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Categories: Features

“Cosmico”, the debut short by editor and animator C.J. Lazaretti, has drawn admiration and condemnation from audiences on its extensive journey through the festival circuit. Its satirization of religion and spirituality has proven divisive, but it’s nonetheless an original and ingenious piece of smart entertainment.

Jammer C.J. Lazaretti has made his directorial debut with Cosmico, an ingenious 3-minute animated short about a larger-than-life nobleman, Duke Cosmico the First, whose addiction to religion, in Lazaretti’s own words, “threatens the space‐time continuum, attracting the attention of extra‐terrestrial intelligent life”.

cosmico-by_cjlazaretti-promo-menorah

The film is as wacky as its premise would make it out to be. Stylistically influence by Jan Svankmajer and Terry Gilliam, it’s simplistically designed with paper cut-outs and a low frame rate. Like Gilliam’s eccentric animated sequences in his Monty Python films, the character in Cosmico and the objects around him move and change expressions in broad strokes, creating an unrealistic, otherworldly form that gives the film a style both dramatic and silly at the same time – perfect for satire. This was the intent of Lazaretti and producer Hamish Graham,  who wanted to create something “not realistic or literal in any way” but, at the same time, “not ironic”.

Revealing much about the plot would practically spoil the whole 3-minute film, but with Cosmico the effect is just as much in the aesthetic experience as in the story, which without much background knowledge of the themes could be quite difficult to grasp on a first, second or even third viewing. I’ve gone back and watched it about six times and I still get lost in the offbeat grandiosity of it all. The point, though, is that I did go back, proof of the fascination I have with the film’s profound philosophy.

cosmico-by_cjlazaretti-promo-crucifix

In a nutshell, Duke Cosmico eats, in numerous ways, a variety of religious artifacts and symbols, all meant to metaphorically represent the religions in their whole. Cosmico, you see, is addicted to religion, gorging himself on the spiritual energy of all the icons he can get his hands on. His gluttony attracts the attention of aliens. More crazy stuff happens. You have to see it to believe it.

Cosmico is a fun film, and a smart one, too. With its daring themes, extraterrestrial ideas and irreverent humor, it’s something we don’t see enough of these days. The mixed reaction – acclaim in Athens and deriding boos at The Sir Charlie Darwin Movie Battle in London – might be the reason why; as an editor Lazaretti himself says that “blasphemous satire is not as big a risk for [his] career as it would be for the directors and producers who hire [him].”

cosmico-poster-27x40-url-screenonlyWhy the praise in Greece, then? Lazaretti thinks the recent economic struggles the country has gone through might be the deciding factor.

“When everyone you know is unemployed and your country’s economy has been raised to the ground, you need something stronger to put a smile on your face. If you see something feisty, lurid or provocative, you go for it. Why waste time with decorum, propriety, political correctness and other fig leaves? Right now, Greeks have got nothing to lose. That’s the best audience you could ask for. “

It’s an interesting insight, one that adds a fascinating layer to Cosmico‘s journey, one that’s still young. Lazaretti is glad that the film has been controversial, preferring a mix of love and hate over the indifference too many films incite (and too many deserve). He hints, too, that he’s excited for any more controversy in the future.

We haven’t received any fatwas, threats of excommunication or voodoo dolls yet, but the film’s barely a year old. There’s still time.”

Cosmico is currently on the festival circuit, so the full film is not yet available online. Stay tuned at www.cjlazaretti.com/cosmico.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on May 4, 2015

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