Monday, September 11, 2006

Ugly bags of mostly water

Now, I know that my conlanging habit is a bit, well, wierd. But I'm happy to indulge myself because I know nobody is harmed in my pursuit of my hobby. Unless they ask me about it, of course, in which case I'm quite happy to bore them into taking refuge in the cat litter as I whitter on about conjunctions and the importance of redundancy in a constructed language.

I can't imagine that anyone would want to make a film about conlangers. I mean, Derek Jarman made a 2 hour film of blue paint drying (or something) and, even with no soundtrack, that would be more interesting than a film about conlangers.

Believe me on this point. I am a conlanger. I have a good understanding of my capacity to bore.

But then something comes along and I think that maybe I really am living in an alternate reality. For instance, somebody really has gone and made a film about conlangers. It's called Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water. I can do no more than quote the synopsis from the film's website:

On August 1, 2003, 33 people met at a Philadelphia hotel to celebrate and speak a language from Outer Space. The comical documentary, Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water, captures the life, passions and quirks of the members of the Klingon Language Institute. Interviews of KLI members (Linguists, Psychologists, Star Trek fans and steadfast individualists), reveal the intellectual, fraternal, liberating and no-nonsense, direct qualities they enjoy within the constructed-from-pop-culture Klingon language. From Louise Witty, who becomes fascinated with the language from her interest in Star Trek boots (and then fabricates and sells them) to a Paintball King who shouts strategic, military movements in the Klingon tongue, Earthlings examines the interplay between culture and language, communication and emotion, and the rather delicate line between reality and fiction.

Produced within a visually interesting and texture-filled, Sci-Fi style setting, Earthlings might be categorized as a Picture Show, a highly-stylized subjective documentary that emphasizes specific narrative strands and takes liberty with the tone, pacing and composition for comic effect. This is not a Trekkies (1994) imitator, but instead an entertaining view of an intellectual (and not-so-intellectual) endeavor to sort out and to explore humans and language, and the definitions of success and failure.

I can see the queues forming already.

But don't let my cynicism get in the way of anybody going to see the movie. Instead, lets hear from some people who (claim to) have already seen it. Mr Cranky gives the movie 2 bombs. He concludes his review by saying:

"You'd think there'd be ample opportunity to mock this curious assemblage, but director Alexandre O. Philippe passes up this opportunity and instead focuses on two things:

- Linguistics and social dynamics and how studying a "constructed language" like Klingon can provide insights into our own and... zzzzzzz....

- Lamps. Given that the KLI's interplanetary gala seems to have been held in a motel off the interstate somewhere, Philippe takes the only visual prop available to him -- lamps -- and uses them the frame the film in otherworldly ways. Which helps explain why I spent so much time feeling like I was lost in space."

And, erm, that's it! Nobody else seems to have been able to bring themselves to review the film. I'm tempted to go and watch it - it's on a limited release in London's Prince Charles Cinema this week - but I've got to strip wallpaper off the hall walls and the tropical fish tanks need a good scrubbing and I promised my Significant Other I'd sort out the laundry that's been piled in the back bedroom for the last 6 weeks so maybe I'll just wait until it comes out on DVD.

I hope the DVD comes with its own brown paper bag. There's some things I'd prefer the neighbours not to find out about ...

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