I’ve been a fan of the French duo; Air (Nicholas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel) since hearing ‘La Femme d’Argent’ from their groundbreaking debut, Moon Safari (1998). Air purveys tranquil, cinematic landscapes fusing spatial electro-chill-pop with influences from predecessors like the iconic French crooner; Serge Gainsbourg, synth-Roi; Jean Michel Jarre, with pinches of German minimalists; Kraftwerk. This meld of past and future has become the staple on albums like the stunning Talkie Walkie, Pocket Symphony, and what I consider the duo’s masterpiece – the experimental, complex, and quasi-conceptual – 10,000 Hz Legend.
Air’s atmospheric grooves have garnered them numerous collaborations, playing/writing the music for the breathy and seductive 5:55 by Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of Serge), and soundtrack work for director Sophia Coppolla on films: The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and Lost in Translation. So, when I first heard the French duo was writing the music for the restored color-version of Georges Méliès’ silent film, and first Sci-Fi film ever; Le Voyage a Dans la Lune (A Voyage to the Moon)(1902), it made perfect sense – bringing the band’s discography full-circle (if only from a lunar-expedition angle)
I saw the original black and white (orchestrated by a Russian chamber group) version in a film class in college, and have since watched snippets of the Air/Méliès color version on youtube, like the tinny-sounding clip below, but quickly surfed away. There are full versions of newly vamped Le Voyage available out there on the interwebs as well – ripped copies of the DVD that comes with the soundtrack – but after watching a few seconds of distorted, pixelated digitization, I again, clicked off. Call me a purist (read: snooty pants) but I will wait, pay $5 and see the original film in a theater with Dolby surround sound, not a downloaded i-pod converted version
My refrain comes out of respect for the decade it took archivist – Serge Bromberg – to refurbish the color version after a French film society found the reel in complete shambles in 1993. Bromberg hand painted over the tinted, decaying film frame-by-frame for ten years, the same amount of time it took James Cameron to remake the Fern Gully/Pocahantas mash-up, Avatar, with CGI and other computer technologies. Avatar is three hours long, but Voyage is from 1902, and had to be painstakingly restored, the subject matter of the documentary The Extraordinary Voyage.
A quick historical timeline of events Le Voyage a dans la Lune preceded for perspective:
- 1903 – The Wright Brother first flight with Wright Flyer 1. Lasted only 12 seconds, but passengers still received a complimentary meal
- 1904 – Vampire Dick Clark was born in Times Square, on New Year’s Eve
- 1906 – San Francisco earthquake. First predicted by the Mayans before they (scientist people) discovered the original translation for the wavy symbols ‘earthquake’ was actually graffiti of savory bacon strips.
A Voyage to the Moon will be showing with The Extraordinary Voyage at the Wexner Center in Columbus on April 18th. $5 for OSU students/members/seniors, $7 for general public. Below is a listing of other cities/dates including: L.A., D.C., Chicago, Philly, and Nashville (it’s a snapshot, so you can’t click on the links). The soundtrack has been out since February, and can be purchased from the band here. Apologies to those who actually googled Dick Clark’s birthday. – Mike