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Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem

(Virgin Records; US DVD: 24 Oct 2011)

The release on Blu-Ray of Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto’s 2003 animated musical Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem comes to us at a bit of a random time: only eight years following the original DVD release, and only a few short months after the release of Tron: Legacy, which they scored. It’s not an anniversary of the film, nor are the band in need of maintaining relevance: they did that with the success and publicity push of their Tron soundtrack.


Yes, it’s ten years after the release of Discovery, which serves as the inspiration and the score for Interstella 5555, but who cares about a ten year anniversary? Your tenth high school reunion is just another excuse to get drunk with your friends, and your tenth wedding anniversary is simply a moment for the thousands of couples who have been married for decades longer than you to look down and say, “I remember when we were young, too.” It would seem that the release on Blu-Ray is simply because Daft Punk want to provide better video and sound quality to their worldwide fans. 


For that, we must say, “Thank you.”


Unfortunately, the potential of Blu-Ray is not captured to its fullest. The animation quality is not much better than that of the original DVD. It’s crisp but doesn’t jump off the screen like it should. Thankfully, the music and the animation alone are enough to carry this one.


As Daft Punk was creating the music for their now legendary album Discovery, they had another idea: to pair the music with an animated movie. After finishing the album and the story, they flew to Tokyo and met with Leiji Matsumoto, a childhood hero of theirs and one of the most influential artists in Japanese animation. Apparently, the combination of their music and the storyline struck a chord with Matsumoto, and he began creating the animation right away.


As soon as the first drawings were seen, it was clear that the combination was a strong one. Although the music stands on its own, it’s only made stronger by the animation – the weaker songs are now integral parts of the story laced with emotional moments, and the standout songs are now climactic chapters. Meanwhile, the lack of dialogue throughout the film (the only soundtrack to Interstella is the original tracking of the album) requires that you watch each and every action of the characters if you want to follow the plot to its fullest.


Luckily, Matsumoto has mastered the art of conveying emotion and human connection through his animation. The music and the storyline build off of and rely on each other to the point that, after seeing Interstella 5555, you may never be able to disconnect the two again.


The story itself follows the plight of an alien rock band, The Crescendolls. They are kidnapped from their home planet, costumed as humans, and paraded on Earth for the financial gain of the captor. You might think Daft Punk beyond the guise of attacking big business, and you may be correct – what lasts of this story is just that, the story. The Crescendolls, who danced happily and partied on stage on their home planet during the opening sequence of “One More Time”, show only the saddest of emotion during their time on Earth. They play their instruments for adoring fans as if they are just going through the motions. The drawn out close ups on the eyes and mouths of the players prove their resentment and their distaste.


As they move closer to finding an escape, hope and passion creep into their actions until finally they – oh, sorry, I won’t ruin the ending for you (even though you really should have seen this eight years ago). Even without dialogue, you can’t help but follow along. Watching the story complemented by the crescendos and decrescendos of the music gives pause to how emotionally effective music can be, but also how important a simple glance is to understanding human feeling.

Rating:

Jonathan Kosakow has been a regular contributor for PopMatters since 2009, and became Associate Events Editor two years later. He contributes to Glide Magazine's Hidden Track blog (www.hiddentrackblog.com), both on his own and as a member of the editorial collective Three Grown Men. His writing has also appeared on Relix.com and Jambands.com, but most of it can be found on the floor of his apartment or stashed away in files on his computer. Jonathan recently earned his Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Denver, and does his best to be an active member of the music and writing community in the Denver/Boulder area. He is the Director of Operations at the Boulder-based company Eco Vessel, and is the co-founder of the music-related website NoiseReport.net, and the beer-related blog beermadeclear.com, both currently in production.


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