TNB Night Owl–Daft Punk’s Electroma

DAFT PUNK’S ELECTROMA (2006) is a brilliant music video trapped in a feature film’s body. That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s not. Just that it’s a lot longer than it needed to be. A lot longer.

Daft Punk is a French electronica duo known for experimental performances. The duo perform and make most of their public appearances dressed as robots in motorcycle helmets. They became popular among the non-techno crowd when their song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” became an early viral video when performed using words written on hands:

ELECTROMA centers around two robots (credited as Hero Robot #1 and #2) who look exactly like the robot alter egos of the band members. They live in a society that looks like our suburbia, but populated by robots. They hope to become human one day. They even go so far as to get latex human “masks” put over their faces. It does not go nearly as well as planned. The other robots chase them out of town, the masks disintegrate, and the robots are faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of their “lives.”

The movie’s not nearly as simple as that sounds. First of all, there is no dialogue. It’s kind of a brilliant move–it can be played internationally without having to worry about translations or subtitles. There is a single word–HUMAN–written on the license plate of their car, but that’s it. The movie didn’t need spoken words, as it’s pretty clear what’s going on.

Another thing people may find surprising is that there’s no Daft Punk music anywhere in the film. There is music but by other artists. There was a rumor that you could play their album, “Human After All” and it would sync up perfectly, akin to “Dark Side of the Rainbow” which claims you can sync Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and THE WIZARD OF OZ. This has been denied by the band. Originally, the footage was supposed to be used for the title song on that album, but it was extended to a feature length because they had too many great shots and sequences that they didn’t want to let go to waste.

Which leads us to the movie’s biggest problem. It’s so much longer than it needs to be. The first nine minutes are of them driving through the desert. In the middle there’s fourteen minutes of them walking through the desert. There’s long shots of the desert. I’ve wondered if this is part of the act–seeing if they can get people to sit and watch them walk for what feels like an endless length of time. If so, it worked, because as dull as those sequences were, the times when things actually happen are fascinating enough to keep me watching.

I don’t want to say too much about the final twenty minutes, but those made the fourteen minute desert walk worth watching. I’ll admit, when I first saw this in the theater, I cried. It’s worth watching IF you can make it through massive amounts of navel gazing.

Question of the night–are robots a force for good, a force for evil, or something else?

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