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Population: 1 (1986)

DVD Cover (Cult Epics)
Genres / Traits:
Musical, Musical Drama, Psychological Drama, Sci-Fi Disaster Film, Surrealist Film, Post Apocalyptic
Director:
Rene Daalder Rene Daalder
Starring:
Tomata Du Plenty Tomata Du Plenty
Dino Lee Dino Lee
Helen Heaven Helen Heaven
Sheela Edwards Sheela Edwards
Nancye Ferguson Nancye Ferguson

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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After the nuclear annihilation of the planet, the last member of a small society of survivors finds himself trapped in an underground control room, where he recounts the history of his world through musical numbers. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 08, 2008
When it comes to movies that I've never heard of, I tend to do a little research before popping them into my player to get an idea as to what I'm in for. I have to be in the proper mood for arthouse titles, and similarly, I have to be in the right state of mind to view most of the other quirky little things that I get sent thanks to this site. As I was looking for objective sites concerning Population: 1 (sites not run by the filmmakers or the distributor), I found something that usually tends to be a little alarming: there was only a single review out there for this particular movie, and said review consisted of an introductory "I remember the eighties, back when..." blurb, followed by a synopsis that detailed no more than what the back of the DVD case did, and ending with a look at the bonus features found in the Cult Epics set. While it's true that Cult Epics put together a damned nice two-disc set for this film that is stacked with extras, I really wanted to know more about what I was getting myself into, but since that wasn't to be, I went into this one almost completely blind. Now, after having sat through the film up until the credits, I can easily see why that other site didn't go into detail about the film at hand: it's an arthouse punk-rock musical that makes about as much sense as one of those music videos from MTV's heyday.

The film centers around Tomata Du Plenty (the late vocalist of The Screamers), and we eventually discover that he is quite possibly the sole survivor of a nuclear war. He has holed up in an underground bunker, and there, he takes a revisionist look at how his life has played out and what he's seen in his time on the planet back before the bombs dropped, and of course, he mourns over the loss of his now-deceased girlfriend (Sheela Edwards). He tells his tale in poetry that makes Jim Morrison's ramblings look perfectly logical by comparison, his flashbacks are about as vague with their overall meanings, and every now and again, the characters in said flashbacks break out in a little song-and-dance routine just to make the entire affair that much more bizarre. Look for cameos by a twelve-year-old Beck and the late El Duce of The Mentors.

I just got through calling the film bizarre, but really, I think that word isn't quite strong enough to label the affair as a whole. Take, for example, a scene found towards the beginning of the film in which Tomata delivers some beatnik poetry about the horrors of war, followed by a musical number in which the hairdryer, razor, toothbrush, and everything else in his bathroom comes to life... and these objects then start flying through the air and go to work on cleaning him up. We keep this pace for the entire hour that the movie runs for, and really, the DVD should have came with a hit of acid to make the experience complete.

Have you ever had a particularly memorable dream that sort of made sense immediately after you woke up, but as you try to play it back in your mind and figure out what your subconscious was telling you, it starts to fade away and leaves you guessing? That's sort of how the film plays out in that just when you start to get an idea as to what the filmmakers were trying to express, it completely switches gears and forces you to start thinking about something else entirely. There are brief explorations of feminism, objectification, love, and of course, the obvious statements about the (at the time) ongoing Cold War with Russia.

Now, with that said, it's entirely possible that I'm looking too far into the material; perhaps there is a statement about feminism here, or maybe the filmmakers just thought that a woman lifting weights looked cool. Maybe they were trying to say something about the way that men look at women like hunks of meat, or maybe they believed that plastering a pair of breasts and a vagina on a woman's face would add a little shock value. You could almost certainly screen this release for a hundred different people and get a hundred different explanations regarding what it truly meant.

It's hard to recommend or reject this film. I was tempted to turn it off after watching only ten minutes of it, but I just couldn't quit watching due to the sheer outlandishness of it. I kept telling myself that I would eject the disc and pretend that I had never even started watching it, but time and time again, I found that I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. It's a captivating film, but it's not a very entertaining one... or is the fact that it's captivating proof that it's entertaining? I honestly can't answer that, and I just got finished watching the damned thing. I think a 7/10 is in order, but I could easily watch this tomorrow and change that to a 10/10 or a 0/10 - it's just that strange.
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