"It's in the 'Sci-Fi Week'?"
- "Yeah, what's wrong with that?"
"It... it's NOT *just* any sci-fi!... It's SKILL-fi!"
So began the bizarre exchange between myself an Al on the phone only a matter of hours ago regarding me doing this review.
Hello, my name is Barry J Morgan, and I think... nah, I *know* this film is perfect. I feel almost offended that it's preceded by two mindless pieces of money-makers by Roland Emerich (Independence Day and Stargate), but I shall let it go, because the tales Al has told me about his quest to get Interstella in the schedual makes me feel for him, in that cozy, squiggly way. But that doesn't change that I still think this should be the double showing on the Sunday!
Released May 2003 and advertised as an "animated house musical", I'd say that's a pretty close description ("dance" would be closer). Here's the briefest rundown I can give: Daft Punk worked with famous Japanese animator and designer Leiji Matsumoto and director to create a series of four music videos for the first four tracks on 2001's 'Discovery' album. These animated shorts about the abduction of an alien rock band by a greedy Earth dwelling record label boss to the likes of toe-tapping 'One More Time' and the electro-dreamy 'Digital Love' told a seamless story through all four installments, and did it very well, but ends abruptly with no resolutions... until they made the rest of the album to match that is! All fourteen tracks now finish off the story now overseen by Kazuhisa Takenouchi, and still have some genuinely emotional scenes, beautiful imagery, personal sacrifice, some unexpected humour, and to get a little deeper, consumerism, the divinity of mankind, racial tolerance... and itfs all done without a word spoken from anyone to anyone else. Interstella 5555 is entirely dialogue free, save for the lyrics in some of the tracks (which are impressively relevant to the scenes they appear in) and a short and cryptic introduction from Matsumoto, and is an absolute feat of animation. Your average Disney or Pixar digital blockbuster movie are for everyone to enjoy, and are just that: average. Interstella takes traditional cel animation and does nothing special to it except create a totally universal experience of music and space travel that *anyone* can enjoy.
I'll admit to a little bias here; Digital Love is one of my favourite songs of its genre, and I love Matsumoto's work in general, but I honestly wasn't expecting this film to exceed my expectations when I first saw it at the Leeds Film Festival in October 2003. Suffice to say when it was over my expectations were still at the starting line and Interstella was on a lap of honour. This film gets 17 out of 10, twelve stars, and deserves an Academy Award (it's not nominated for one, and there are only three others to choose between! The injustice!). Interstella has been almost ignored by mainstream cinema the world over, which is odd considering this is one of the most internationally-friendly pieces of animation I've ever seen, so I implore you, you owe it to yourselves, to an aging genius in Japan, to two French nutters in robot suits (who manage to make a cameo appearance), and to the lengths that Al went to get the reel from the distributor. I prescribe a pint beforehand to loosen the mood, and positively encourage dancing in the aisles. This is without doubt in my top five movies of any kind of all time, has perfect opening and ending sequences with the best possible filling between them, and made me beam with satisfaction. This is a feel-good film beyond all else, and the actions of some of its artificial cast are among the noblest deeds ever burnt to 70mm film.
Please go and see it, I guarantee you that even if you aren't a massive fan of dance music or anime and I still haven't convinced you, you'll never have seen anything quite like this before.
Barry J Morgan
PS. If you want to know about more of Matsumoto's work (in which case I'm hoping you're reading this again after the showing and are returning here to check this list I'm about to give!), I'd recommend researching the following: 'The Cockpit' (feature film), 'Uchuu Senkan Yamato' (Star Blazers in the west), 'Captain Harlock' (called Captain Herlock in the US for some reason) and 'Ginga Tetsudo 999' (Galaxy Express 999) will get you started. Interstella 5555 is also now available on DVD from your favourite online retailer.
PPS. Writing nothing but happy thoughts about one of your favourite things ever feels fantastic! I recommend doing this! I don't care that I've waffled on for 800 words, it was great fun! And yes Batman, this film is worthy of 'Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude!' status!
There we go! I feel great now!
Rotten Tomatoes Score:
These pages copyright Union Films, 2001-2022. All views expressed in these pages are those of Union Films, and are not necessarily those of the University Of Southampton, or the Students' Union. All logos and trademarks are property of their respective organisations.