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Memory: The Origins of Alien - Film Review (Brisbane International Film Festival 2019)

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by Lloyd Marken (subscribe)
Lloyd Marken is a freelance writer with a passion for the arts who has been published with Scenestr, Heavy, Buzz, X-Press, FilmInk and Weekend Notes. Visit my blog at
Memory: The Origins of Alien courtesy of BIFF Website.
Memory: The Origins of Alien courtesy of BIFF Website.

The 2019 Brisbane International Film Festival wraps up this weekend but there is still plenty of films to check out from all genres including documentaries. There are five participating cinemas with Reading in Newmarket, the New Farm Six Cinemas, the Elizabeth Picture Theatre in the heart of the Brisbane CDB, as well as the home base of GOMA at Southbank and the State Library of Qld next door.

One documentary showing is Memory: The Origins of Alien tells the story of how the 1979 sci-fi horror classic came to be. The documentary feels at its strongest when it is at its most personal talking about the life of the late screenwriter Dan O'Bannon. Interviews are done with actors Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerritt, fellow writer and producer Ronald Shusett and many, many film academics, historians, critics.

The absence of director Ridley Scott and star Sigourney Weaver is palpable as you wonder what they have to say although stock interviews convey much. Also 40 years on from the original release you also reflect that time is marching on with actor John Hurt, artist H.R. Giger and O'Bannon now gone.

Widow Diane O'Bannon and friend Shusett talk about Dan, his upbringing, his early experiences in film and ultimately how Alien came about. A quick history lesson about sci-fi films also shows how striking Alien was just a few short years on from the effects, censorship and sensibilities of similar films from before.

We learn a lot about the importance of H.R. Giger's design, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and the steely determination and creative sensibilities of Scott just one feature into his career. We also reflect on how ground-breaking the ideas of Alien were and how much the film stands up decades on where others may have dated.

There is a sense though that the documentary lacked enough budget to get all the main players and be a bit more visionary itself in how it presents history. An early sequence with a depiction of Ancient Greece's the Furies is sadly a one-off. The longer the film goes on it seems to dwell too long on the infamous chest-burster sequence and navel gaze just a bit too much on the academic treatises of the film.

When it deals with the personalities involved and the memories most personal there is something new and moving in this origin tale. Overall an interesting enough venture but one that could have benefited from a bit more scope and more direct involvement with Scott and Weaver who are too important to the film's tales to be left out of the telling of it.
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Phone: (07) 3840 7303
Where: 6 cinema venues.
Cost: Full Price $16.50, Concession $12.50
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