Music videos are generally at the cutting edge of technology, innovative technique and creative freedom. Hooray for that.
Here are some of my favourites.
Us - Regina Spektor
Dir. Adria Petty
Regina Spektor's first music video is intially notable for its use of stop-motion animation, with objects whizzing around and filling up an empty room. However, it's the overall editing that really takes over - lines of the song are compiled from frozen images of Spektor, suddenly spliced with her singing. In this way, Spektor herself is turned into a stop motion puppet, and the effect is to perfectly capture the spirited yet elegant tone of the song. Also worth noting is the cinematography; in a Sgt. Pepper-esque paper room of icons, the camera sways so close to Spektor that her eyes are in focus but her nose isn't. The framing is both playful and compelling; her face is always just out of shot, as if both she and the camera can't help but move to the song.
Sugar Water - Cibo Matto
Dir. Michel Gondry
No list would be complete without something from Michel 'Wait, what? Do that again.' Gondry. Okay, bear with me: the screen is split up into two halves, with each half following one of the band's two frontwomen in single takes. One half is playing in reverse, and vertically inverted, so one of the women getting up from bed parallels the other going to sleep. Then they meet halfway, and the focus is switched. Then you realise that the two shots are in fact the same shot. I have to admit, it took me a while to work out what was going on. Gondry's trademark visual trickery is at its strongest here, constantly flipping everything on its head while including the smallest of details. Colour, movement, people, mood and sound combined to create an unusual and slightly eerie tone.
War Photographer - Jason Forrest
Dir. Joel Trussell
There's a moment in School of Rock when Jack Black's character, after a guitar solo, says "Dude, is my face okay? I think you melted it off." That's what I would have said to Joel Trussell were he sitting next to me the first time I saw this. Combining Vikings, pirates, robots, marching bands, guitar battles, rum and a whole lot of stickittothemaniosis, this video rocks, and it rocks hard. Reminiscent of the bold, reference-heavy animation of Genndy Tartakovsky, it's edited with a perfect comic timing and just makes you go "yeah!", or something of that kidney. As it happens, when I first saw this I was sitting next to a big man who looked like he didn't want to be disturbed, particularly with the status of my face.
Imitation of Life - R.E.M.
Dir. Garth Jennings
Many music videos are praised for having been shot in a single take, that spans 3 or 4 minutes without a cut (see Sugar Water). Well, what about a music video shot in a single take that spans 20 seconds without a cut? That’s exactly how long this video took to film; one wide, elaborate shot of a pool party, which is then played backwards and forwards while focussing on the various guests’ relationships. Like much of R.E.M.’s work, it’s both celebratory and tragic – a party where a lot is going wrong, but you don’t realise until you look closer.
Da Funk - Daft Punk
Dir. Spike Jonze
In which a crutch-bearing, ghetto-blasting, man-sized dog wanders through the 'Big City', and comes a cropper of its fast-paced, unfriendly tone. Jonze makes the music entirely diegetic, even drowning it out with constant dialogue and raucous city ambience. We never learn why Charles' leg is in a cast, or why he is a talking dog for that matter, but what prevails is an authentic sense of urban isolation. The prosaic, naturalistic dialogue off-sets the obscure scenario, so that we're drawn into the characters just as much as the music. In fact, once it's over, you'll have the song in your head but probably won't remember hearing it at all.
This was fun. Tell me your favourites.