In 1902, French director Georges Méliès released what was, at that time, one of the finest spectacles ever committed to film. Le Vogage dans la Lune, a film occasionally labelled as the first film blockbuster, follows the science fiction vein of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as it tells the story of a handful of brave adventurers who visit and return from the moon, beset with the style and grace of the Belle Époque and the Victorian Era.
Fast forward an astounding 110 years, and after 11 years of mind-numbing restoration, a fully restored, hand coloured version of the film has been released – with the backing of an entirely new soundtrack composed by French electronica duo Air, spawning the first “album” from the band since 2009.
Weighing in at just over half and hour long with the addition of tracks not included in the film, the album is not the first foray into film scores for Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel. Air’s sophomore album was the downtempo soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film The Virgin Suicides in 2000 – which included the hit Playground Love and was very well received.
Unfortunately though, La Voyage Dans La Lune doesn’t contain a track capable of reaching similar heights. The first single, Seven Stars, demonstrates a valiant attempt to capture the true essence of the film. Featuring husky vocals from Victoria Legrand of Beach House, a military-style opening and synths befitting the film, it combines futurism with mysticism and grittiness – wonderful in its own right, but not the kind of track to please a general public.
The playful Parade is the duo reflecting some of their former best, but I’m sure that fans would agree that the track is simply stale Air. Who Am I Now?, featuring Au Revoir Simone, wants to offer existential seasickness, but can barely muster even the most basic feeling of unease. Other tracks feel interstitial; biding time while never truly broaching the themes of the film nor comfortably consolidating the album into a cohesive work. In truth, it creates an album that feels like a small flotilla of ideas engulfed in a sea of beige.
La Voyage Dans La Lune is not a complete failure without artistic merit – when complimented with the visuals of the film, Air’s soundtrack is a wonderful and truly unique experience. As a stand-alone album however, it suffers the same affliction as any other commercially-released movie soundtrack – dull, forgettable, and difficult to justify as an addition to your music collection.