As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are Michael Mand‘s choices. He can be followed on Twitter @Grindermand.
3. ‘Tomorrow’ – Morrissey (Zack Snyder, 1992)
A particular pattern has emerged in cinema in recent years, as film directors increasingly come from the world of music video, underlining the impact that the form has had since the launch of MTV thirty years ago. The suitability of this as a proving ground is debatable – McG’s video for the Basement Jaxx track ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ is far superior to his execrable feature film output – but there have been some successes.
Zack Snyder dabbled in both music video and advertising before making his full length debut with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake and hitting pay dirt with 300, Watchmen and the forthcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel. His first foray into the music world came with Morrissey’s 1992 track, ‘Tomorrow’; the single, tracking shot following our hero as he wanders the backstreets of Nice, his band in pursuit, singing direct to camera. Eschewing the special effect wows and irrelevant storylines of much MTV fare, Snyder succeeds in capturing Morrissey at his charismatic peak, all film star looks and semi-repressed sexuality.
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2. ‘Star Guitar’ – The Chemical Brothers (Michel Gondry, 2001)
Perhaps the most successful director to have combined work in both the music video and feature film formats is France’s Michel Gondry, who won an Oscar for the screenplay of 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Gondry has a formidable track record in the music world, having directed many of Bjork’s innovative videos, as well as memorable clips for the likes of Daft Punk and The White Stripes but, for me, his finest achievement is his accompanying film for The Chemical Brothers’ 2001 single, ‘Star Guitar’.
Taking its title from the sample of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ around which it is based, ‘Star Guitar’ is an aural account of a train journey, a journey brilliantly mirrored by Gondry in his ground breaking video. Gondry himself filmed the view from the train between Nimes and Valence, taking the trip ten times to gather footage at different times of day, before digitally enhancing the continuous shot to ensure that each musical and rhythmic element of the track is reflected in the passing scenery. The result is a wonderful example of a music video working alongside, rather than distracting from a piece of music.
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1. ‘Atmosphere’ – Joy Division (Anton Corbijn, 1988)
A filmmaker from an entirely different background is Dutchman Anton Corbijn, who made his name during the 1980s as a photographer for the New Musical Express. Corbijn’s iconic, black-and-white shots of Joy Division and their singer Ian Curtis won him particular acclaim and ultimately led to him directing the 2007 Curtis biopic, Control.
In between, Corbijn was charged with directing the video for the 1988 re-release of Joy Division’s classic ‘Atmosphere’. Drawing on the visual style of his original photographs, the director created a spine-tingling tribute to Curtis, complete with strange obelisks, barren American landscapes (which somehow reflected the post-industrial Manchester wasteland of JD’s roots) and hooded figures resembling Star Wars’ Jawas.
The atmosphere (pun intended) of the clip perfectly mirrored the gloomy grandeur of the music, while the closing shot of the ‘Jawas’ carrying a huge Corbijn portrait of Curtis along a desolate beach was perhaps the final act in the singer’s canonisation. Rarely has an outsider been so responsible for the visual definition of a band.
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