He may be best known as one half of anti-folk duo The Moldy Peaches, but Adam Green also brought us the ketamine-fueled Pete Doherty-starring art film, The Wrong Ferrari, shot completely on iPhones. Now, the indie-kingpin is back to WTF us yet again, taking viewers into a hyper-sensory exploration of an alternate universe based on Disney’s classic tale, Aladdin.
Strapping together symbolism and quirk, the filmmaker, artist and musician’s project begs viewers to step into a handmade animation capsule that wisps you into an uncomfortable reality, leaving one dizzied-up with offbeat prose and pictorials. Expect a 3D printer in place of the lamp, a snooty princess who loves ecstasy, a vengeful Sultan, and a rebel world that screams “No Gods Allowed.”
While he may have “Seinfelded” his way through the film, the narrative of the project, which includes an accompanying soundtrack and art showings, hones a tune that works from within the creator’s mind. Just don’t expect this mind to be anything linear or totally sensible.
“The idea of a second life reality appealed to me and when I set out to make this movie I thought about making a situation where people were in a real life cartoon,” says Green. “The effects were built in, and designing the world and objects were made by hand. At the end of it there didn’t really need to be much animation or effects because it’s all physical.”
Inspired by Green’s admiration of French painter and sculptor, Jean Dubuffet, the satirical movie was filmed within handmade papier-mâché sets. This “low art” mantra helped design 30 separate rooms and about 500 props, all constructed with household materials and glue, a copious amount of glue.
“I wanted to create something that represented my own artwork and something that came alive when people touched it,” Green explains. “Like having the traffic light’s eyes move when you walk and it then looks at you. It’s an animistic world that was kind of alive. That’s the one thing you can’t not do with papier-mâché — not make it look expressive, and like Dubuffet did, I added thick black lines to make it look more three dimensional.”
But don’t think this is just a one-day arts and crafts project, as the entire process took years to build, which to Green felt almost like “building Noah’s Ark or something.”
The film also brings out a laundry list of New York talent like Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), musicians Devendra Banhart, Har Mar Superstar, Andrew Van Wyngarden (MGMT) and Zoe Kravitz, plus one of Green’s right hand men, Macaulay Culkin.
With the overtly odd film comes an equally tell-tale soundtrack comprised of 19 songs written and sung by Green, which will be part of the upcoming ‘Aladdin Tour.’
“I got started as a musician and always considered myself a musician in my heart, so I wanted to make the music for the film,” Green says. “I saw it as an interesting opportunity to combine all the different ways I like to be creative in one project and film has that — visuals, music and writing. Once I figured out I could draw on it I was like ‘cool this feels alchemical in a way’, so I wrote the songs at the same time I was writing the script.”
He admits that during this process sometimes it was “hard to tell where the line belonged in the song and in the movie so you see a mix between.”
The song “Never Lift a Finger,” for example, was dribbled from past relationships that went sour. For Green it “felt like I was getting punched in the face” so the song soon became the track for Aladdin’s dysfunctional relationship with the princess during a low point in the film.
Green’s adaptation of Aladdin sees him playing the central role and grounding force of the movie with the other characters being “totally insane.” It’s his cause and effect story in which Aladdin is just getting whipped with bad luck and he’s not sure why.
“I wrote for a year and a lot of it was done by free association, so I would look at scraps lying around the studio and be like ‘OK, this is the Princess line, this is the Genie line, this is the Sultan line’ and categorize them,” he explains. “I treated each character like a little wheel in my subconscious, making a sort of clockwork that was spinning around and each character I guess being a part of me, but also got the rest of the people to figure out how this was all to be resolved.”
Green’s scriptwriting and songwriting come from a similar audiovisual pigment, and this technique is evident both in the soundtrack and the film.
“[When writing] I try to make myself feel like I’m going to another dimension and try to bring something back, like deep sea diving, something that hypnotizes me or makes me feel like I’m being removed from my body and that’s what I do as a songwriter too,” he says. “It’s like, maybe you haven’t heard those two words combined before and it becomes a new thing, you know? Coming out and writing a screenplay was kind of like coming out and writing as a lyricist and each character line should be worthy in a song too.”
And how does this deep sea diving begin?
“I like to write pretty stoned and I write stuff sometimes to show people the way my brain sees things when I’m really stoned or on psychedelics,” Green says. “I want to bring that reality to the viewer. I think with Aladdin I wanted to bring people the feeling of a foreign film, maybe enter their souls and rearrange them a bit so after watching you may come out feeling a little different as a person, that’s my greatest hope.”
This will be the ninth album for the musician, who recorded his first album at age 17. While there’s “been talks” about the reuniting of The Moldy Peaches, for now, Green is focused on touring the Aladdin album for at least the next year. After that there’s a possibility we’ll get a new taste of the seminal act again — a possibility.
The film and soundtrack come with a medley of mental notes on death, aliens, love, self-discovery, corruptness, and at the pit of it all, Green’s own psychobabble.
“I wanted this to be like I’m tracing something that’s inside my brain,” he concludes. “I wanted to take out a bunch of photographs in my brain and push them out of my skin. That’s what I’m most proud about with my movie — it’s really a large nugget pushed out of my mental urethra. I’m proud to have created something that was too difficult to explain without making it, and it ended up being completed the way I imagined.”
Adam Green’s Aladdin film and soundtrack will be available on April 15th via Amazon and iTunes. Green will also be touring the record beginning in early April. For tour dates, visit his website.