Interstella 5555 (2003)
"Always keen to push the boundaries of the video medium, highly influential electronic duo Daft Punk presents the album "Discovery" via this animated feature."
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. On the same page, if a person were to look at that same picture with some form of music playing in the background, they might find that not only are those words changing more freely, but also that the picture is starting to generate feelings within the viewer that might not be found otherwise. It is in this vein that the band Daft Punk decides to experiment, generating what some might consider a waste of time, and yet others will appreciate for long to come as a new spin on story telling, where the imaginative visuals combine with the music to form a whole new beast
Right off the bat, there are two things we need to get out of the way: If you don't like the pulsing, energetic beats of the house / electronic band Daft Punk, you aren't gonna have a good time. If you don't like animated films (in the old-school anime style, back when it was referred to as Japanimation), then chances are you won't have a good time. This movie, in its full extent, is a combination of those two things in heart and soul dichotomy. If you are inclined to say you "hate" (which is such a strong word) either, then it is my duty to at least warn you about what you might be trying to watch. That being said, I must also express my deep sympathies at how you are missing out on something that might as well be an experience from out of this world .
Dialogue-wise, you won't find any. The audio of this film is strictly limited (with the exception of a very few number of sound effects) to the soundtrack of Daft Punk's album Discovery , which contains such euphoric beats as Aerodynamic, One More Time, and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger . To me, this is a great thing - all the audio sounds superb , I don't need to worry about not being able to hear what characters say or worry about volume transitions between the score and the actors. Heck, I don't even have to list actors for the voices and horribly butcher peoples names! It helps, then, that I love that particular album as well.
Of course, it's not just a random slew of music videos slapped together either. The music drives the plot in a very literal sense, as well as a more theoretical sense in which the plot feels to also drive the music. If you don't have a decent imagination, you may find yourself becoming lost because of this, as without dialogue all thats left is the action on screen and the music - but I'd wager that by the end anyone watching should be able to have an extent of what was going on that allows you to enjoy the movie just fine.
Animation here is spot on to the fare of what we here in America would have received back in the 90's, akin to shows such as Captain Harlock . This isn't to say it's dated, as we have a very wide use of colors, and frame by frame transitions are quite fluid (one doesn't experience any strange stuttering during animations) and it feels very well polished. In fact, the only way one might find this feeling dated is due to the standard definition of the visuals, which scale considerably well all considering (having seen it on a 80-ish inch screen, I can assure you it was far, far away from being even moderately pixelated). Theres a certain charm that the animation brings with it as well, allowing for things far more imaginative than could be done at the time with live action films, and also allowing even younger children to enjoy the film as well (because what more does a young kid want then bright colors, good dancing music, and some animation blended together).
Now, the plot itself is pretty straight forward almost to a fault. Heck, if it wasn't for the expert delivery, it might even seem like a silly idea altogether, but with the fact the movie melds you with this world of fantasy it feels at home in the power of music. We open to a concert by the band of main characters (each of these main characters does have a name, assuming you watch the special features to find out) , and a very happy grooving city. All the fun is spoiled however when a spaceship comes in, and a series of soldiers infiltrates the city, shutting down power and knocking out the inhabitants (including the band) with a gas. From here, the devious culprit sets off on their escape, only to be followed by unnamed hero (unless you watched the special features, again) through a rift in space to a planet that happens to be none other than Earth! It is here (to the pulsing beat of HBFS that we watch the band get a cosmetic overhaul to blend in with the natives, brainwashed and erased memories, all to the villains plans!
Now, I'll put the rest of the plot behind a spoiler just to be safe, as I'm sure despite it's age some of you may have not seen it.
The band decides to go after the villain, whether for payback or out of sheer curiostiy is up to one's own perception, in the creepiest forest leading to the most sinister looking building imaginable. It is here that the band finds a book, the contents of which show that they are not the first aliens this has happened to, with the villains main goal being total universal domination!
It's interesting to note here that after all is resolved (and it is discovered that the band is aliens), humanity handles it very well, with some hints at the end that music very well could be the key to intergalactic peace.
Now, one of the most elaborate parts of this film is that without dialogue it leaves a very large amount up to the imagination - and this is where personal perception comes into play. The villainy of greed, the emotion of music, the power of love, and the wide expanse of comradery are all things that I myself picked up on or felt over the course of the film, but not necessarily something that everyone else will. Heck, some might say that I've got things wrong in some places, that maybe it's not the power of love but the drive of lust, or some such thing. Point is, it's possible that a lot of different things can be picked out of this movie, for a very wide variety of topics, all dependant on the viewer.
So should you watch it? Honestly, if you got past the first actual review paragraph, then you should probably take the time to check it out. It's a wonderful trip into the imagination, in so many way it might even shock you. I'd wager you might actually be hard pressed to find a better use of music in a movie, allowing it to not only be the audio focal point but also the driving force of the plot. As far as experiments go, I would label this one as a success, and certainly wouldn't mind watching it again. Oh yeah, did I mention that an animated version of Daft Punk themselves make an appearance in one scene?