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Daft Punk’s Electroma

Acting on a tip on Oancitizen’s forum at thatguywiththeglasses.com, I saw Daft Punk’s movie Electroma. I posted some thoughts to the forum, and here they are:

Wow. Thanks for this tip! This was a cool film! Written and directed by the band themselves, with cinematography by band member Thomas Bangalter; I really didn’t know they had it in them!

I just have to talk about this movie now. Ok, this is a movie made by people with taste and culture. So many other works come to mind when viewing it: the Cremaster films (especially 2 and 3: the strongest of the bunch,) Koyaanisqatsi, Easy Rider, 2001, A Clockwork Orange, THX-1138, Zabriskie Point (check out the slow-motion explosions,) Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Solaris, and even The Brown Bunny and Gerry (in the protracted scenes of driving and of walking through the desert. There were moments when I was thinking, “Fuck the thing.” Replying, of course, with, “Oh, come now. What did The Thing ever do to you?”) From the description given on this forum, I was half expecting another Flaming Lips’ Christmas on Mars: a movie made by a band who have artistic aspirations but no movie-making talent nor any concept of boredom; kinda like Magical Mystery Tour with no Beatles songs. But when I saw the band driving down the road in a classic Ferrari to Todd Rundgren’s “International Feel,” and the cinematography was gorgeous, and it was shot on real 35mm film, and everything about it harked back to the ’70s and the classic films of that period that I mentioned above, I knew I was in good hands.

In the real world, Daft Punk — Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo — are a band who dress up as robots. They put a great effort into making their robot incarnations ten times more common than their human ones. I remember it being rather hard to find non-robot pictures of them some years back. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there (at some times, I’ve been in this position) who want the band to take the helmets off and just be human, because the robotic exteriors with no trace of humanity freak these people out. (And some people dig it completely. But I don’t think it’s uncommon to go through an initial phase, however brief, of being weirded out.)

So in the movie, we have a bit of a reversal. Daft Punk are robots, and so is everyone else. The entire cast in the town where they live — and we may assume the whole world as well — wears Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo robot helmets. But our heroes — who wear leather jackets with the name “Daft Punk” on the back, which may or may not mean they are a dance-pop band in this reality — want to be humans. So they get some human faces plastered on. The faces are grotesque caricatures of human beings (some say they are caricatures of the band members’ actual faces, but I just don’t see it.) The town rejects our heroes, even forming a mob to drive them away. So our heroes are forced to give up the dream of trying to be human, and they walk out into the desert, because that’s what you do in this situation. And in the desert… well, I’ll leave some things for you to discover.

It’s a superb film. It gets a bit dull at times, sure, but it’s still beautiful. These guys set out to make an art film, and unlike some other bands (ESPECIALLY The Flaming Lips,) they actually knew what they were doing. Yes, for many people, the complete absence of Daft Punk’s music will be an insurmountable hurdle. The score for this film is the kind of music Daft Punk grew up with, and that they often return to for samples and/or inspiration. (I liked it. In particular, I appreciated hearing the demo version of Linda Perhacs’ “If You Were My Man.”) When you get Daft Punk, you assume you’re going to get their music as well. Many people will not be able to get past that. Then there is the fact that this is not a movie for a dance-pop audience; it’s a movie for a ’70s rock/thoughtful sci-fi audience. So a great deal of Daft Punk’s fan base is going to be doubly-alienated by this film. But those who are in tune with movies of this kind will not be disappointed. This was a superb movie.

Oh, one more thing. You know how to keep your protracted scenes of driving or walking through the desert from getting boring? Daft Punk knows; ADD SOME MUSIC! Gus Van Sant, Vincent Gallo, After Life director Hirokazu Kore-eda, take note. A variety of scenes frequently work better with music.

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