Daft Punk
by Kevin J. Elliott

Thomas Bangalter, one half of French disco progenitors Daft Punk has said that the duo’s feature film debut, Electroma, is a “movie that does not require your brain to function.” The same can be said for nearly everything he and Guy-Maneul de Homem-Christo have created: highly-functional, extra-sensory art that continually ascribes a forward-thinking tunnel-vision. The group has never limited their aesthetic to wax; since day one they have appended each record with videos that double as short features (most notably the animated Interstella 5555 which accompanied Discovery) and toured live shows that verged on religious experience. Even as Kanye West co-opts their likenesses for his own cache, the patented android suits in which the musicians hide themselves have yet to wear thin. After multiple viewings of Electroma it’s apparent that their brave step into full-fledged cinema contains enough stimuli to erase any uncertainty that came with the lukewarm response to their last album, Human After All.

Electroma was originally intended to be a series of videos for Human After All, but soon the concept for the film took over and any connection to the music was abandoned. Most striking is the complete absence of the duo’s laser-guided dance pop. Instead the soundtrack is composed of artists as disparate as Todd Rundgren and Curtis Mayfield, Brian Eno and Jackson C. Frank, which while perfectly matching the wide expanse and melancholy of the mood, also acts as Daft Punk’s track-by-track homage to their influences. Admittedly, the visuals employed have the same effect. Shot mostly in the Southern California desert, each striking frame of Electroma owes heavily to directors like Kubrick and Jodorowsky, particularly the panoramic scope of the former and the grotesque mis-en-scene of the latter. Likewise, the lack of dialogue and heavy-duty apocalyptic theme nods to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or the long stretches of highway and vivid color, to any number of ‘70s journeyman pics.

However, Electroma does take some endurance. The flimsy plot is little more than the two robots drifting through landscape, cruising in a Ferrari searching for some fragment of humankind. There are hypnotic chasms of silent space between bizarre scenes involving melting flesh, optical illusions and suburbanites equipped with similar heads. Without giving much away, by the finale, despite numbing and challenging moments of midnight special nonsense, Electroma is sealed with a deft craft that emits real human emotion from its protagonists. Though the narrative is essentially flawed, stylistically it will have few peers in an era with few renaissance men of Daft Punk’s stature.