Film Review: Daft Punk’s "Electroma"

Photo by David Greenwald (more here)

300 lucky people got to see Daft Punk’s Electroma two weeks ago at L.A.’s New Beverly Cinema. I say lucky because it was the first U.S. screening for the film written and directed by the cultishly popular dance music duo. I say lucky because so many people lined up around the block for this one-time midnight show that scores of them ended up being turned away. But it was pretty clear by the time the thing actually ended, accompanied by more than a few boos, that those lucky enough to get in thought of themselves as anything but.

I can’t go so far as to outright defend the film, because it does make several fatal mistakes. The biggest is that almost nothing happens in it – certainly not enough to justify its 74-minute runtime. The basic story could be whittled down to a four or five minute short (or even less, if your name is Guy Maddin) or, say, a one or two-page comic strip. But it’s not just that nothing happens plotwise. Like many a film nut, I’ve devoted entire pleasure centers in my brain to slow, boring art films with only a wisp of a plot to them. The second part of the problem is that not much is happening in all the parts between plot events, either. [Continue reading…]

Those plot events are (spoiler warning): the two robot members of Daft Punk, helmets and all (according to IMDb, they don’t actually play themselves), want to be human. So, in a very funny bit, they get fake synthetic human faces. Then the sun melts those faces off. They get shunned by their fellow townsrobots. The two wander the California desert for a long, long time, and then finally destroy themselves.

In between is absolutely no dialogue, no Daft Punk songs and a whole lot of walking and waiting. The pace is like an Antonioni film on barbiturates: it may be the most uneventful film I’ve ever seen. I would say that at least half the movie is watching these two robots walk around wordlessly – and not in any kind of rewarding “art film” way, a la Gus Van Sant or Bela Tarr (who are also prone to follow characters as they walk around, but usually do it in a thematically or aesthetically engaging way). When Electroma premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, there were famously a lot of walkouts, and the case wasn’t any different this time around.

Still, despite all of that, I wouldn’t dismiss Electroma entirely. A few visual tricks and gags are instantly memorable, and with a uniquely Daft Punkish kind of playfulness and humor. Though there aren’t any songs by the duo themselves, the music selection – Curtis Mayfield, Brian Eno and Jackson C. Frank, among others – is evocative and appropriate. It finally manages to yield some stirring moments as well. A week later and a half later, all the waiting and walking has compressed in my mind, and what’s stuck in addition to the fact that these might have been the longest 74 minutes of my life are those few great moments, threaded together by an uncompromising sensibility that, well, is pretty Daft Punk.

Daft Punk – “One More Time”: mp3


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