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45*. SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974)

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“I am strange,
my mind is tinted with the colors of madness,
they fight in silent furor in their effort to possess each other,
I am strange.”–Sun Ra, “I Am Strange”



FEATURING: , Ray Johnson

PLOT: Sun Ra returns to earth from his cosmic explorations with plans to relocate black folk to a new planet. Arriving in his spaceship in Oakland, Ra visits a youth community center and opens an outer space employment agency to spread his message.; NASA agents kidnap him, hoping to learn his technological secrets. Meanwhile, in a desert dimension, Ra and the pimp-like Overseer play a card game for the future of the black race.

Still from Space Is the Place (1974)


  • Sun Ra was born Herman Poole Blount. He dropped out of college after he had a vision in which he was transported to the planet Saturn (or so he claimed). Never signed to a big record label, Ra toured and recorded prolifically, especially throughout his 1950s and 1960s heyday, releasing albums himself. His music was highly avant-garde, incorporating free jazz, synthesizers, chanting, oddball poetry incorporating mythological and space-faring themes, Egyptian costuming, and lavish stage productions.
  • The producer originally envisioned the film as a documentary, but input from many sources (including Ra himself) eventually led to this narrative movie.
  • Filmed in 1972 at the same time and on some of the same sets (and with one of the same actors) as the pornographic film Behind the Green Door. Space Is the Place was briefly released theatrically in 1974. It then disappeared until an edited version surfaced on VHS in the early 1990s.
  • Sun Ra improvised all of his dialogue, as did the kids interviewed at the community center.
  • Confusingly, Sun Ra’s classic 1972 album “Space is the Place” is not the soundtrack to this film, despite the fact that Ra wears a costume from the production on the cover. The actual soundtrack album was recorded contemporaneously but not released until 1993. The two albums share only the title track in common, in a radically different performance.
  • In 2003, scenes were restored which were missing from the VHS release. These scenes, featuring nudity, violence, or other debauchery inserted by co-screenwriter Joshua Smith, had been removed by Sun Ra himself; therefore, the 64-minute VHS cut is sometimes known as the “Sun Ra cut.”

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Su  Ra’s Egyptian costume, especially his crown combining a King Tut-styled headdress topped by an enormous solar crystal flanked by golden antlers. (It resembles the crown worn by Isis.) Ra’s fashion choices earn him some genuine stares from pedestrians as he drives through Oakland streets in a convertible, flanked by a golden-headed lion and a falcon. This majestic Pharonic helmet was so striking it made both the cover of both the movie poster and the identically titled jazz album.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Tarot blackjack for black souls; “Dixie” torture

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: An improvised mashup of surrealism, blaxploitation tropes, bizarro cosmic jazz, and messianic intergalactic Egyptology, Space Is the Place is an outsider artifact that could only have come from one man: the great Sun Ra.

DVD release trailer for Space is the Place

COMMENTS: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and Sun Continue reading 45*. SPACE IS THE PLACE (1974)


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Deep Astronomy and the Romantic Sciences can be watched for free courtesy of the Red Planet Planning Commission.


FEATURING: Rudy DeJesus, Michi Muzyka, the voice of Meredith Adelaide, Cory McAbee

PLOT: Rudy sits down with a quiet woman drinking, who shares with him the history of the bar they’re in, and its relation to the “romantic sciences.”

COMMENTS: “Techno-Mysticism”. No, it’s not a musical genre where Industrial meets New Age; nor is it a term used at any time during the Deep Astronomy experience. This is a designation of my own making, which I put forward because it is accurate, succinct, and there’s no one to stop me. In this film, Cory McAbee has assembled some few dozen snippets of his live performances of… well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Boy, Rudy, meets girl, Grace, at a trendy bar, flawlessly executing that immortal opening line, “Hey, my buddies and I have a bet. Are you a robot?” Turns out she is, and she claims to know everything about him. Rudy and Grace proceed to have a conversation about reality, particularly the intersection of physical reality and artificial reality. This primarily takes the form of her discussing Cory McAbee: his origins, his professional trajectory, and his Techno-Mystical viewpoints.

From all examples on display (and there are many, culled from various performances over the years), McAbee is an awkwardly charming fellow, with novel views on humanity and existence. Taking his talks at face value—the performances hover between symposia and stand-up—he believes, among other things, in trans-dimensional sliding, eternal existence, and that his observations on transformation are best conveyed through song.  Humans are composed of the light they absorb, and are doomed to pass through this existence to become light spreading eternally. We are, he opines, creatures living in an increasingly artificial social and mental construct—and the only way is forward. He is also the inventor of “the Norman”, a the-last-person-Polka-ing-wins kind of dance floor body fight. Techno-Mysticism is all these things: our machines and constructs, and our greater relationship with the cosmos. And a heapful of silliness making the whole exercise enjoyable.

Grounding the movie audience, and in delightful contrast to McAbee’s nerdful enthusiasm, is Rudy DeJesus’ performance as the man in the bar talking to the robot in the bar. Rudy’s charm is easy-going, and always feels genuine; Grace, the robot (?), has her own charm (“Thank you for sitting with me, I like you”), and provides a third, artificially artificial perspective on the proceedings (these proceedings being both her conversation with Rudy, but also, to the best of my understanding, the current social-technological proceedings of the species). Deep Astronomy is blunderbuss cinema, divotting the audience with many styles—mumblecore romantic comedy, T.E.D. talk, stand-up, and advertisements—but as if one had attached a laser sight to the projectilator in question. McAbee has themes he explores. Over and over. And Deep Astronomy and The Romantic Sciences is an entertaining and thought-provoking means for him to distill his manifold musings.

El Rob Hubbard and Gregory J. Smalley interview Cory McAbee about Deep Astronomy and the Romantic Sciences (among other topics)


“I have no idea what to make of this film… [MaAbee]’s been making weird and innovative films and music videos for years now, not to mention several albums of equally strange songs, and a busy schedule of live performances… But even those who’ve followed his sui generis career will not have expected anything this far removed from everything else he has ever done.” — Mark Cole, Rivets on the Poster (contemporaneous)


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Molkipolki can be watched for free courtesy of the author.



PLOT: A man guides a series of unseen buyers through a house, with little luck.

COMMENTS: Kyril Zach does a number of things well in this odd little exercise, but his greatest coup is perhaps choosing such a versatile nonsense phrase. “Molkipolki” (featured prominently in Molkipolki) can, it seems, convey amusement, exposition, sadness, regret, flirtation, and frustration. The first actual words I recognized in this film came from the soundtrack, during the brief “Man I’m Horny” interlude. (This turns out to be a high point, as later we learn through a background song that “I Vomit When You Cook”, suggesting a deterioration in the relationship.) Emotions rise and fall throughout this… this…

This film takes place entirely in one home, which may be described as “Early-to-Late-20th-Century-Bourgeoisie-Fusion.” (Considering this residence is the property of either the director or a family member, I’ll abstain from further remarks on the matter.) Meet protagonist, selling this home. Or trying to. The opening act ends on a discouraging note, setting it up well for the eventual seduction—or something—in the second, which in turn primes the viewer for quiet melodrama in the third act. All this is done with one man, one house, one camera, and one word.

This man, Kyril Zach, is always interesting to watch. His gestures are articulated without being overblown, and camera positions suggest at least modest experience with the art of placing a recording box and pointing it. All the action is absurd, but with some “merely odd” touches dripped about to heighten the experience. (Nearly everything is mimed, but it tickled me to see the protagonist pretending empty-handedly to have a beverage while positioned right in front of a shelf filled with a variety of drinking vessels.) The setting, chosen I suspect because of access, is a chaotic mélange of tchotchkes and doo-dads curated over decades.

So for 45 minutes we hear “molkipolki” while watching this man miming amongst a mishmash—though the camera is tastefully diverted elsewhere when our hero gets lucky (if you take my meaning), showing instead a series of shots of decorative plates, wall vases, and a few taxidermy specimens. Points, certainly, for dedication: the only non-“molkipolki” uttered from his lips was an obliging “mmmmm!” shortly before the cooking-related stomach upset. The musical score (which can also be downloaded for free) veers between tin-plate angelic choir and gut-rumble novelty bluegrass, sometimes both together, creating a musical soundscape reminiscent of The Residents on their best behavior. And while the static camera work is largely functional, the sexy-time wall-shot sequence smacked so much of a Greenaway interlude, I can’t help but wonder…

This film came to us out of the blue from a singular-minded individual with something to say: “molkipolki.” And damned if he doesn’t say it, to considerable dramatic and comedic effect.


“…am I having an acid flashback, or perhaps the first signs of a stroke?… I couldn’t make a single ounce of sense out of what I’d seen in the forty-five minutes of ‘Molkipolki’ – this could be THE most bizarre film I’ve ever seen in my entire LIFE.”–Jeremy Gladstone, IndyRed (contemporaneous)


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FEATURING: Sussan Deyhim, Tara Khozein, John Flax, Apollo Garcia Orellana, Brian Bellot, mystery celebrity guest

PLOT: Curtains open on a glowing, chanting golden tree woman, then children watch a couple with wicker cages around their heads wander through incidents of apocalypse, technology, and wonder.

Still from Once Within a Time (2023)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Simultaneously ancient and hyper-modern, Once Within a Time is as an apocalyptic dispatch from the far reaches of reality. A bold and foolish (in the complimentary sense) work of cinematic art, dense with imagery and symbolism, this is octogenarian Godfrey Reggio‘s first narritivesque film—his vision of what it means to be a human being in the 21st century, teetering on the brink of cataclysm, but balanced by wonder and creative possibility.

COMMENTS: Godfrey Reggio announces Once Within a Time as a “bardic fairy tale”; an imposing description, but one that the film lives up to. Set to a new score by Philip Glass—with snatches of other music floating through the mix—it’s a carnival of free-flowing imagery and ideas, a techno-gnostic hymn about cataclysms and the birth of new worlds. After the red curtains pull back, we are launched into scenes of an Earth goddess singing from her glowing heart, and innocent children spinning on a merry-go-round. Then, Adam and Eve appear, only to have their equanimity quickly destroyed by a digitized Apple. Cell phones recur as dire artifacts: as cages, as monoliths, as bricks on a road that leads to an audience of faceless puppets. We watch a dance of harlequin emojis. Entertainers and demagogues speak gibberish. UFOs zoom into dreamspaces and blast giant robots with their ray guns. Monkeys experiment with virtual reality goggles. There’s a reference to 2001 that will probably draw laughs, and maybe cheers, from savvy live audiences. There is even a special celebrity guest whose appearance I don’t want to spoil, who speaks in John Coltrane solos and acts as a pied piper. And throughout it all, reaction shots of children, bemused, delighted, taking in the helter-skelter as best they can, their little minds gathering fuel… hope for the future.

The visual aesthetic is faded yet bright, digital but evocative of finely aged film stock. The style and imagery brings to mind experimental films of the 1950s-1970s, specifically : the wicker baskets around the lead adult’s heads like the birdcages of the Pleasure Dome, the UFOs possibly on loan from Lucifer Rising, the whole thing seasoned with occult premonitions of a New Age Dawning. There are fleeting scenes of destruction, decay, despotism, mushroom clouds: but the imagery returns, unfailingly, to dwell on innocent children at play, and themes of creation and re-creation. It ends on a Botticelli tableau, with children as angels and Venus yet to emerge from her throbbing egg sac.

A new Philip Glass score is, of course, something to celebrate. The soundtrack here is more of a suite of short pieces than a large scale composition, moving through numerous flavors to illustrate the Reggio’s many different settings. Glass’ hypnotic minimalism may not get the chance to do its accumulation-by-repetition thing here, but he makes up for with a wider palette of colors: unfamiliar elements like chanting, accordions, and even African percussion offer the composer new settings for his ideas. The contributions of Iranian singer Susan Deyhim (who also plays the tree) are most welcome.

The runtime is listed as 51 minutes, but the credits take up the final 8, so the film itself is a manageable 45-minute experience. Watching this on a big screen with an appreciative audience would be magnificent; it makes perfect sense that it debuted at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. It is uncommercial, personal, specialized, and fated to be underseen, but Once Within a Time is a major cinema event in 2023. Make it a point to track it down when you can.

Once Within a Time official site for trailer and screening calendar.


“…this strange new experiment — less scripted than staged — revisits early cinema with the same doom-laden playfulness that [Reggio’s] previous work used to push the medium forward. “–David Ehrlich, IndieWire (contemporaneous)


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DIRECTED BY: Eddie Alcazar

FEATURING: , Karrueche Tran, Moises Arias, Jason Genao

PLOT: The development of a life-prolonging elixir brings humankind to the brink of collapse, until two celestial brothers conspire to subdue the potion’s creator.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: We were all waiting for Guy Maddin to make a David Cronenberg movie. That mash-up so far eludes us, but we do have Eddie Alcazar sliding this cocktail our way—with some further madness thrown into the mix.

COMMENTS: An exciting combination of feelings percolates within me. On the one hand, I feel immediately compelled to attempt a description of what just happened to my eyes and ears; on the other hand, a part of me advises waiting to see just how this mélange of influences and particular vision coagulate. Considering I will probably never know just quite what happened, I am erring on the side of catering to my enthusiasm, even at the near-certain risk of flirting with vague utterances of confusion and satisfaction.

Via the production-distorted lens of auteur Eddie Alcazar, we crash through symmetric dissections of something organic, flipping, sliding, and morphing before the motion stills somewhat, and the glass eye of a camera lens comes into view—a lens focused on Sterling Pierce, a brilliant scientist who has nearly perfected a product (and it is assuredly a product as much as anything else) dubbed “Divinity”, which promises not only to stop aging, but reverse its worst effects. So long as you do not stop consuming it. At some unclear retro-future point in time, we meet a cadre of nubile, leotard-clad women who oscillate between ephemera and physicality, and who we are told hold the key to rejuvenating the dying planet. Two small stars plummet to earth whilst Jaxxon Pierce (son of Sterling, and perfecter of “Divinity”) giddily fucks a groupie.

That description hints at a major caveat of sorts: we have seen this story and these themes before. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” plays a major part, particularly when Jaxxon is jacked-up with concentrated “Divinity.” His slow, extreme morph, and his well-intentioned genetic ambitions, also brings to mind the “ADAM” phenomenon from the “Bioshock” video game. Alcazar crams body horror through a soft-focus black and white, while the dark science plays reassuringly on cathode ray. Plutocratically dystopian advertisements whir us through societal developments, and we’re never more than a few seconds away from a shot of staggeringly buff guys (or in one favorite bit, a buff breakfast, in the form of “Flexi-Os.”)  The whole narrative (minus flashes-back, some twenty-four hours of mysteriousness and revelry) rushes though a weird vein straight into our brain’s “What the…?” centers until the climax.

This melange catapults Divinity from mere Apocrypha Candidate into a worthy recipient of our coveted “Weirdest!” badge. While the first seventy-odd minutes are as much of so much as one might hope for, the finale destabilizes like a punch straight to the occipital lobe. A stop-motion show-down, cryptic symbology burning in the night sky, an exterior vaginal POV glimpse, and the emergence of an entity I have never seen before in my life left me with just one reaction (shared by most of the surrounding audience): a “hah!” of sheer disbelief. You know what I’m talking about. In case you don’t, hunt down Divinity. It’ll cure what ails ya.


Divinity is a black-and-white acid trip pumped with steroids, ‘Twin Peaks’-adjacent ominousness, and hunger for human flesh.” – Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com (festival screening)