Seeing Sound with Francesca Rudkin
To celebrate the inclusion of music videos in this year’s Show Me Shorts Film Festival, I thought I’d share my favourite music videos from over the years. The problem is that I love music videos (it’s one of the reasons I worked in music television for ten years), so choosing just three is near impossible. To narrow it down, I decided to select videos from music video directors who went on to become successful feature film directors. It didn’t make it any easier – just think of Anton Corbijn, Marc Webb, Jonathan Glazer, Floria Sigismondi, Gore Verbinski, Antoine Fuqua, and Mark Romanek, to name a few.
In the end, I’ve picked a couple of memorable music videos from directors I admire, starting with Spike Jonze.
Bjork / It’s Oh So Quiet (1995)
Director: Spike Jonze
When it comes to Her director Spike Jonze, there’s a huge range of videos to pick from. After considering Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice and Praise You, Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, Daft Punk’s Da Funk, and The Chemical Brothers’ Elektroban, I settled on Bjork’s delightful It’s Oh So Quiet. I love the way the action, camera movements, and dance sequences ebb and flow with this dynamic song. I love the fact that even though Bjork is doing a classic, musical inspired song and dance routine, her performance is not overly polished – she’s still Bjork with her slightly awkward moves, messy hair, and childlike expressions. What I love most though, is that it makes you feel good –Jonze and Bjork have created a warm, colourful, exuberant little love story.
Massive Attack / Protection (1994)
Director: Michel Gondry
This music video reached New Zealand when I was working at a regional music station, and we spent days watching it, trying to work out how Michel Gondry pulled off this stunning video in one seamless take. Turns out, the set, made up of what appeared to be a six-floor apartment block, was constructed on the floor of an expansive soundstage. The band’s lead singer at the time, Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn, wasn’t standing upright, but actually lying on a horizontally aligned set as the camera, attached to a crane, moved over each of the rooms. The video was shot in Paris in 1994, and required days of rehearsals to get right. Massive Attack’s Robert “3D” Del Naja admitted in an article in The Guardian that the band couldn’t get their heads around Gondry’s treatment for this video until they were presented with a model of the set. Even then, it came down to trusting the director’s vision. It was the only video Gondry would shoot for Massive Attack, but it pushed the boundary of the one shot music video to impressive lengths.
Madonna / Vogue (1990)
Director: David Fincher
Madonna was quoted in a 2008 interview with the Los Angeles Times saying, “I discovered David Fincher.” I’m not sure how Fincher feels about this claim, but before he became famous for his work as a feature film director (Zodiac, Fight Club, The Social Network), he was a prolific music video director working with artists such as Sting, The Rolling Stones, George Michael, Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. I’ve included Madonna’s Vogue as the representative for all the Fincher music videos that I grew up watching during my teens and twenties, and because of the fabulous lighting by director of photography Pascal Lebegue. Madonna likes to work closely with her directors on the concept for her music videos, but it’s filmmakers like Fincher who bring these concepts to life on screen, creating memorable and influential short films that still look pretty slick 24 years later.
Special thanks to Show Me Shorts Ambassador Francesca Rudkin for sharing her insights on some great music videos. Be sure to check out this year’s programme, which has one music video from a great kiwi artist or filmmaker in each session. We look forward to seeing you this November!