Not halfway through January and Craig Baldwin’s Mock Up on Mu already boasts what will likely be this year’s most untoppable character lineup: Scientology founder and stress test pioneer L. Ron Hubbard (Damon Packard); rocket scientist and Aleister Crowley acolyte Jack Parsons (Kal Spelletich); Parsons’ wife, Kenneth Anger actress and “mother of the New Age movement” Marjorie Cameron (Michelle Silva); and a personification of defense systems juggernaut Lockheed Martin (Stoney Burke). But the real star is Baldwin’s patented rapid-fire free association found footage collage, simultaneously standing for and commenting on the action: e.g., Hubbard’s alien fetish and egomaniacal fascism are visually demonstrated (unleashed?) by a cavalcade of low-budget extraterrestrial sacrifices, Roman toga parties and a young Dennis Hopper portraying Napoleon in sci-fi-courtroom-drama-historical-epic (a Baldwinesque hybrid itself) The Story of Mankind.
Featuring everything from badass Spaghetti Westerns to seedy Vegas crime thrillers to papier-mâché Z-movie sci-fi extravaganzas, the lifted material forms an alternative U.S. history in which a plot by Hubbard and Martin to colonize space (and employ energy technologies in the service of militarization) is resisted by Parsons and Cameron, who enlist occult magick to fight the power; and it’s equally a meta-narrative, with renewable energy renegades standing in for underground filmmaking vet Baldwin’s role as a political, celluloid-recycling outlaw. His gonzo approach to culture scavenging and multi-dimensional conspiracy theorizing is by turns thrilling, campy and subversive, but also exhausting (the CIA, NASA, Joseph McCarthy, and California’s post-war New Age boom figure as subplots), and Mu frustratingly concludes with an “all you need is love” denouement only salvaged by Parsons and Cameron’s movie title-generated description for their evil-slaying orgasm: “Fantastic Voyage.” “Things to Come.” “Destroy All Monsters.”
January 14-20 at Anthology Film Archives