Interstella 5555: The Story Of The Secret System -

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  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: D
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: EMI
  • MSRP: 19.95
  • Running time: 65
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Interstella 5555: The Story Of The Secret System

Interstella 5555: The Story Of The Secret System

By Chris Beveridge     December 30, 2003
Release Date: December 02, 2003

Interstella 5555: The Story Of The Secret System

What They Say
Daft Punk is the electronic group which has taken techno out of the clubs and given it to the masses across the planet. After their �Homework� album achieved sale of over 2 million, and having been acclaimed as much by fellow musicians as by their record buying public, the duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo, have proved that there are no rules when it comes to success in the music industry. Daft Punk settled on a different method of attack: remaining anonymous or becoming androids, and writing songs that captured the spirit of the moment and blasting their way through the traditional boundaries separating House, Disco, Funk, simultaneously making a series of radical and groundbreaking videos with a raft of leading young directors (Spike Jonze, Michael Gondry, Roman Coppola, Seb Janiak) or directing one of the video (Fresh) starring Spike Jonze among others, and extravagantly staged live shows that held nothing back in terms of spectacle. Aln 1999, Daft Punk released their next album entitled �Discovery� which produced the hit single �One More Time� selling more than 5000,000 here in the US. Testament to their constant need to push back the boundaries, Daft Punk then approached Leiji Matsumoto, one of the living gods of Japanese animation, to collaborate on their next audio-visual adventure: Interstella 5555: the 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5system: an animated musical film like you�ve never seen before.

The Review!
Combine Daft Punk music with Matsumoto visuals for just over an hour and you get something surprisingly amazing.

A good mix of audio is included with this release, with two 5.1 tracks and a stereo mix for those who don�t like downcoverted versions. For our primary viewing session, we opted for the DTS 5.1 mix and ended up being very glad we recently added a subwoofer to our setup. While the music is heavily geared towards the forward soundstage, there�s a substantial amount of audio being directed to the rears in both the music and other sound effects. The bass level alone was fantastic and we had this cranked up higher than anything else we�ve played on the setup in recent memory.

Presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, this is a nearly flawless looking transfer. The colors are lush and vibrant, using a full wide range of shades available from the digital painting application. Backgrounds are solid throughout, particularly the usually troublesome dark black and blue space sequences. While cross coloration is absent from the print, there are a few scenes where some aliasing creeps in due to the digital panning. Since the show is only an hour long, it doesn�t use an immense amount of space and simply looks gorgeous across the board.

Done heavily in black with something of a theatrical poster style center image containing the guitar symbol used in the film, the front cover is pretty 70�s retro in its design and feel. Below the poster is the logo and a strip of headshots of the lead characters to the show. The back cover provides more small shots from the show itself and a brief dual language summary of the premise. The discs features are also listed in both English and French and there�s a good listing of the discs technical features. The included booklet starts off with a bigger shot of the front cover poster and then goes into song credits as well as providing additional artwork from the show. The last page has a bilingual note from the group about the production also.

The menu layout on the top level is pretty nice, with a similar feel to the cover with the heavy black background and then white lined boxes that contain pieces of artwork, one large piece along the top and then small ones in the selection boxes. Navigating most of the menus is easily done except for the extras, which is all unlabeled. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load quickly, but the ball was seriously dropped with the extras.

As mentioned in the menus, the extras section is poorly laid out with numerous selection boxes along the bottom but none of them labeled. Some open up and you have no idea what to do in them. We skimmed through a few, which looks like a mix of storyboards, general character bios, trailers and some biography information. But with them as poorly labeled as they are, there was little incentive to go too deeply and explore them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when the first music videos started to appear with the Matsumoto artwork and the Daft Punk music, I was keen to see more of it as the mesh of the two really seemed to work in that really tiny video window I had on my desktop. Add in that it was just basic PC speakers and it wasn�t exactly the greatest audio/visual experience in the world, but there was just something captivating about it.

When I first put the disc in the player, it was simply to check it out and see how it looked and sounded. What ended up happening was that we got enthralled with the first half of it, but had to turn it off since it was bedtime for my two girls. Since we had this cranked up so loud and the bass is so strong, there was no way to watch it subdued. And with both girls (one and three) being so absolutely into this show, we had to watch it again with them. Watching a one year old truly dance to this music is fascinating � the child did not get their rhythm from me (obviously my other daughter did, she �dances like a white boy� is the best term for it right now). Our second viewing session of it proved just as entertaining, with both girls dancing away again for the first half, but then both settling down as it went on and simply becoming fascinated by the visuals as the story takes a darker turn.

One of the questions I got when asked about reviewing this was, how do you review a music video? With Interstella 5555, I think we have something much more than a music video. The best kinds of videos, heck, the best kind of entertainment, are the ones that work on multiple levels. To me and how I read the storyline, there are several ways to take the story and what�s trying to be said, both by the actual songs or the animation. Considering how closely that Daft Punk and Matsumoto worked together via their translator and how much Daft Punk indicated that Matsumoto �got it� right away, it�s easy to see the subtext.

The basic storyline as told through the animation with the music pulsating throughout nearly the entire sixty-five minutes is simple and almost harkens back to the short science fiction story format. Tell something with only a few details; let the viewer fill in the gaps. With no dialogue in this other than the songs, the viewer really has to make that leap. Starting with a concert taking place in a star system far away, we see four musicians performing their popular music with all manner of people dancing and moving to it. It�s not long though before the four find themselves being chased by men in black suits with red goggles, eventually being captured and sequestered away in a starship.

During their journey across space, they�re placed in stasis chambers and their memories downloaded to discs. Their skin is repainted from the blue to human pink and brown, new memories are loaded into them and they find their wardrobe changed from the funky 70�s orange style to something a bit more contemporary. Before you know it, they�re repackaged zombies of sorts, brought down to Earth by a white haired manager who turns them into a band called the CrescenDolls.

As their lives become given over to performing for the manager and their popularity soars with their first single, we flash back to the other side of the galaxy where a fan of theirs who has his own starship romanticizes over one of the band members, the beautiful Stella. Once he finds out about their capture, he follows the trail that leads him to Earth, where he hides amongst the dark alleys trying to cover up his alien nature while looking for the band members.

His journey to free them from the control of the manager leads to a number of exciting situations, such as the dramatic awakening of several of the members to the chase sequence as they escape. With most of the band members freed, they try to figure out what�s happened to them and how they can become themselves again, having seen a glimpse of who they used to be. There�s some dark secrets involved and the manager�s role as the one who brought them to Earth proves to be larger than life, but at the same time brings something powerful to it as we see how he�s weaved his works throughout mankinds history.

All in all, it�s a fun little tale told to really engaging music that (to me obviously) really gets you moving. Everyone I�ve shown this to all want to get up and start dancing and moving right away, it�s almost infectious.

What lets this be so much more, if you want to read that much into it, is what other things are being said through the visuals and music. From my perspective, I see it as a tale of how bands from other countries sometimes become �abducted� by powerful labels, usually brought to the US for the ultimate in stardom, and find themselves lost and not themselves anymore as they�ve been consigned to the control of the label itself. There�s cautionary tales about losing your identity to both fame and power of success. The entire sequence where the band is literally repackaged for consumption is the strongest aspect of that.

The animation for this takes a lot of Matsumoto�s strong points and really runs with them, from the alien worlds with the bright almost garish colors to the stark nature of parts of Earth cities, where you have the dark dank alleys right next to the heights of glitz and power. Matsumoto also balances this out nicely during one sequence where the group heads out into the country, and though it�s somewhat forced, it does provide a look at the rest of the country by saying, �look, it�s not all just that, this is all here too.� I�m just simply becoming a Matsumoto junkie and this is a great time to be one.

In Summary:
This is a release that simply will not be far from our home theater. It�s been played several times already as background while doing other things. The �house musical� works on several levels and each time I�ve sat down during parts of it I come away with some new little piece to it, a snippet of animation that catches my eye more and some detail I had missed before. This isn�t going to be for everyone, but the music has definitely captured me and the animation stirs me even more.

English Dolby Digital 5.1,English DTS 5.1,English Dolby Digital Stereo,Interactive Play,Character Files, Animation Editing of Digital Love,Interactive Game,Karaoke,Trailer,Biographyof Daft Punk,Biography of Leiji Matsumoto,"Hidden" Bonus

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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