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Nik Huggins

Published October 24th, 2003 | by Nik Huggins

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem Review

Classification: U Director: Kazuhisha Takenouchi Rating: 3/5

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is the result of a fascinating meeting of minds and merging of cultures. French techno prophets Daft Punk and veteran Japanese animator Leiji Matsumoto have synchronised their sounds and images to produce what can only be described as an animated pop opera.

Fusing a science fiction setting with a loosely conceived narrative about the music industry, Interstella 5555, in the absence of dialogue or effects outside of the music, keeps the story simple. Four musicians from another galaxy, high on spandex and big blue hair, are kidnapped mid-verse by an evil record company boss from Earth. Taking away their alien instruments and fashion accoutrements and transforming them into something resembling a band from Terra Firma they are peddled around the world and quickly become the biggest big thing ever. With the soothing sound of the warbled “One More Time” vocal playing all around the world the band slowly become aware of their predicament and set out to bring the maniacal fat cat down.

The integration of sound and image in Interstella 5555 is terrific. The proto-Anime design style is less hard-edged than a lot of contemporary Japanese animation. Instead we witness a gentler, more retro-styled aesthetic that looks back to the Japanese cartoons of the seventies and eighties that I grew up watching with wonder and awe, centimetres from the TV screen on a Saturday morning; memories of “Battle for the Planets” or “Ulysses 31” will happily come flooding back. This ensures the film will have the required cache with the same group of twenty something’s that bought the album when it was released. The characters glide across the painted pastel screen-wash of purples and turquoises, all flowing manes and platinum teeth. The look of the film more than suits the heavy disco-funk feel of the music. The composition is extremely cinematic, cutting briskly and smoothly between sequences demarcated by the track list, which plays in the order found on Daft Punk’s last album Discovery.

Despite a veiled satirical element in the form of the cruel record boss manipulating the music, most of the pleasure derived from viewing Interstella 5555 remains on the surface, any residual elements of a plot soon fade out leaving a self-consciously corny slice of sunshine. It seems strange that it has taken so long to be released considering the album came out three years ago. This might harm its popularity, but not it’s appeal.

Fun and funky, Interstella 5555 is a nostalgic novelty item which melts away quickly in the mind but proves so enjoyable to watch. A fleeting 67 minutes of colour and shine that washes in and out of the brain like a purple and turquoise tidal wave.

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