Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aeon Flux and the Genius of Peter Chung (part 1)

One of my favourite things in the world is when low-brow (or "pop culture") marries high-brow and becomes something new. Examples of this would be Twin Peaks, combining one of the lowest form of drama -- the soap opera -- with the avant garde surrealism of David Lynch; another example is Chris Ware, who with his refined, almost pictographical compositions combined with his explorations of human psychology and emotional torment, has taken the comic book medium to supreme artistic heights.

However, one of my favourite examples of low-brow gone avant-garde has to be Peter Chung's "Aeon Flux", an animated series commissioned by MTV in the early nineties, back when MTV actually was an exciting, progressive and somewhat subversive force, initiating innovative projects and funding experimental works by the likes of Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay. (Don't get me started on what a stupid, capitalistic shithole of a mainstream tv station MTV has become since then.)

On the surface, Aeon Flux might look somewhat like your normal, conventional sci-fi action cartoon, but that's where the similarities end. Beneath the surface lies an intricate web of narrative complexity, poetic ambiguity, morbidity, abstraction, moral philosophy and sexual perversion, making this a decidedly adult oriented cartoon.

In the beginning, the episodes were short and completely without dialogue -- more like 'visual poems' than any kind of traditional narrative. Later the series evolved into 30-minute episodes with dialogue, but still retaining the poetic and abstract aspects of its narrative -- often starting episodes "in medias res" without any real exposition or clear objective, leaving the viewer with a great deal of mystery and ambiguity.

I will write more about Aeon Flux in future posts, but for now I leave you with one of the early episodes, "Leisure", a clip I believe serves as a good introduction to the themes and aesthetics of the series. (Sorry about the poor quality, and please turn the volume quite low before playing.)

1 comment:

  1. creepy! what an unattractive main protagonist. But cool animation, I can't picture this on MTV nowadays at all.