Best known for 1998’s “Moon Safari” and their musical contributions to films such as The Virgin Suicides, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (a.k.a., the French electronic duo AIR) released their latest album earlier this week — and it’s a new soundtrack for a 110 year old movie masterpiece.
“Le Voyage Dans La Lune” (“A Trip to the Moon”) is often referred to as the first science fiction film in history. Directed by Georges Méliès, it was originally released in 1902 in black and white and, incredibly enough, also in a hand-colored version. The only hand-colored print known to exist was rediscovered in 1993 by the Filmoteca de Catalunya, who found the original nitrate print in such a dilapidated state that it was said to resemble a hockey puck. A frame-by-frame restoration began in 1999 and, with a little digital assist from the folks at Technicolor, it was finally completed in 2010.
To go along with the restoration, AIR composed a new score and decided to release an expanded version of it as an album (Available at Amazon Music Store and iTunes Store). On its own, it’s another solid bit of work by Godin and Dunckel – but seeing it in context with the film made it even more enjoyable for me.1 The imagery feels like a dream: Méliès idea of a space launch was, after all, to have a row of identically-dressed women slide an artillery shell containing the explorers into a cannon and then fire it like a bullet into the eye of the “Man in the Moon”.
AIR’s fun, modern score helps Méliès’s dream feel not so far away to us, and I think that’s kind of an amazing thing: Over a century old, “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” is a window into a time when the moon’s surface could only be imagined and the idea that it could ever be known was, itself, a flight of fantasy. Its restoration (and with AIR’s contribution — rebirth) is an experience certainly bound to stir modern imaginations and one that’s well-worth checking out.