Living on Video
Somewhere in Nowheresville, possibly California, a sleek black sportscar hurtles along a desolate highway flanked by sand, tumbleweeds, and dusty mountains. The silver-helmeted, black-leather-clad drivers say nothing. They're on their way to find more of their kind, somewhere out there. But when they change — maybe evolve — their populace turns against them, driving them to final desperate acts. The two are actually robots, but their Ferrari's license plate reveals they're sort of human, after all.
Or something. Such is the loose plot of Electroma, the latest audiovisual odyssey by Daft Punk, a.k.a French electronic music duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo. They've banged up dance floors for house heads and hipsters since the Nineties via bleeping but straight-up soulful club hits like "Around the World," "One More Time," and "Technologic." And though these sweet, four-to-the-floor ditties can be enjoyed instinctively, Daft Punk's work has always hinted at greater themes and a larger aesthetic vision. Electroma is the pair's first major foray away from music. Clocking in at 74 minutes, and with something of a plot and a few identifiable characters, it's way beyond an artsy music video. In fact, weirdly, none of the music is actually by Daft Punk. Instead Bangalter and de Homem-Christo rounded up similarly brained musical mavericks, such as Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, and even Curtis Mayfield.
Okay, diehard Daft Punk fans will note that Electroma is not, technically, the pair's first film. The concisely titled D.A.F.T.: A Story about Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes was a collection of artsy videos for the duo's first album, Homework. Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were among the contributing directors.
The sophomore full-length, Discovery, was written as the soundtrack to the anime movie Interstella 5555, which Daft Punk wrote and produced with the help of "space opera" maestro Leiji Matsumoto. Part of this opus was the animated video for "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," the story of a royal space family reanimating for intergalactic travel. The film's 10-minute finale was actually a bit tragic: The space travelers meet their demise in a dark vacuum, but set to an upbeat, funky vocal house track. The work was a condensed audiovisual version of Daft Punk's romance with technological aftermaths, combined with the bittersweet nature of the ever-expanding future. Electroma promises to explore similar feelings, albeit in a more abstract manner.
Electroma debuted at this year's Cannes Film Festival and has already played in major European cities. But Miami, feel special: Saturday's screening is one of only six total on the official North American tour, and one of only two in the States (the other is in Los Angeles). See, we dig culture too. Especially if it's accompanied by a funky beat.
Electroma screens Friday, July 27, at Studio A, 60 NE 11th St., Miami. Doors open at 8:00 p.m., and the film begins at 9:00 sharp. All ages are welcome, and tickets cost six dollars. Call 305-358-7625, or visit www.studioamiami.com.
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