LUNAR-ORBIT RENDEZVOUS | Daniel & Claude, A Space Rendezvous
The brave blending of film genres by starting filmmakers can lead to combinations like the priceless Austin Powers or cringeworthy Frankenstein, but these reinventions are oftentimes more financially confined in their choice between genres. With the short Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous (2018), a strange yet happy marriage occurs between the genres of the typically low-budget road movie and the assumed (sky-)high-budget sci-fi. With the Moon as its destination, this everything but middle-of-the-road Québécois short even accomplishes throwing some romance into the mix of a sci-fi voyage and introducing a growing intimacy between two lone travellers, searching to find solace on a shoestring budget Moon surface.
Referring to an effective way for humans to land on the Moon, the title Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous is taken more literally by film director Mélanie Charbonneau to tell the story of how Claude (Noémie O’Farrell) and Daniel (Frédéric Lemay) meet on an epic space journey. During a costume party on a snowy winter night, astronaut Daniel (dressed up as Peggy Winston, the first female commander of the International Space Station) is crudely disturbed by his date for the night, tampon Claude.
Daniel urges the stranger to get out of his car, but after a spontaneous kiss from Claude, Charbonneau takes over the scenario and prepares the car-turned-spacecraft for lift-off. This technical complication does not require spectacular Hollywood-style visuals: shaky camera movements, typical ‘spacecraft’ sound effects and a touch of VFX are more than enough to depict a tiny car, traversing through the night sky, kicking off the couple’s unofficial honeymoon.
Finding low-budget solutions in purposely clumsy ways, the film jumps between the tropes and narrative elements of several genres and presents a cheeky and heartwarming space trip inside an old car in the outback of Quebec. Through the revelatory dialogues between Claude and Daniel, often communicated through a crackling radio from the depths of deep space, they open up to each other and find comfort in each other’s presence.
While driving over dark, snowy roads that resemble the wasteland of the Moon, Daniel divulges that he is going to a lake nearby to finally scatter his deceased mother’s ashes. Claude decides to impulsively join him and tells him it is in order to finally get her period again after it had suddenly stopped nearly ten months ago:
You know, lunar phases, menstrual cycles, all that stuff’s connected.
An improbable, slightly absurd and compelling journey ensues with two people sharing the same fragile fantasy.
When their road trip ends at the shores of the frozen and desolate lake, the landing on the Moon by Neil Armstrong is playfully re-enacted by Daniel and vigorously disrupted by Claude, displaying the silliness and playfulness of a hesitant love affair under the guidance of some blasting synths. Claude literally breaks the ice, and Daniel finds the right moment to finally say goodbye to his mother under the light of the actual Moon.
When the duo retreats to a hotel room, Claude returns to the harsh reality of her absent period, which has not yet occurred despite her lunar trip. She narrates a moment from childhood of impatiently breaking her own front tooth in order to summon the tooth fairy and concludes her tale of vain longing:
Maybe sometimes in life you just have to wait for the tooth to fall out by itself.
She hops onto Daniel, who is still lying in his astronaut suit on the hotel bed, and slowly returns to their materializing fantasy by saying:
At least I went to the Moon with Peggy Winston.
For a brief moment, they hover in the air of the hotel room as if they were in space, revitalizing their love affair as something very real.
The genre tropes of the denial of futility and the celebration of vitality, well-known from many road movie precedents, find a happy marriage in Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous with the strangeness of sci-fi and even the nascent love and the happy ending of romance. Happy yet strange, but strange in a very good way.
Mitchell van Vuren; recently graduated Media student; independent filmmaker; huge film snob. Spellbound by: Pulp Fiction, Endless Poetry and A Fistful of Dollars. General state of the spotless mind: Rebel without a Cause and In the Mood for Love.