the movie like and what is it about?
A space station on Mars sometime in the future. It’s just before Christmas and the first human child is about to be born on the planet. We follow characters struggling with their own mentality and the hardships of life in a surreal place far from Earth. Things take a turn for the worse when the man who is supposed to play Santa meets his demise. That is until an unlikely Martian visitor appears.
The movie might best be described as “other-worldly,” in many senses. An eclectic mix of genres, characters, narrative, noise, and space. To say the movie is simply “good” or “bad” is shortsighted and narrow-minded. There’s so much more to it, yet at the same time, there’s not. You just have to sit, listen, watch, and let it be. In many ways the movie is more than your typical movie. It is more than a visual story on screen, more than putting lines together to create a cohesive beginning, middle, and end. It is an experience.
For the audience the tent became a spaceship. Maybe it was the deafening roar of EIGHT 800 watt speakers in 5.1 surround sound or the massive projector light beam blasting through smoke over the heads of 200 people but the mood of the evening left me in awe.
Oklahoma weather played a large part in the experience. Flashes of lightning, claps of thunder, and torrential rains pounding the tent and flooding the interior only added to the energy of the film. But inside the tent we were comfortable.
The movie was beautifully shot by Bradley Beasley in 16mm and is mostly black and white. But every once in while the audience gets a peak inside something or closer to something and then we see in radiant hyper-color. This was always accompanied by an unexpected blast of electro-sound which jolted you into reality.
Of course, one of the most special aspects of the film to me were the locations and sets. A good portion of the movie was filmed at the silos that make-up Rocktown Climbing Gym. In fact, several of the sets are still at the gym – in hidden places. I had to remind myself sometimes that this was a space station I was looking at – not the silos. But again, that connection drew me in even more.
Thanks so much to Wayne Coyne, the rest of the Flaming Lips and their crew, Melissa and the folks at deadCenter for making this possible. I believe this is just the beginning of making Rocktown a great venue for events like this.
Click here for all the pictures.