Roland Topor: The Unrecognizable Genius Behind Fantastic Planet

In the years since its release in 1973, René Laloux’s film Fantastic Planet has become a countercultural classic; it also continues to dazzle as a singular work of science fiction. This surreal animated wonder comes to life through the mesmerizing cutout animation of avant-garde French artist Roland Topor, who met Laloux just before cofounding the Panic Movement with fellow artists Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1962. Featured on our release of Fantastic Planet is a 1974 episode of the French television program Italiques, which offers a candid look at Topor, the eccentric artist behind this work. Topor was best known for his illustrations, but he also wrote novels (notably the 1964 book The Tenant, which was later adapted for the screen by Roman Polanski) and acted—in such films as Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre and Dušan Makavejev's Sweet Movie. Yet, for all his successes, outside of his community of writers and artists, Topor’s name was still widely unknown.

In the clip below, you can watch an amusing bit from the show, in which Topor’s desire for fame is juxtaposed by an on-the-street survey of the average Parisian. It’s look into the artist’s life, carried out with a quirkiness that befits its subject, while nevertheless reminding viewers of Topor’s highly influential and inventive work.

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