Christina Aguilera's new movie, 'Burlesque,' continues a long…
- Posted on Feb 9th 2012 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
The original movie screened in both black and white and color, but for decades, the latter version was thought lost to the ages. Then, in 1993, a collector in Barcelona unearthed what may be the last surviving color reel. Thus began an intense restoration process, and as experts retouched each hand-painted frame and readied the film for public viewing, they enlisted the French electronic pop duo AIR to write a new score. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel
only had about a month to finish the project, but they worked quickly, creating sounds consistent with their darker reading of the film.
In an interview with Spinner, Dunckel chatted about the soundtrack and how it blossomed into AIR's new album, 'Le Voyage Dans la Lune.' They also explained why, given the state of the music business, such mixed-media projects are bound to become more common.
You were familiar with the film before starting work on the project, right?
Dunckel: We knew it. But I only remembered the part with the rocket ship hitting the eye of the moon. I didn't know about the other movies of Georges Méliès.
You've said that you aimed to bring out some of the darkness in the film rather than play on the comedic aspects. Was that the plan from the get-go?
Dunckel: We felt the film was so amusing, so funny. It's impossible to do music to make people laugh. We are not able to do that. We had no choice. I think we wanted to insist on some other sides of the movie. One of the sides was the psychedelic aspect. Another side was the sad aspect, because the moon feels pain. And the man arrives and starts a war, so it's really bad. But we wanted to avoid the comedy aspect. It was out of the picture.
Godin: [The filmmakers] were into the comedy mode. They were into fairies and dreams but more like in a fun way. With some distance, we know the vision of the moon is much more mysterious and science fiction and suspense and everything, so we wanted to add that touch to the movie. If we're going to do music, we're going to do our own vision of going to the moon. Otherwise, what's the point?
Do you think the director intended us to root for the earthlings, who return home having triumphed over the moon men, or is there some kind of anti-colonial message there?
Dunckel: It's a glorious moment. It's horrible, but there's no problem for them. They have created pain to the moon. They've killed aliens. They have one alien -- they come back with him. They show him. They make him dance. They torture him. In France, it's always coming back in the press, this dark colonial past, because we have a strong black community and Africans and people coming from these countries. The French had this colonial attitude until the 1960s, and it's a very delicate subject to speak about. The president of France has to make excuses to these locations and say "I'm sorry" for what France did. And it's true, we arrived, and we just put people into slavery.
Lobster Films-Fondation Groupama Gan-Fond
Dunckel: Napoleon has been pretty bad. When he came back, he put back slavery. It's really hard to see that in the movie. When the rocket is going into the sky, you have this character with a sword and a military outfit, and he's there, and he's commanding to go. Everything was military. You can see what will follow. All this patriotic attitude -- "I'm going to fight for our country; we're going to fight and kill each other." That's what happened in 1914.
For no reason at all.
Dunckel: For no reason at all. You don't gain any territory at all. It's just meat and steel together, fused, and for nothing.
At what point did you realize you were going to expand the soundtrack into a full album?
Dunckel: From the beginning, because we had some tracks before. An album, when you think about it, is a slice of a band's life. It's the most important thing you've done for the past two years, and the Georges Méliès movie was the most important thing we'd done. It was the strongest imagery, the strongest emotions that we had.
Why do you think they picked you for this project? Obviously, you're one of the biggest bands to have come out of France, and your sound has this airiness ...
Dunckel: I think simply because they were our fans. We did [our 1998 debut] 'Moon Safari,' so we had a previous story with the moon. We'd done really moody music for the  soundtrack for 'The Virgin Suicides.' [Fellow French band] Phoenix -- in America, they're much more well known than us now, but it's a pop band. Maybe it's not the same case. It's well known all around the world and we are good for some soundtracks, and they liked this kind of thing.
Lobster Films-Fondation Groupama Gan-Fond
Dunckel: I think we are going to experiment more, musically. It's time to focus on new techniques in the studio. I think we are expecting something to happen. We're expecting someone to call and ask us something -- music for another film or a ballet or something else.