You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mock Up On Mu

Latest unclassifiable, near-indescribable effort by San Francisco-based "culture jammer" Craig Baldwin, "Mock Up on Mu" is a typically dense yet delightful combination of found and new footage in the service of a fanciful semi-fact-based narrative.

With: Damon Packard, Michelle Silva, Kal Spelletich, Stoney Burke, Ed Holmes, Jeri Lynn Cohen, David Cox.

Latest unclassifiable, near-indescribable effort by San Francisco-based “culture jammer” Craig Baldwin, “Mock Up on Mu” is a typically dense yet delightful combination of found and new footage in the service of a fanciful semi-fact-based narrative. At nearly two hours’ runtime, this playful yet pointed construct might strike most auds as information (even entertainment) overload. But those loyal to pop-culture-savvy experimentalism should find the gambit has considerable rewards. As with Baldwin’s pioneering pastiche “Tribulation 99” and more conventional anarchist-media docu “Sonic Outlaws,” pre-DVD exposure will flow toward fest, cinematheque, rep house, gallery and club exhibition.

“Mu” mixes more of the same ingeniously assembled found material repped in “99,” particularly the campy focus on classic genre features alongside news, educational and industrial excerpts, with staged sequences that whimsically thrust real-life figures into a futuristic storyline.

It’s the year 2019 on the Empire of Mu — aka the moon — where L. Ron Hubbard (Damon Packard) is building theme parks, selling crater-naming rights and beaming corporate logos back to “that prison planet called Earth.” Having been banished from the home planet, he dispatches “Agent C,” aka Marjorie Cameron (Michelle Silva, but voiced by Jeri Lynn Cohen — deliberately out of synch, like every such dual voicing here), back to the blue ball to seduce rocket scientist Jack Parsons (Kal Spelletich) and sleazy defense contractor “Lockheed Martin” (Stoney Burke).

Realizing Hubbard’s purposes may be more nefarious than professed, “C” finds the truth is out there … way out there.

There’s method behind Baldwin’s madness. Parsons was indeed founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab and an avid occultist. He started a private boat-dealing company with Scientology founder Hubbard, who allegedly absconded with money — and Parson’s girlfriend.

Incessant name-dropping of vintage A-to-Z-grade genre movie titles by tattooed heroine “C” feels labored. More effective are interwoven clips encompassing Melies’ silent “Trip to the Moon” to 1936 H.G. Welles-based Brit spectacular “Things to Come” to 1963 trash classic “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” as well as cleverly spliced footage from forgotten, noncommercial, public-domain reels.

Pic draws connections between the post-WWII California aerospace biz, mystic-erotic paganism and avant-garde art (participants including Kenneth Anger, John Carradine and gay rights pioneer Harry Hay). Within a fanciful collage-narrative, truth is nearly impossible to separate from science fiction for those who aren’t conspiracy theorists.

Visually, sonically and subtextually dense, “Mock Up” at first appears too much of a good-but-weird thing. But assimilating its internal logic actually makes repeat viewings more enjoyable.

Popular on Variety

Mock Up On Mu

Production: An Other Cinema production. Produced, directed, written by Craig Baldwin.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, 16mm-to-digiBeta), Bill Daniel, James T. Hong, Daniel Gorrell; editors, Sylvia Schedelbauer, Daniel; production designer, Lars Auvinen; sound, Gibbs Chapman; sound designer, Schedelbauer. Reviewed at San Francisco Intl. Film Festival, April 28, 2008. Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Damon Packard, Michelle Silva, Kal Spelletich, Stoney Burke, Ed Holmes, Jeri Lynn Cohen, David Cox.

More Film

  • Jon Voight'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' film

    President Trump to Award Jon Voight the National Medal of Arts

    President Trump will present actor Jon Voight, musician Allison Krauss, and mystery writer James Patterson with the national medal of arts. Voight is one of few in Hollywood who has been vocal about his support of President Trump in the past, calling him “the greatest president of this century.” The White House announced four recipients [...]

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content