To escape the attention that came with the success of their debut album Homework, French House act Daft Punk, aka Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem Christo, retained their anonymity by, erm, turning themselves into androids. Now, perhaps in a bid to further avoid the media glare, they have appeared as blue, intergalactic cartoon popstars. Or at least that’s the comic incarnation they’ve adopted in their first venture into the movie world, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Teaming up with veteran Japanese Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto (perhaps best known for his erotic Sexaroid Manga sci-fi series from the late 1960s) the Daft Punk boys have fused stunning visuals with the music from their second album Discovery (2001) – essentially a Manga musical.
While performing ‘One More Time’ to an adoring crowd, four musicians are kidnapped from another galaxy by an evil record producer and his militia. Taken back to Earth, they are hypnotised, made to look like humans and forced upon the public until they reach the number one spot. Images of an interplanetary Simon Cowell spring to mind. However, they are not completely stranded; news of their abduction has reached the alien planet’s superhero, who zooms down to Earth in his Flying V guitar-shaped spaceship and attempts to rescue the exploited stars.
This admittedly ridiculous plot should come as no surprise to those who have followed Daft Punk’s music videos. They have worked with Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Roman Coppola to produce videos that purvey a sense of humour and warmth to a musical genre often accused of being cold and inhuman. Jonze’s bizarre mini-film about Charles the Dog Boy that doubles as the film for their single Da Funk is particularly amusing.
Producing innovative plots for five-minute music videos is all very well, but attempting to illustrate an entire album through film is a far more difficult task. Adding manga to the equation might seem like a just way of throwing another spanner in the works, but the union of western music and eastern cinematic language allow the tunes to spur the plot on in ways that may not have been possible using European or Hollywood conventions.
If this is merely an attempt by Daft Punk to exploit the use of multi-media to promote an album released over two years ago, then it is an ambitious one. The film took over three years to complete, using a team of more than 170 animators. More likely it is a venture that will gain them maximum exposure while retaining their ever-important credibility. Interestingly though, audiences need not be a fan of Daft Punk’s music to enjoy the film – Matasumo’s animation is sassy, glamorous and inventive enough to engross musical and manga aficionados alike.