FT Top 100 Films

SteveM says:

It’s the most ambitious pop cartoon since ‘Yellow Submarine’. But I5555’s appeal may have been dented by a two-and-a-half-year release gap between the ‘soundtrack’ (itself of course a stand-alone success full of acclaimed elect-i-ronic popcraft) and the actual film. ‘Discovery’ received mixed reviews at the time though, and the delayed promos received relatively minor rotation on the music video channels. When details of Daft Punk’s plans for an accompanying anime feature film directed by genre legend Leiji Matsumoto emerged, the reaction was split between a sense of joyful expectancy and a feeling that the plot had been well and truly lost.

In fact the plot was already there in ‘Discovery’ – the story conceived and mapped out in sound, simply awaiting the addition of the visual. This presented an interesting challenge to the makers, matching images with audio not the other way round. Potential banana skins were many: would Discovery be compromised musically by a fixed association with something as intangible as a then non-existent movie? Would a story ‘based on’ a mostly instrumental record make any sense? Fortunately Daft Punk’s profile, status, Gallic arrogance and supportive record company meant that I5555 wouldn’t be a career killer. If they’d survived the robot helmets they could handle some anime aliens.

When you see the film it’s difficult to not get that sense of a long-cherished dream having been realised, an epic project having been completed, an objective reached. You can feel the love basically. The attention to detail in replicating the quirkiness and eccentricity of 1970s Japanese animation (Gatchaman and so on) rather than opting for newer CGI-based techniques. The pleasant synchronicity of sound and vision. The emotional resonance of a timeless story of love, conflict, and escape. The quintessential calm/storm/calm dynamic being retold and played out before your eyes in this style, so comforting and familiar. Because you probably dreamed the same dream when you were young. YOU flew that guitar-shaped spacecraft. YOU danced with that cosmic girl in zero-g awe. YOU rocked full capacity stadia from here to another dimension. Then YOU woke up, grew up and got a job. To their eternal credit Thomas and Guy-Man didn’t.

Maybe there is no point in the film where you feel that you’re seeing something new (I’ve ALWAYS suspected that most top pop stars are in fact aliens). But then there is no point in the film where the sense of celebratory, euphoric, childhood nostalgia becomes a problem. Even if you don’t like the music THAT much or find the whole thing self-indlugent and trite, you’d need a heart of stone to not find certain scenes a treat (especially the end scene). And you will surely end up admiring the charm and audacity of a duo bold enough to carry out their plans with such good-natured conviction, while still keeping an admirable mystique.

Pete Baran is back from holiday but, y’know, it’s his birthday today, he deserves a day off…