“I’ve got zees great idea for un film,” said Thomas Bangalter to band mate Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo as he dropped the fourth and final hit of acid. “Our ’ero, in a flying guitar will attempt to rezcue un intergalactic band, ’oo have been kidnapped by a hrrrogue managaire and taken to Earth.”
“Oui, oui,” replied Monsieur Homem-Christo, tipping the bottle back to see if there was any more absinthe. “Oui can provide the soundtrack, but it must be an – ’ow you say? – animé film!”
If you’ve seen the music video for Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’, you’ll be familiar with the character designs of Leiji Matsumoto and the milieu of Interstellar 5555. It’s a wonderful world of alien raves, a pastel place where the Wyld Stallyns’ vision of musical and social harmony has been realized, that is, until some evil ninjas kidnap the galaxy’s greatest band and bring them back to Earth via a portal behind the dark side of the moon. Our hapless heroes are then brainwashed, given more human appearances, and made to perform like seals as the quartet the Crescendolls, who skyrocket to the top of the charts. Only Shep, their greatest fan (the guy with the spaceship shaped like a Gibson Flying V), can save them now!
Matsumoto pioneered manga comics and animation, and has been at its leading edge for over three decades now. Daft Punk have established commercial success and critical acclaim with their albums Homework and Discovery. All the people on this project are pretty damn good at what they do, so it’s a bit of a disappointment that their powers combined don’t make this the Voltron of animated musicals.
Lesson one: don’t let musicians write the story. The whole idea is mad enough to work in a musical, but the plot didn’t make much sense at all – especially the bits they really tried hard to explain, such as the pillar of golden records inside a volcano, surrounded by monks. The one-dimensionality of the film was not helped by the fact that there wasn’t any dialogue – the songs were entirely outside of the action, and thus couldn’t add much to the story.
Lesson two: be even. About half of Interstellar 5555 is set on Earth, and the animation and story while there don’t remotely compare to the awesome scenes in outer space and wormholes, or on alien soil. There were far too many terrible montage scenes explaining what was thrilling to watch the first time, and elements of the ending (mainly the ghosts) didn’t seem to fit with the story that had come before.
So Interstellar 5555 isn’t up there with Jesus Christ Superstar or even Tommy in the canon of musicals. Still, it really is unlike anything else in the solar system, and the soundtrack alone would make it worth seeing.
Directed by Kazuhisa Takenouchi
Japan/France, 2003 (World Cinema Showcase)
Paramount 9,14,15 April