The other day I came across the online-hosted screening event, The Four Stories, which is the culmination of a campaign launched by Intel® in partnership with W Hotels to find some of the world’s most promising aspiring film-makers. Entrants were challenged to upload their original screenplays to intel.com/fourstories for their chance to see their idea brought to life on the big screen. The competition was curated by Roman Coppola and his production company, The Directors’ Bureau, with the winning scripts turned into individual ten-minute shorts, and a final film being created by Coppola himself. The winning screenplays were selected from global entries by a panel of judges including Coppola, Michael Pitt (once of Dawson’s Creek, if you remember!), and the perma-trendy Chloe Sevigny (who I think I saw last year hanging about on Cambridge Heath Road, but I could be wrong…)
I had a butcher’s at the winner, and my favourite was The Mirror Between Us, directed by music video helmer Khalil Joseph (Flying Lotus, Seu Jorge) and starring the excellent Nicole Beharie (last seen – by me, anyway) in Steve McQueen’s
top shagger comedy searing sex addiction drama Shame. It’s a beautifully shot short about two young who women embark on a dream-like adventure through the Maldives islands after an event turns both their worlds upside down. Here it is, check it out:
Bugger me if this has got anything whatsoever to do with film (though given enough time and effort there’s probably some kind of Nick Broomfield pun in there), but it’s pretty much the funniest thing I’ve ever seen/heard, so who cares? Been busy recently, back to regular (film-themed) posting soon, I promise.
Well it made me laugh anyway. Some bright spark (YouTuber MrsFreddyMercury) has cut bits of the late Ken Russell’s barking mad 1986 horror Gothic to the sounds of Rockwell’s cheesy 1984 hit ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’. When Rockwell starts doing his silly “everyman” voice and Gabriel Byrne whips out his quill, it’s pretty much a perfect storm of ridiculousness. It gets even better when Rockwell pipes (is it supposed to be an English accent?): “When I’m in the SHAR (shower) and I’m afraid to wash my HAR (hair)!” and MrsFreddyMercury cuts to a shot of Julian Sands flapping about in the SHAR (shower). Anyway, I’ve written too much on this already. Just watch:
For a more thorough appraisal of the film, head over to this article on great blog Cinemart.
By contributor @eltname
Not that I like to give credence to the claim I’m bad at sticking to deadlines, but I am.
When I heard that Permanent Plastic Helmet was planning to delve into the world of the music video, I thought – “Ooh, I should write something for that. I love music videos. They’re my best.”
And many weeks of wasted opportunities later, this is it.
But of course, they weren’t wasted opportunities at all. Because for the past month or two I’ve just been watching Sébastien Tellier videos over and over like a Hot Chip metaphor.
Here are my favourites:
To understand Sébastien Tellier’s music videos you need to understand that “Sébastien Tellier” is the literal French translation for ‘erotica’, He oozes sexuality – a handy trait and one that presumably influenced the naming of his 2008 album. For the video for ‘Look’, French directors Mrzyk & Moriceau don’t mess about. If you’re not interested in three minutes of an animated close up of a girl’s derrière then this probably isn’t the video for you – especially when it starts pumping out diamonds. However, if you can stomach that, then look closer as the drawings evolve as she walks ever onwards, revealing not just what lies under her clothes, but (in a moment of Antonio Banderas inspired madness) what lies underneath her skin. Sexy, elegant, simple – it just works.
* * * * *
2008 was, to quote Didley Squat, A Good Year. I made the leap to London, I worked on music videos for Guillemots, Metronomy and South Central. And Sébastien Tellier represented France at the Eurovision song contest. Also taken from Sexuality, ‘Divine’ is very much a song about all things carnal. The Daft Punk-produced single (and album for that matter) is aurally charming but the package is a beacon for just how important music videos really are. It is the comically hirsute performances from a succession of cut-shot ersatz SebTels that makes this song whole. Hearing it on the radio just doesn’t have the same impact. For chaste Eurovision spectators who had probably never heard of the Frenchman before, Norton makes Tellier a caricature of himself and provides us with the overly beardy I’m Still Here image we all remember. This is probably Sébastien Tellier’s most important video.
* * * * *
Interestingly this video received quite a lot of stick in industry circles. In it, Roman Coppola shoots SebTel in a Parisian apartment. That’s pretty much it. There’s soft lighting and softer focus, some J.J. Abrams lens flares, some unwieldy reverse zooms, and the odd quivering hand-held close-up of Tellier singing. Coppola was accused of effectively copping out and cashing in on his famous family name. But such an unassuming yet powerful song deserves this kind of minimal, head-on treatment. It’s not quite as literal as Coppola’s effort for Phoenix (‘Funky Squaredance‘ – the first music video ever chosen to be a permanent exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Arts) but Tellier’s repetition of the lines “Tell me what you think” begs a certain intimacy that would be lost in any other video.
* * * * *
I’m not really into pornography. But if I was, I suspect I’d be into really niche stuff. Like watching stunning French girls in tiny excuses for underwear jiggling around SebTel’s house as they try to eat animatronic hot dogs. Think it doesn’t exist? You don’t know enough Tellier. If this was any other artist, we might conclude that the setting for ‘Kilometer’ was a party where our star had cut loose for the weekend. But because it’s Sébastien Tellier, it seems a given that this is less ‘one-off’ and more ‘pretty average Tuesday morning’. Jonas & François replicate the gratuitous ‘ass-shot’ we saw in ‘Look’ here, but in live action. They also appreciate, and indulge in, the sense of the absurd that Tellier commands so well on screen. The shot of him holding court over his harem who applaud as he balances a spoon on his nose sums the video up perfectly.
* * * * *
Where to begin? His first new material since 2008, My God Is Blue is a slow burner as albums go. But again, underlying the important role that music videos play, the promo for its first single is vital in catching the attention of its audience. And, like the cultish devotees that appear in this very not-safe-for-work video, once you’re hooked, there’s no escape. Alex Courtès delivers debauchery on a scale previously unimaginable in most mediums, much less the music video. It makes Project X look like something on Newsround. David Knight for PromoNews beautifully describes his turn here as “the guitar-wielding Rasputin of Sex”. It’s a fitting allusion for his performance as a crazy-eyed cult leader, surrounded by writhing naked, fisting, fingering, glitter-cocked, foot-jobbed, firework-stuffed PYTs. The face at 2’17” was pretty much mine for all three minutes of what I would claim is the greatest video of our generation. Honestly – who keeps a blue & gold macaw there? Sébastien Tellier, that’s who.
I’m a fan of Griffin Dunne. The New York actor-turned-director hardly boasts a voluminous body of work, but he was excellent as decomposing sidekick Jack Goodman in American Werewolf in London (1981) and perfectly cast as neurotic New Yorker Paul Hackett in Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985).
So you can imagine how my curiosity was piqued when I discovered the existence of a film starring Dunne named Me & Him (1988, directed by the improbably named Dorris Dorrie), which promised to capture the white collar sexual anomie at the fag end of the 1980s; a more ribald, less disgusting American Psycho, perhaps; a sharper Vampire’s Kiss (magnificently re-evaluated here in an AV Club article). A pithy IMDb summary on Me & Him runs thus: “A man’s enthusiastic penis starts talking to him, getting him into awkward situations and convincing everyone he tells that he’s completely insane.”
good great, right? (Right?) The problem? No-one’s heard of it, and no-one’s seen it. In terms of critical response, there’s nothing out there, save from an average rating of 4.1 from a paltry 291 IMDb users (aka the general public, and we all know you can’t trust them). There’s not a single critic’s review on the usually overflowing Rotten Tomatoes. I got my hopes up when I saw 21 related news items on the iMDB homepage, but the most relevant article carried the headline “Kings of Leon to guest on ‘Iron Chef’”. Me neither…
Worse still, it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere – not even a knackered VHS copy. It’s been so deeply ghettoized that even the utterly bizarre trailer – which intercuts scenes from the film with faux (at least I think they’re faux) vox pops of women praising the film’s insight into masculinity (“It shows how sensitive men really are!”) hasn’t made it onto YouTube. Instead I had to dig it up from an obscure site called Video Detective.
So here’s my question(s). Has anyone seen this film? If so, what’s is like? And – this is fanciful in the extreme – does anyone have a copy I could borrow? There’s just enough proof out there to confirm that this film actually exists, so can you help me on my quest to track down Griffin Dunne’s speaking cock?
Thanks for listening.
* * * UPDATE * * *
My normally prodigious attention to detail failed to kick in on this occasion, and I forgot to check amazon.com, which is slightly more fruitful on a Me & Him tip than amazon.co.uk. Still, my key questions above remain.
“It’s like the song ‘Amazing Grace’. The footage was lost, but now it’s found” - David Lynch.
This has been doing the rounds on the internet, but I figured that a re-post wouldn’t do any harm. YouTuber heavymetalirishman (I suspect he would do what it says on the tin, to paraphrase Jim from last year’s Apprentice) has uploaded nearly a full hour of amazing – and very much NSFW – deleted scenes from David Lynch’s creepy 1986 masterpiece.
Here’s a sliver of the precis, from website Dangerous Minds:
“Blue Velvet’s original shooting script is reputed to have been over four hours long. The theatrical release came in at 120 minutes. An additional hour of deleted footage was thought to have been lost when the producer of the film, Dino De Laurentis, sold his company. Fortunately, the footage was located and was released as an extra on the Blu-ray edition… These deleted scenes have been uploaded to YouTube… Rumour has it that there is even more footage out there.”
Londoners should also be aware that Blue Velvet is screening at the amazing Prince Charles Cinema on Monday 16 July.
As some intriguing new stills from his upcoming slave revenge drama Django Unchained become available, check out this relic from 1994 in which Tarantino – fresh from Pulp Fiction’s runaway success – demonstrates to the world exactly why he belongs behind the camera. In an episode of the short lived sitcom ‘All-American Girl‘ entitled Pulp Sitcom, he essays the character of Desmond, a nerdy, pop culture-savvy nerd/bootleg video salesman (somehow he makes it a stretch), who woos the show’s star Margaret Cho. The pair were also dating in real life.
All credit for this must go to Paul O’ Callaghan, without whom I’d have never been exposed to such wonder.
Here’s the original (explanation here, should you require one). Which do you prefer?
All credit to YouTuber aslucas07.
Permanent Plastic Helmet is taking a simultaneous trip down memory lane and into the future with a very special week dedicated to the mercurial wonder of the music video. To kick us off, here’s a selective, slightly personal tour through the history of this still youthful artform.
Music videos take off
“Don’t you wonder sometimes, ‘bout sound and vision?”, queried David Bowie on 1977’s ‘Sound and Vision’. The chameleonic singer clearly did, and was one of the first major stars to latch onto the emerging music video zeitgeist of the time with the characteristically odd, eyecatching promo for ‘Ashes To Ashes’, directed by David Mallet in 1980. A pre-MTV blast of creativity, the video’s compelling blend of self-mythology, formal invention and striking visuals seemed to foreshadow the following decade in which music videos became one of the key mediums for musical artists to market their product, experiment creatively, and construct indelible images for themselves. Music videos sometimes complemented the lyrics and content of the song, sometimes they were simply flights of imaginative fancy.
The idea of integrating music with image was nothing new, from the iconic opening scene of D.A. Pennebaker’s Dylan doc Don’t Look Back (‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’), to The Beatles sophisticated efforts like ‘Rain’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever‘, to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ and even film musicals like Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but my focus starts with the era when music videos solidified as an integral promotional and image-making tool for artists looking to reach out to a wider fanbase.
Top of the Pops in the UK, Countdown and Sounds in Australia, and various cable shows in the US had offered a platform for largely rudimentary early attempts at music promos, but it was the launch of MTV in 1981 that really kicked things off on a grand scale. The first video shown was the prophetic ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, a 1979 single by British group Buggles. As a business, MTV earned $7 million in advertising revenue in the first 18 months. Soon, the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) launched to introduce a competitive element to proceedings.
With this unprecedented 24/7 support framework in place, music videos began to experiment increasingly with form, content and budget. A pre-digital music industry was awash with cash, and in a position to throw millions at directors and artists. Some of the most eye-catching promos of the decade looked to innovative animation techniques (Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’, to name but two), while others attempted to craft entire narratives replete with oft-regrettable attempts at acting, and scripted, distractingly overlaid dialogue (“Hello! Yes I’m talking to you, Lionel Richie”). Many instead simply opted for semi-integrated concert footage.
As was ever thus in the music world, image was everything, and what better way to promote your image than by beaming an idealised version of it to millions of viewers? For example, on record, Duran Duran were marked largely by Simon le Bon’s honking vocals and impenetrable lyrics, but thanks to their lavish promos (of which ‘Rio’ – directed by experienced Aussie maverick Russell Mulcahy – is surely the most memorable), the boys from Birmingham held captive an international audience which viewed them with jealousy and admiration as pastel-suited playboys larking around on yachts. Similarly, Robert Palmer cemented his dapper image with a string of suave, deadpan vids featuring stateuesque models as his backing band. It all went deeper than that, though. With 1983’s neon-noirish, floor-lit ‘Billie Jean’, Michael Jackson was largely credited with breaking the insidious colour barrier maintained by MTV, who, despite their undoubted innovation, had pretty much shut out successful black artists up until that point.
The role of the director
The 1980s also saw the first instances of directorial heavyweights from the cinema world muscling in on the act. American Werewolf in London director John Landis’ remarkable 14-minute opus ‘Thriller’ remains the only music video to be inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and is perhaps still the high-concept watermark of the genre. Jackson later teamed up with Martin Scorsese (and a pre-fame Wesley Snipes) for 1987’s ‘Bad’. Spike Lee helmed videos for rap titans Public Enemy as well as Prince. Respected actors would take a chance on music vids, like Donald Sutherland in Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’. Meanwhile, music video self-reflexivity reached its apotheosis in Brian de Palma’s 1984 absolute sleazefest of a film Body Double, in an astonishing scene in which the narrative completely dropped out in favour of an extended Frankie Goes To Hollywood video.
Over time, the music video became one of the premier forums for creative visual talents to express themselves, and displaying a skill with the artform itself became something of a “calling card”. Towards the end of 1992, MTV began to credit the director at the start and end of each video, in the process significantly promoting the idea of authorship within the artform. Now, viewers could look out for the names of directors and pick up on recurring tropes, ideas and visual motifs. Many made the leap into feature film directing (including Tarsem, David Fincher, Mark Romanek, Hype Williams, McG) and though the “music video” label is often used pejoratively, connoting style over substance and a kinship with advertising, there’s no doubting the impact these filmmakers have made, if not always critically, then commercially.
Of the MTV2 generation in the 1990s, perhaps the three most influential music video directors were Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Chris Cunningham, whose trailblazing work was immortalized in a series of DVDs entitled Directors Label, the first of which were released in 2003. Both Jonze and Gondry have gone on to estimable directing careers (Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind my own respective personal favourites of theirs), while UK counterparts Jonathan Glazer and Jamie Thraves (both garlanded for their respective Radiohead videos ‘Karma Police‘ and ‘Just‘) followed suit.
As the presence of music videos grew in pop culture discourse so, of course, did their ambition. Early pioneer Michael Jackson would later go on to participate in the most expensive promo of all time, the effects-laden ‘Scream’, with his sister Janet in 1996. Others in the top ten include two from Madonna (‘Express Yourself’ and Bond theme ‘Die Another Day’), and – astonishingly – ‘Cartoon Heroes’ by Danish pop chumps Aqua, which clocked in at the cost of a cool $4.7m. R&B act TLC’s ‘Unpretty’ – a song which earnestly preached the value of staying true to oneself – boasted a million-dollar make-up budget.
The manner in which audiences consumed music videos evolved significantly over the years. MTV faced some competition with the lighter, more MOR-oriented VH1 and then The Box, while in the UK the weekly Top Of The Pops – which switched between live or lip-synched performances – was complemented by Saturday morning’s The Chart Show, which ran in the UK on Channel 4 between 1986 and 1988, then on ITV between from 1989 up until its 1998 cancellation. When I didn’t have satellite TV, I was restricted to the likes of the short-lived Dr Fox’s Video Jukebox on LWT.
MTV developed as a company to serve other genres. In 1988, Yo! MTV Raps heralded a new platform for hip hop and rap (The Beastie Boys and Ice Cube among those to embrace the genre with relish), while MTV’s alternatively focused programme 120 minutes became a cornerstone of first the main channel (for 14 years), and then a further three on its sister channel MTV2. It was the UK iteration of MTV2 which proved central to my own appreciation of music videos, after the intermittent output of the terrestrial channels. MTV Base catered for the R&B genre. In 1993, MTV were also behind Mike Judge’s brilliantly puerile animation Beavis and Butthead, which featured the two eponymous, sniggering morons commenting snarkily on music videos from the comfort of their own homes: an eerily prescient foreshadow of today’s keyboard warrior culture.
Theme and content-wise, the 1990s also saw a more pronounced turn toward the controversial in music videos. Though the 80s were hardly without scandal (Duran Duran’s ‘Girls on Film’ and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ spring to mind), the next decade possessed it in spades. My 12-year-old self was hugely excited to see the uncut version of Jonas Akerlund’s promo for the Prodigy’s POV sex, drugs & vomit rampage ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, even if it looks a little tame now. Conversely, time has done little to diminish the visceral impact of Chris Cunningham’s enormously creepy vid for Aphex Twin’s ‘Windowlicker’ (which used body horror to subvert tired hip hop video cliches) or Glazer’s harrowing promo for Unkle’s ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’, which featured French actor Denis Lavant being repeatedly struck by speeding cars in a tunnel.
Particular genres carved out their own particular styles. Rap videos, for example, became overwhelmingly associated (in the mainstream media’s consciousness at least) with a bling n’ bitches aesthetic that was parodied acidly and brilliantly by The Roots in their 1996 video for ‘What They Do’. More outre artists like Missy Elliott, OutKast and Busta Rhymes carved out their own unforgettable niches, often with the help of fish eye lenses. Meanwhile, doomy rock acts like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson often favoured a scratchy, industrial, blue/grey paletted template. While all this was going on, bands like Radiohead and Tool developed reputations as being forward thinking and collaborative in their music video art, breathed new life into the idea of the compilation video.
The digital impact
The next major sea change in the music video was launch of YouTube in February 2005, which suddenly opened up the doors to a treasure trove of music videos most people though they’d never see again, because not every band had gotten round to releasing a greatest hits video (or later, DVD). Though a slightly haphazard strain of copyright protection and advertising got in the way of unfettered enjoyment before long, it really is difficult to overstate the revolutionary impact of the near-magical unveiling of this audio-visual pandora’s box rich with delight, embarrassment and memories. Sony and YouTube clubbed together in 2009 to create Vevo, a dedicated area of YouTube for music videos, which has been a success, seeing record labels directly benefitting financially from large advertising revenues.
The YouTube revolution also allowed for variations in form, personified most egregiously by R Kelly’s utterly mental R&B opera ‘Trapped In The Closet’; a lurid, one-note melodrama cleaved into a scarcely believable 22 separate parts. This year, Kelly announced there would be even more. Indie band OK GO, in much the same way that Sacha Baron Cohen’s publicity stunts are now widely regarded as better than his films, are perhaps the first band to be genuinely more well known for their videos than their songs. They reached their zenith with James Frost’s extraordinarily complex and daring Mousetrap-inspired promo for ‘This Too Shall Pass‘. Meanwhile, talented directors like Patrick Daughters, Shynola, Floria Sigismondi and Dougal Wilson were, like Tim Pope (famed for his work with The Cure in the 1980s), able to carve out distinctive visual styles of their own.
The seemingly unstoppable rise of the internet coincided with – and no doubt influenced – the decision of MTV to ultimately jettison its programming of music videos in favour of reality TV garbage like ‘Jersey Shore’ in February 2010 (it had been going down this path for a while). Its absence has had scant effect on the restless creativity and output of innovative music videos. Neither has the form’s capacity to create controversy abated. Music videos remain a punchy canvas for daring artistic statements, and it’s now not uncommon for the release of music videos to be treated as events. Romain Gavras’ faintly ludicrous, but visually bracing, “ginger holocaust” promo for M.I.A’s ‘Born Free‘ provoked a hailstorm of controversy, while Lady Gaga’s fantastically overblown ‘Telephone’ featured a meta-cameo from Beyonce and was released to a huge storm of media opinion in 2010. The year prior, KanYe West’s shameful but hilarious rant aimed at Taylor Swift at the VMAs (‘I’m really happy for you and I’m a let you finish but Beyonce has one of the best videos of all time!”), is an indication of the importance placed on the form from current artists.
What now, and what next?
And what about those making the music videos in this new era? Well, says up-and-coming music video auteur David Wilson, it’s now “a international sharing community of like-minded artists”, who use the likes of Vimeo and YouTube to upload, promote and comment on each others’ work. The hope is that these videos, if not promoted aggressively by the band or the band’s label, will go viral. In the UK, comedian and radio host Adam Buxton has flown the flag for music video art with his BUG Music Video showcase (performed bi-monthly at London’s BFI Southbank) which is being turned into a TV show for Sky Atlantic. Innovative new directors like DANIELS, AG Rojas and David Wilson are making names for themselves, armed with digital technology that’s a damn sight cheaper than the actual film stock commonplace throughout the 80s and 90s. Unofficial, fan-made videos are now par for the course as anyone with a camera and computer can make a music video.
So, what to conclude from all of this? Well, whereas in the early days the landscape often seemed geared solely toward burnishing the egos, images and bank balances of the labels and stars, the flexibility and opportunity to shine provided by the artform’s broad canvas moved us into an era of music video director as-star (let’s look at Spike Jonze’s crazed turn as an evangelical dance instructor in his promo for Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ as the high watermark of this phenomenon). In this respect, perhaps we can draw an analogy with the New Hollywood cinema of the late-1960s and early 1970s when a new generation of directors like Arthur Penn, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Body Double‘s de Palma took unprecedented risks in the wake of the crash of the Hollywood system. Now, with the advent of the digital age and its impact on the music industry, options are wildly increased from both a consumer and creator point of view, and there’s a neat, digitally enhanced synthesis between the director-as-star and young creative-as-director. There seems to be an egalitarian attitude present in, and an enthusiastic drive toward, music video making as evidenced by the barrage of fantastic new videos which seem to crop up on the internet at a rapid rate. The future, without a shadow of a doubt, looks bright.
Over the coming week we’ll have a selection of interviews, articles, contributors’ lists and competitions. Follow us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet, and if you want to join the conversation, use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.
After comparing Gareth Evans’ The Raid to my all-time favourite childhood game Streets of Rage 2 in my recent review, I had a bit of a YouTube session devoted to it. Look what I found. The music, the SFX, the little details, it’s all there. Amazing. What must passers-by have thought?
All credit to YouTuber TheStreetStupid.