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Flaming Lips' 'Christmas on Mars' gets L.A. free screening with Wayne Coyne, Jimmy Tamborello

November 4, 2008 |  3:58 pm

Christmas_on_marsdvdcd_30 The Flaming Lips' long-awaited sci-fi film "Christmas on Mars" finally has a DVD release date (Nov. 11), and now it has a Los Angeles premiere.

The film will screen day-and-date with the DVD release at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood (1615 Vine St., just south of Hollywood Boulevard). Flaming Lips vocalist Wayne Coyne will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening, which will begin at 8 p.m. It's free, but you have to RSVP at this site. The Postal Service's Jimmy Tamborello (or Dntel, if you prefer) will DJ after the event. For those who RSVP, admittance will be on a first-come, first-sever basis, so get there early.

As noted last week, "Christmas on Mars" puts atmosphere first. It's a moody, B-level sci-fi film, and one that's almost horror-like in its vision. Focused on a doomed space station during the holiday season, the film features Coyne as an alien, and all sorts of demented visions, such as walking, life-size genitalia.

Filmed entirely on Coyne's Oklahoma City compound, "Christmas on Mars" turns household items into pieces of a spaceship and is graced with an eerie, classical-inspired score. There's no proper Flaming Lips-like songs in the movie, but Coyne noted in a recent interview that music helped shape nearly every scene. He took inspiration, he said, from the way Stanley Kubrick used the music of Richard and Johann Strauss in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"In the beginning, we would start off filming it like a music video, in that we already had the music and we’re going to shoot a scene knowing it has a certain mood," Coyne said. "There were a couple scenes where that stayed true, where there was a piece of music and then I shot the scene and cut it like a music video. You can see that in some of Stanley Kubrick’s stuff. I think we thought we could create the music, and it would give us the mood. But as we went, I think that fell by the wayside."

While our film critics haven't offered their take on the film, early reviews of the film have been mixed.

In the New York Times, Andy Webster wrote that it's best to "forget plot. It’s all about textures: black-and-white images with psychedelic bursts; dashes of David Lynch, the ’70s midnight movie 'Dark Star' and '2001'; an echo of 'The Wizard of Oz'; and, in a riff on maternity, maybe an iota of 'The Matrix,' abetted with homemade-looking but sometimes lyrical effects."

Aaron Hillis in the Village Voice wrote, "'Christmas on Mars' is a true DIY labor of love that doesn't trade on the band's cult status; it succeeds (and fails) by its own weirdness."

And music and movies blog the Playlist noted
, "From 'Zaireeka' to car stereo listening parties, to fuzzy mascots and naked dancers, the Lips rank among indie rock's most beloved envelope pushers. But unfortunately the movie never really takes us anywhere new, besides giving Lips fans the opportunity to revel in the spirit of one of their favorite bands at play in their backyard."

Having just watched the film last weekend, I was more forgiving than not of "Christmas on Mars," finding its ambient sounds, odd costumes and dream-like long-takes to make up for the film's more amateur qualities. That's the reaction Coyne is counting on, as the film will aim for midnight-movie cult status. It's already screening weekly in New York and Austin, Texas (a full list of screenings can be found here).

"The way that it’s shot and the awkwardness, there’s so many great examples of weirdos who make films, like David Lynch," Coyne said. "The amateur-ness of it helps it seem more unique rather than unwatchable."

--Todd Martens

Photo: "Christmas on Mars," courtesy Warner Bros.