Daft Punk At The Movies - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Daft Punk At The Movies

Chris Morley takes a whistle-stop trip around the world of Daft Punk's various contributions to film.
As they've now decommissioned themselves and split up as of last week, what better time to take a look at Daft Punk's work on celluloid - stretching as far back as their second album Discovery which was actually intended as a soundtrack to a specially commissioned animé project, Interstella 555 by Toei Animation.

This period also marked the introduction of the now-famous robot costumes donned by the duo of Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo during live performances, a decision which Bangalter explained to Capital Radio as being about preserving anonymity....
"One thing I like about the masks is that I don't have people constantly coming up to me and reminding me what I do. It's nice to be able to forget."
De Homem-Christo would add that it was all good for show.
"We're not performers, we're not models, it would not be enjoyable for humanity to see our features. But the robots are exciting to people."
The robots would also help shape Electroma, the 2006 film co-written & directed by Daft Punk themselves which received its première at that year's Cannes Festival, as Hero Robots Number One & Two respectively. Based on the duo's stage appearances, they embark upon a quest to become human, helpfully reinforced thanks to a HUMAN numberplate on the Ferrari they drive into California. Where it turns out everyone else is a robot, too!

Just to be different, presumably, our two human-aspiring heroes actually find a means to become flesh & blood in a roundabout manner and end up looking exactly like the real Bangalter & De Homem-Christo. Human after all, you might say? As you might expect, the creative process wasn't all that different for them from the day job.
“We were not nervous – making a full-length movie was like a dream. We never planned for it to happen, but after we directed the videos for our last album we decided to keep on working. We were in the shooting dynamic, so the movie came naturally. We didn't think too much. Whether it's making music or directing a video, whatever we do we do it quickly. When we have a good work dynamic, we don't need to ask too many questions of each other.”
Indeed, they've been behind the camera for several of their own music videos; Fresh, Robot Rock (the song itself built around a sample from Breakwater's Release The Beast) and Technologic are all their original concepts.
“Create without any rules or standards. Take a free approach to something new that you don't really know, and that you learn from scratch."
So said Bangalter, while promoting Electroma.

Evidently, they had some decent enough teachers; Spike Jonze's on Da Funk and Michel Gondry directed the Around The World video, the latter being one of their earliest & indeed probably still one of their best remembered efforts (the title phrase is heard 80 times in the radio edit & a whopping 144 in the album version on Homework!).

Musically speaking, Around The World itself was described by its creators as “like making a Chic record with a talk-box and just playing the bass on the synthesizer" and for his part, Gondry didn't mess with simplicity.
"I realized how genius and simple the music was. Only five different instruments, with very few patterns, each to create numerous possibilities of figures. Always using the repetition, and stopping just before it's too much."
Gondry also pointed out a similarity in bassline with Good Times, another Chic hit. Little did he or indeed Daft Punk themselves know that later in their career they'd actually get chance to work with no less than Nile Rogers himself after just so happening to get lucky after years of trying to make a collaboration happen. It turned out the admiration was mutual, with Rogers stating his appearances across Random Access Memories were the culmination of "something we've talked about for a long time. We've respected each other endlessly."

And so it is that he pops up on Get Lucky, Give Life Back To Music & Lose Yourself To Dance. The whole thing perhaps ironically intended as an attempt by the robot-suited duo to bring back a little humanity to the recording process...
“The idea was really having this desire for live drums, as well as questioning, really, why and what is the magic in samples? It occurred to us it’s probably a collection of so many different parameters; of amazing performances, the studio, the place it was recorded, the performers, the craft, the hardware, recording engineers, mixing engineers, the whole production process of these records that took a lot of effort and time to make back then. “
Three years earlier they'd been sought out by Disney to craft the score for Tron: Legacy which allowed them to add an orchestra alongside the more electronic elements, an approach which arranger/ orchestrator Joseph Trapanese saw no problem with.
“It seems complicated at the end of the day, but it’s actually quite simple. I was locked in a room with robots for almost two years and it was simply a lot of hard work. We were just together working throughout the whole process and there was never a point where the orchestra was not in their minds and the electronics were not in my mind. It was a continual translation between the two worlds and hopefully we put something together that will be something different because of that.”

For Guy at least, the memory of the original film was quite the pull.
"Maybe I only saw [Tron] two or three times in my entire life, but the feel of it is strong even now, that I think the imprint of the first film will not be erased by the new one. It has a real visionary quality to it."
Maybe it was a similar principle which led to the soundtrack in itself getting a remix album just a year after its own original release, with Tron: Legacy Reconfigured serving as a companion piece to Daft Punk's own original work, and as their penultimate full length release prior to the news that shocked fans around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world.

To Thomas & Guy we say - rust in peace.

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