Moon tripping with AIR’s Jean-Benoît Dunckel
From Clash, January 2012.
Widely considered to be the first ever science fiction film upon its release in 1902, Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip To The Moon) was a groundbreaking moment in the creation of cinematic special effects. Charting the tale of six astronomers who fly to the moon and find themselves confronted by an alien life-form, the only known hand-coloured print of the film to be in existence was discovered in a state of near total decomposition back in 1993. Manually restored over many years, it was finally completed last year after further work at the Technicolor Lab of Los Angeles.
The film’s producers subsequently approached AIR – no strangers to film scores after their work on The Virgin Suicides and with established flirtations with intergalactic concepts – to create a brand new score for their recoloured and restored fourteen-minute movie.
“It was an opportunity for us to do something really special and unique,” says AIR’s Jean-Benoît Dunckel. “This movie is really well known all over the world and it’s a symbol for the world of cinema, for moviemakers. We knew also that the colouring of the movie would make a new masterpiece. It’s very Tim Burton, it’s very stylish.”
Given just twenty-eight days to complete the score ahead of last summer’s premiere at Cannes, AIR combined songs that they had been working on prior together with music written specifically to soundtrack Méliès’ fantastical imagery. “It had to go in several directions with slow beats, sometimes some up-tempo tracks with crazy solos, delays and these kinds of things,” explains Dunckel, crediting Paris’ artistic activity of the time as an inspiration. “We wanted to do something very surrealistic, very psychedelic… a bit like Sgt. Pepper.”
People at the premiere “were in shock, but they liked it a lot,” he continues. Not that everyone felt that way. Shortly after the screening, Dunckel overheard some people complaining that the music should’ve reflected the sounds of the film’s era. “It’s better to shock people, to create something really new and shocking, rather than doing something conformist,” he states with intense self-belief.
Unable to perform a live score to accompany screenings of the film due to rights issues, AIR will be releasing an extended version of the soundtrack as the album Le Voyage dans la Lune. A limited edition version of the album (restricted to 70,000 copies globally) will add a DVD of the movie.