Air – Le Voyage dans la Lune
110 years after its technically astonishing animation and prescient sci-fi narrative captured the public’s imagination, Georges Meliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon – the film’s title covers the main plot twists fairly succinctly) is being restored in full colour for theatrical re-release and a film festival victory lap.
Air, the veteran French electronic outfit, now in its second decade of existence, has contributed an original score in tandem with the re-issue, and it is an irreverent, fun and occasionally beautiful soundtrack to an already classic piece of cinema.
Already acknowledged as a huge cultural influence on media as diverse as the Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight Tonight video and, more recently, Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated film Hugo, the fifteen-minute short has been used by the duo here as inspiration for a space-age collection of incidental music (Décollage is a heart-stopping two minutes of fluctuating piano arpeggios and distant timpani, dramatically echoing the protagonists’ exhilaration and confusion) and fully-fledged songs – most notably the opulent Seven Stars, guest-starring Victoria Legrand of Beach House, which proves to be the set’s most arresting four minutes.
Air’s previous experience scoring films, by Sofia Coppola among others, serves them well here, and the lush instrumentation is extremely evocative when coupled with Meliès’ absorbing animation.
Behind Air’s unflappable air of Gallic cool, there has always been a hint of unabashed, goofy fun – witness early single Kelly Watch The Stars table tennis-themed video, or their 2002 remix album entitled Everybody Hertz – and this is given full reign here. The net result can be roughly described as The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour meets Holst’s The Planets – a brief, unhinged detour from the band’s increasingly serious main discography into uncharted celestial territory, where mellotrons, theremins and found-sound collages roam free.
It is perhaps a trifle short at 31 minutes in length, but it stands up surprisingly well against Air’s previous work, and even without the context of the film it is supposed to complement, Le Voyage dans la Lune offers an intriguing glimpse into the duo’s creative process.
Listen to Seven Stars (ft. Victoria Legrand) here