From space, Earth's a big pizza where people all have trouble coping," laments Philippe (Lepage), a schlubby perpetual Ph.D. candidate writing a dissertation on the 20th- century space race and narcissism. To salve his own woes—enduring the indignities of being a telemarketer, mourning the recent passing of his beloved mother, bickering with his gay brother, Andr (Lepage again), a smartly goateed TV weatherman—the melancholy man looks to the stars, making a video for extraterrestrials.
A fascination with the lunar surface recurs throughout The Far Side of the Moon, evoking Georges Mlis's legendary 1902 short "A Trip to the Moon." Lepage will certainly never rival Mlis (regarded as the "father of special effects") for innovative filmmaking, but his legerdemain delights nonetheless. Lepage, who also wrote the script, adapting it from his play of the same name, masterfully tackles his dual role, transforming what's often little more than stunt acting into a bravura performance. A series of match cuts (i.e., the window of a washing machine morphs into a Sputnik porthole) adds visual elegance. Yet the film's most impressive feat is that it's brainy—within the first five minutes we're given a wonderful prcis on Russian Space Age prophet Konstantin Tsiolkovsky—but never belabored. (Opens Fri; Angelika.)