Norah Jones has the sort of dreamy voice that instantly conjures romance, and her music compliments that feeling - albeit in a far sleepier tone. This new single from her third album is reminiscent of "Come Away With Me" with it's surface idyllic theme, and like that track and the majority of Norah's catalog, the subdued piano keys and brushes on the drum underscore a more somber side to the lyrics. Ace Norton's video captures that quality of Jones' style without putting the viewer to bed, creating a sense of constant movement that seeks to mimic the random flowing process of human thought.
Norton's cinematography is faux one-shot, pretending to move from scene to scene without cuts, which produces a nifty visual conceit. Though it isn't a new technique or a flawlessly executed example (check out Antville's discussion), the director adds a low-tech artistic edge to the scenery that smooths out the rough spots. The combination of animated and live-action parts further emphasizes the dreamy element of the piece - very much like the effect in Michel Gondry's recent Science of Sleep.
Yet whereas that wonderful movie was actually about dreams, Norton's vision is concentrated more on the process of just thinking or remembering (more like that other Gondry film). Sparked by a chance encounter on a subway train, Ms. Jones begins to drift into a series of thoughts on either a past or potentially future relationship - maybe both. The ambiguity lies in the fact that the man she sees across the train car could be a complete stranger, a former lover, or a stranger who reminds her of a former lover.
Regardless she starts out fairly optimistic with her memories/fantasy - her heart ablaze envisioning her wedding day. But the chugging train around said heart is a discomforting image that clues us into the fragile nature of such intense feeling. Her imagination expands to thoughts of the progression of this relationship from comforting nights together to arguments leading them apart. Norton adds a deft touch in timing his zooms and pans to the pace of the music, extenuating the emotion of the chorus and the mood of the verses.
Jones is somewhat overwhelmed by thoughts of this guy, with his image popping into the most secure places of her thought. While performing on stage she attempts to calm herself by imagining the entire audience naked, but she sees him in the crowd in his underwear as well. Things get even more complicated from there as she begins to think about what he might be seeing in his head at that time.
As the video continues her thoughts become more and more obtuse (ahem). She envisions her lover on his own couch thinking about (or remembering) a night with her watching TV, which leads to thoughts of herself performing which once again leads her to think of the audience in their undies. This circular thought is a fairly clever way of representing how our insecurities, concrete memories and new thoughts all seem to meld together into one stream of consciousness. At this point it's clear the video is essentially more concerned with thinking about thinking, than attempting to specify that thought.
In one scene Jones lays on the floor (staring up) singing "I'll be thinking about you", while her thought bubble indicates she is imagining herself on the ceiling (also thinking) at the same time. The entire video is in a way represented in this one shot - Jones is dissecting her own psychology in relation to this moment, and to relationships in general. On one hand she is imagining what her life might be, or what a previous life was, with the lyrics of the song defining her realization, "guess it's time for me to let you go." But the giant clock that wakes her up and pushes her man out the door is both an understanding of the limits of some encounters, and of the need to move forward.
The music video is actually taking place in relatively real-time, with Jones' entire thought process not taking longer than a few subway stops. Yet as Joel realizes in Eternal Sunshine, she knows she can never really forget anything as powerful as love - even if it's an imagined scenario. The smile at the end is her small joy at knowing that any person who impacts your life in some profound way, whether it be for a moment or a lifetime, becomes part of that never ending flow of your memories and thoughts - a chugging train around your heart - where you can always go and find them.