I asked the moon
Spring 1969. While playing on the playground, Stan (Milo Coy) is questioned by two NASA agents. The Apollo 11 mission is about to launch, but the hot module turns out to be too small. What if the boy was America’s last hope to aspire to reach the Moon first? Unless it all comes out of his overflowing imagination…
If we often regret that great filmmakers like Martin Scorsese or Jane Campion give in to the sirens of Netflix for some of their film projects, Richard Linklater has known how to appropriate the exercise, and thus achieve a film in total agreement with the platform that broadcasts it. This is not a question of contempt for the media in question, but a clever way of taking ownership of the service that rethinks the contemporary “skylight” to better speak of its past.
Houston, we have a “little” problem.
Since its introduction, where the brand logo takes the form of the mythical credits of the sixties series, Apollo 10 ½ It is presented as a vibrant and nostalgic tribute to the television of the time, marked by the promise of a bright future. While the Moon turns into a red balloon, the return of the author of a dark scanner to rotoscopic animation is a protean blessingthat hoards (mental) symbols and images to remix them under this dazzling filter.
While Linklater is still just as good at capturing the reality of his scenes, whether it be a gesture, a line, or a set piece, the cel-shading of his film – with all the permanent sketches – is reminiscent ofa past whose memories awaken, or rather fantasies.
Indeed, Apollo 10 ½ almost autobiographical, as the director himself grew up in Houston at the time. The city, at the heart of the conquest of space, thus becomes an off-screen that can only feed the dreams of a child. But behind the specificity of this crucial moment in the history of the United States, both constitutive of Linklater’s preadolescence and of his fictional alter-ego, the film seeks, as often happens with the artist, a much more universal canvas. . From the beginning of his ten years, Stan does not know that he is entering the last moments of peace of childhood, in that period of time so restricted and so particular that he seems to escape everyone.
ten cents a dozen
profoundly melancholy, Apollo 10 ½ East a moving play about recklessness, and about these habits that have marked more than you think the people we have become. From beach getaways to making family sandwiches for the upcoming school week, Linklater finds there all the disarming finesse of an everyday movie theater, dare we even say a movie out of nowhere, that manages to make it more complete and vibrant than ever.
Maybe it’s due to the way your animation emphasizes certain details of your frames, but the visual poetry of the director resonates with the texts of Francis Ponge. Stan’s point of view, perfectly captured by the camera, is precisely in the permanent search of amazement, and by extension of meaning, towards everything that surrounds him.
Added to this is the masterful voice-over of Twenty one, which reinterprets these fragments of memories with crazy energy, arranged with a meticulousness that achieves the feat of making us believe in its arbitrariness. What Childhoodthat had as its common thread only the passing of a time in which one must learn to live, Apollo 10 ½ it has as its column only this countdown to this historical event rewritten by Stan, and his eyes turn to the stars.
from there it arises a jewel of cinema of infinite sweetness, without falling into the blissful naivete. On the contrary, the film finds its most beautiful moments in Stan’s questions and in his beginnings of emancipatory reflections. Little worried about the war in Vietnam, the boy, however, can only notice the paradoxes of a frightened country, on the brink of the nuclear abyss, but driven by the faith of innovation. Although it means running towards nothing, America is writing a future full of optimism, where technology and the power of human inventiveness intend to solve everything.
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This is what makes all the brilliance of the feature film: its detours, never petty but lucid. Stan can’t hide his disappointment when he discovers that his father, proud to work at NASA, is just a paper salesman. On the other hand, Apollo 10 ½ is dedicated to this beauty of the invisiblehandyman who allowed, in his own way, that the entire Earth was glued to his television when Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon.
Let’s forget for a second about the heroes and images of Epinal from the 60s, and pay homage to the men and women of the shadows, as well as the little moments, sometimes insignificant, but still haunting our heads. What better way to synthesize the cinematic genius of Richard Linklater?
Apollo 10½: The Rockets of My Childhood is available from March 29, 2022 on Netflix.