Besos RobadosY en la neblina de una tarde de lluvia… te espero en donde pocas personas te esperarían (2014)

I’ve been thinking a lot about music videos lately…

Partly because I’ve been commissioned to direct a music video for a Boston band. Although to say it like that is a bit disingenuous since the band has a zero budget; they’ve hired me because the singer appeared in three of my five student films and she knows me as a filmmaker who bends over backwards and spits wooden nickels to deliver a product that looks it was produced for roughly ten times what was actually spent on it.

But the other part of why I’ve been fixated on this topic is that music videos played a huge part in paving the path that led me to become a film making kid which led to photography which led to this blog…

As far as informing my basic, initial visual vocabulary, there’s one name that towers head and shoulders above the rest: Mark Romanek.  It’s pretty much unarguable that he made the best music video ever–the issue is whether one points to Jay-Z’s 99 Problems or the Johnny Cash cover of // | /‘s Hurt. (I can’t choose between them mainly because I’ve seen the now all but impossible to find original cut of 99 Problems and that’s just as good as Hurt; but I have always been especially partial to the production design of // | /’s The Perfect Drug and the sleazy post-coital, 70′s porn grunge of Fiona Apple’s Criminal.)

I was aware of Jonathan Glazer‘s work. I was clued in to his work on UNKLE’s Rabbit in Your Headlights while it was still an underground thing–I initially detested but now consider it one of the best narrative videos ever made. (Shows how wrong snotty 19 year old’s can be…)

But it’s Glazer’s take on Radiohead’s Karma Police that applies to above image.

Some context on Karma Police: the video is just shy of four and a half minutes long. It features a total of 13 cuts, rendering in average shot length of 20.7 seconds. (Definitely an enormous anomaly in the mid-90s.)

I don’t know if it’s the extra time we get to dwell on the composition of a camera staring out the front window of a car but this video has–for me at least–become so iconic that I can’t see a shot like the one above without comparing it with Glazer’s image. (As I write this I am in NOLA fresh from seeing the devastating Mark Steinmetz: South exhibit at the Ogden–best photography exhibit I’ve ever seen and there’s an image taken through a car window of a lightning strike in the distance that doesn’t remind me of Glazer and I think that’s because you don’t see the window so much as the out of focus edge of the dash which provides context but is decidedly not a frame within a frame like Glazer.)

The odd thing about Glazer is that while his music videos are far more narrative than Romanek’s and while he continues to explode the boundaries of what is visually possible, his film work–though always beautiful–always flirts with complete incomprehensibility. Whereas, Romanek and David Fincher have proven much better at crafting cinematic narratives.

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