As it happens, DVD Letterbox only recently expressed its love of 1990s French house music, in the form of a review of Eden, Mia Hansen-Love’s drama about the period.
Well, blow me down with a subwoofer. Only two months later a documentary about the peak of the pyramid in that era and beyond, Daft Punk, has arrived.
Daft Punk Unchained (M, UniversalSony, 110min, $24.95) is a slick production from BBC Worldwide France — and doesn’t that sound like an insurgency? — about the rise of two Parisians still hiding behind their robot masks, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.
As documentaries about musicians often do, Herve Martin-Delpierre’s piece perhaps overstates Daft Punk’s place in the modern music pantheon. Events are given a weighty tone with stark graphics and appearances from peers, including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, talking up their influence.
That’s a minor quibble though because Daft Punk Unchained uncovers rare video and audio that makes this an illustrative rather than fawning hagiography.
Best among the rarities is vision of the duo’s first band, Darlin’, with Phoenix’s Laurent Brancowitz, playing live.
Their mid-1990s English indie guitar dirge recalled much of what was going on across the Channel at the time and spawned a Melody Maker review labelling two songs a “daft punky thrash”.
So the well-off teens moved to electronica and recorded their first two albums, Homework and Discovery, in Bangalter’s bedroom. Other early footage of the duo DJing shows their early direction and the effect of their buzzy bass on dance floors.
Homework was a seminal album of Chicago-influenced house music given a novel electronic spark, yet the duo were still kids, shunning fame and experimenting (although not with drugs; Bangalter hates them because he can’t bear losing critical control).
Their rise is chronicled nicely even if we don’t learn much about their private lives or even the intricacies of their working relationship, other than their steadfast, and successful, desire to not cede any control to record labels.
The pair don’t speak although MartinDelpierre accesses plenty of radio interviews and other material and interviews anyone of interest in their careers.
They provide almost universally positive memories, even if some still don’t get the duo’s eccentricity. Clearly they didn’t want to “partake in the charade” of the music industry, as one friend says.
They shunned fame, yet their retreat behind their robot personae became a marketing masterstroke.
Daft Punk is an odd, melodic duo. This doco pays due reverence to that music and that eccentricity.