Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sordid Nights: Amy Millan "Skinny Boy"

Another female Broken Social Scene member makes a pretty good music video about high school love and the inevitable aftermath...

Amy Millan "Skinny Boy"

dir. by George Vale

"skinny boy, all bones no lies"

Rather than opting for simple nostalgia, Director George Vale infuses this trip down memory lane with the two most important aspects of adolescent life - lust and drama. He of course gets his cue from Milan's song, which fondly recalls "lips I could spend a day with" as a symbol of an overall loss of innocence - and a yearning to reclaim those youthful feelings which seemed to exist only as extreme highs and lows.

Vale cleverly represents Milan's thoughts by projecting them behind her, in fast-motion, while silhouetted figures reenact her memories. But the actual memory has a storyline of it's own, which is why the video stays compelling throughout. The boy and girl are speeding through a lazy summer romance in bowling alleys, abandoned houses and late-night empty parking lots. Yet they aren't the only characters in the story, as there are friends and places which serve as insightful looks into the experience of teenage life as a whole.

The inclusion of consistent shots of neighborhood streets and group activities reminds us that the romantic element is only half the feeling being described. It's the freedom of those open roads and the empty spaces around the bed they lay upon. The silliness of the bowling alley is as vital as the sexual high of the backseat make out. And the lightning fast clips that play behind Milan are reminders of how quickly it all passes - how in an instant it is gone forever.

The majority of the video is in celebration of those times anticipating the "kiss," or the subsequent maturity. There is little emphasis put on the couple's actual physical contact until the end of the video when the director attempts to catch that moment when it all comes tumbling down. In the collage of images we also realize that there may have been more than a few complications in the idyllic romance. Whether there are hints of infidelity or simply some hurtful gossip - what ensues isn't always pretty. The lyrics are suggestive as well in mentioning "prostitution," "loneliness" and "swords through the back door." Friends fight, and the look on the face of the girl, as a flashlight is shone on her, is one of sheer pain and anger.

But Millan and her director are not advocating some silly "wait till your married" campaign. Sex is merely a metaphor for the inevitable growth from youth to adulthood. The precise moment of maturity is not inherently related to how much or how little experience one has. In fact the most memorable moment, and most memorable shot, of the video is the final one. The two lovers lay awkwardly on the edge of the bed with the guy face-down and the girl snuggling for warmth next to him. It's a beautiful image of youthful impatience and excitement, which passed so quickly that the boy barely had time to get his pants off.

The video makes no judgment of the entire story, but rather celebrates it's inevitability. The lyrics and visuals in the beginning are affecting precisely because we know that the feelings represented won't last. No matter how long one seeks to prolong it, there will be an eventual step-forward out of childhood. And in that transitional period, in the backseat or on a dirty mattress, there is a wonderful sense of dread and pure enthusiasm for life. You may lose your ability for innocence, but you never lose you capability for enthusiasm. No matter how old you get, you never know what's coming around the corner - life never ceases to be full of surprises. And it feels good to know that.

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Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie