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Dark Star is the perfect fan-film. It hits all the right notes, origins and highlights of the Swiss graphic artist H.R. Giger without getting entangled in any messy meanings of his dark airbrushed artwork or insight into the man himself. If you did not know who he was, this film would leave you wondering, “Who is this strange sad man?”

The answer is: this is the guy who did half the concept art for Ridley Scott’s Alien (the other half being Jean Giraud/Möbius), made many a heavy metal album cover, and got Jello Biafra in hot water with Tipper Gore.

The Master Is His Art

Giger lived up to his fans' expectations
Giger lived up to his fans’ expectations

The distinct Giger imagery is readily recognized by an army of devoted fans. For those fans, mostly men over 20 and with at least a level-one Big Bang geeky-film knowledge, Dark Star is going to be a sweet ride. The physically frail and failing Giger is every bit as disturbing as his art. This must be satisfying to the faithful, for we see that The Master is his art! Praise H.P. Lovecraft! Giger is actually shambling! Could it get any better than that?

Giger pulled off a neat trick by making images that were simultaneously polished and refined yet disturbing. The first time I saw Geiger’s work, I was reminded of the 1960’s Danish graphic artist Jørgen Bobberg, but really Giger comes from a long tradition of outré European art going back to Hieronymus Bosch and continues today scattered throughout the “surreal” section of The one thing that all of this art has in common is that it’s busy and it’s absurd.

Of course to the Giger true believer, the convoluted paintings and sculptures are anything but absurd. I have to tip my hat to Giger for inspiring the kind of wonder and awe his work brings to his followers. In an poignant moment in Dark Star, we see a fan approach Giger at a personal appearance/autograph signing and, with tears in the fan’s eyes, he shows the artist a Giger-inspired tattoo on his upper arm. Now for someone who’s income is based in large part on the strength of copyright law, seeing this ripoff has to be a disappointment for Giger. And at the same time here is someone who stands before Giger crying and confessing true love of his art. I wonder if that has ever happened to Jeff Koons.

Left on the Pedestal

Giger was one of those handful of graphic artists who became a pop celebrity and his work iconic. It is a strange fate and proof of Oscar Wilde’s admonishment that, if you are not careful, you will get what you wish for. He’s also an example of what happens when an imaginative person has the brake of practicality and expense removed... folly ensues. Dark Star does a stand-up job of capturing that folly without being judgmental. Whether that is because it is being true to the fan-ethic or is oblivious to the folly I do not know.

Throughout the film I had the sense that director Salin and her crew were trying to capture as much of Giger as they could before he passed. And indeed he did die while the film was being shot. Dark Star is a loving and unashamed tribute to H.R. Giger. A colder dissection of the man and his work has been left to more critical minds. Dark Star leaves him on the pedestal right where the fan base wants him to be.

DVD Extras

The extra feature is The Making of Dark Star. It’s a satisfying behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scene. There is another film hiding here and waiting to be made.