By Daniel Barnes
*Opens today at the Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley.
Belinda Sallin’s skimpy Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, a look inside the home of the Swiss artist H.R. Giger in the final months of his life, would have made a brilliant episode of Cribs. However, it’s just a doodle as a feature-length documentary.
The film holds promise early on, as the opening shots move from the quaint and quiet exterior of Giger’s house to the museum of gothic nightmares that lies within. Giger was best known for the creature and set designs of Alien, and in general for merging images of sex, birth, and death in his art. Not surprisingly, his home is a testament to those obsessions – alien birth trauma greets you from every corner, and the lush garden is designed as “a perinatal experience.”
Unfortunately, Giger is a void at the center of his own documentary. We get snatches of his Dr. Evil-esque upbringing (it involved his father gifting him a human skull that Giger dragged around on a string, as well as, I would assume, luge lessons), and brief sketches of his time as a Zurich poster artist and his uneasy relationship with the mainstream art world. But for the most part, Sallin stalks Giger around his own house while he sketches, piddles about, watches TV, and dotes on his cats.
A single shot of a heavily tattooed superfan reduced to blubber in Giger’s presence says more about his work and influence than all of the lurking camera moves and shallow talking head interviewees. Dark Star has hypnotic moments, but more often it’s indulgent, draggy and borderline exploitative.