For some reason I must have forgotten all this, until the tail end of last year, when I noticed on Air‘s website that they were doing some kind of new soundtrack for the film. What it turns out to be is a painstakingly restored version of the original hand-painted colour print. The film was literally turning to vinegar in the hands of the boffins who as I say must have used a mixture of magic and alchemy to turn it back into a watchable film. But I won’t spoil all that for you – if you get the chance to watch the film in the cinema, as I did earlier this year, you’ll get to see an hour-long documentary which tells you all about that.
Air‘s new soundtrack for the film is equally compelling. The album opens with the brilliantly theatrical Astronomic Club, a perfect accompaniment for the early scenes in the film, before launching into one of their wonderful pop moments with the single Seven Stars. The journey continues with more excellence in the form of Moon Fever and Who Am I Now? before coming solidly back down to earth with an absolutely beautiful track entitled Lava.
I have to say, for me Air are the perfect band for this kind of project. This is maybe just selfish on my part – I adore early cinema, and Air are one of my favourite bands of all time (more on that one day in the future), but it seems to me to be the perfect fit. It was suggested to me that the focus on the music was a bit too high (or maybe the cinema just had the music turned up too loud), as it does come across a bit like an extended music video when you see it, but it’s still brilliant in every way.
You used to be able to pick up a copy of the restored movie with the Air soundtrack from iTunes, but that seems to have disappeared now. For the time being, the full album is available here, and if you have twelve minutes to spare consider investing them by watching this version of the film at the Internet Archive.