*Online Premiere* The brilliantly loony “Observatory Blues” is the life story of Fernando Music, a writer born with no hands that becomes famous for a series of books about space and sex. Beautifully shot on 16mm and featuring a genius cast moving in all kinds of glorious directions (including a narration by Hugo Guinness), it’s an instant classic rise and fall tale about a writer, his loved ones, and the expanding universe.
We begin with Fernando as a young boy growing up with a cruel father — he throws balls at his son despite him having no arms, and berates the family during pre-meal prayer. It’s not long before Fernando and his mother can’t take it anymore and decide to hit the road. Fernando grows up fatherless. But his mother (Ana Fabrega!) takes care of him and gives him all the love he needs. When he grows up, that love and care is handled by his wife (Amy Sedaris!). Though his early books (It’s Probably Uranus, Strap-On For Mars, and Space Cock), didn’t quite take hold, Observatory Blues, a book that predicted the discovery of extraterrestrial life, sparked a phenomenon and made him famous. Life after that becomes easy and joyful, but of course it doesn’t last, and tragedy, as it does, strikes.
In the lead role, Tom Schiller (a prominent writer for SNL in the 1970’s) is wonderful in his portrayal of the peculiar Fernando. He carries with him an equal measure of delightful silliness and emotional scarring. (So does the rest of the cast, including Jo Firestone! as a persistent flower delivery person). Thus, the story of an expanding universe, in which all things grow apart, lands with real gravity despite its bonkers premise and hilariously juvenile bits and pieces (see Fernando’s father peeing in his own face). This is the first film of co-writers and directors, Eric Paschal Johnson and Conor Dooley, and it’s a miraculous feat. (20 minutes). Cinematography by Zac Nicholson. Edited by Ryan Steele.