How many of you have heard of Daft Punk?
What is Daft Punk and why would a 60-year old blogger know about them? And how and why would that blogger be among a crowd of 20-somethings last night at the New York premiere of their new feature film Electroma?
Until a year ago, I had no idea who or what Daft Punk was. That's when my son Michael, 26. who directs music videos in L.A. called to say he'd be in the California desert for a few days working on a feature film. But instead of being behind the camera, he would be a lead actor in a film by Daft Punk. A British punk band, I figured. But actually, I learned, they're a French music duo and their music isn't punk -- it's electronic new wave chill music. (I know. Huh?)
Daft Punk, it turns out, is Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. Since around 1997, they've been making music that mixes house music, disco and distorted vocals. They've sold 6 million records. They're pretty big in Europe, I'm told, and becoming an underground phenomenon here in the U.S. When they perform, they dress as robots.
Back to the California dessert... So my son was dressed as a robot in Electroma, Daft Punk's feature film about two robots in a robot world who try to become human but fail. He spent days filming, in a hot costume in the desert heat. He was even set on fire for the final scene. He had the good sense not to tell me and my wife about that scene until after it was safely completed.
That's Michael on the right...
Daft Punk flew Michael to Paris for the film's screening at the Cannes Film Festival, where he said he partied on Samuel L. Jackson's yacht and was hounded by paparazzi who were actually after the girlfriend of one of the Daft Punk guys -- she's evidently a hot French actress celeb.
The film got picked up for the Scion (the car) music/art/film series, and Michael is now going to premiere showings of Electroma is several cities, where he does a Q&A with the audience following the screening. He made us proud, the way he handled the audience of about 300 with poise and humor. And I did like the film, although I warn you it's definitely not for mainstream audiences, with endlessly long shots and slow action. (There's a scene of the robots walking in the desert sun -- just them walking -- that must run 4 or 5 minutes.) You won't see this in the multiplex at your local mall. It'll be on pay-per-view next year.
Someone last night likened the film to the way people (in my generation) used to watch The Beatles' Yellow Submarine film 35 years ago: chill, maybe have a few puffs and let the film transport you to another place. That's probably the idea behind Electroma. Even without puffing, the film lulls you into another state, with the long shots, no spoken dialogue, and a variety of music that gently slips in and out.
As a p.r. person who's done many special events, I was at first surprised by the extreme low-key approach taken by the sponsor. There were no blaring Scion banners on-site. On the front door of the theater was a hand-scrawled sign announcing the Scion event. Scion was mentioned casually at the start and end of the program, and my son told everyone to buy a Scion on their way out. (His sense of humor. I know he wasn't asked to mention the sponsor.) In the lobby area, along with tons of other flyers, were copies of a very low-tech looking newsletter called The Skinny, with a small Scion logo on it. No slick ads for Scion it it, although there was a small article about a rally the southern California Scion Owners Club had in the fall.
My first reaction was -- the sponsor certainly underplayed this. But as I think about it, it may be a brilliant bit of marketing. Scion is evidently trying to reach hip twenty-somethings who might ignore or rebel against blatant in-your-face promotion. Glitzy sponsorship might not have played well to this crowd in this setting.
So much for my visit to the world of robots, house music, 20-somethings and low-key promotions. It was fun.