Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Thrill of the Pursuit: Lisa Lindley-Jones "Step Back"

A stark and powerful new video on the oddities of attraction, from Lisa Lindley-Jones and the W.I.Z....


Lisa Lindley-Jones "Step Back"

dir. by W.I.Z.

As Lisa Lindley-Jones stands somberly in a nearby alley, holding a bright flare and only partially obscured by shadow, her police officer pursuer walks by without even a glance in her direction. The two are so close at this moment that it seems nearly impossible that he wouldn't notice her, but it appears to be the case nevertheless. Yet perhaps he doesn't really want to catch her. And even if much of the video implies that she may actually want to be caught, here she makes no move to alert him of her presence either. Is she saddened by his lack of perception? Or is the thought of capture suddenly unpleasant and scary?

Early in the video the duo seem to just barely miss each other, and at times it appears as if she is indeed after him as much as he seeks her. They crawl along the same wall, open the same doors and cross each other's shadows - but always a step behind or in the wrong direction. As Lindley-Jones runs forward, the officer literally runs backward (a stunning visual). She hides in spots that his flashlight finds, and he seems far too tentative in his hunt to be entirely sure he wants to make an arrest.

Lindley-Jones spends a lot of time running away and hiding, but if her actual intention is escape, she isn't very good at it. In one particularly memorable scene she is seen sprinting while looking back in laughter, her dress flowing in the wind and her smile illuminating the black and white tones of the shot. She carries her torch as if to keep the officer in pursuit, while it also protrudes like a weapon meant to scare him off.


The director uses a silent film style which recalls early Maya Deren and abstract film. Like those pre-talkie movies, which many consider the finest ever made, the strength of the piece relies on the power of the images to relay information. The surreal quality of the classic herky-jerky camera cuts adds a layer of mystery (and fear) which proves to be highly relevant to the themes of the work. At the same time this is a music video, which means it has the added assistance of the song and its lyrics to provide clarity.

It begins with a backwards "Fin," which is something different than the opposite of the end. It implies a strange conclusion, or a lack of real resolution. The opening of the jacket leading into the beginning of the narrative mirrors the "step back" theme of the song. Lindley-Jones walks into the frame as if she is retracing alleyways in her memory. The rooms he inspects are in fact part of a museum, with her human form standing in the corner as a marble reminder of what was. But the final movement is a regression down the alley, and underlines the inconclusive nature of the memory.

In many ways the two slowly move away from the statuesque hesitancy of those early encounters along the walls, towards a more playful open interaction. She skips along the side of the building and he begins to run feverishly - even falling at one point. The tension is mounted in this way, so that we are in constant anticipation of their meeting up and till the point where they nonchalantly pass each other.


So why didn't this work out? What is it that eventually prevents something from happening between the two? We've suggested it is the fear of commitment and expressing one's feelings which hinders the couple, but there are deeper levels to the psychologies of these characters. At one point the woman is juxtaposed with an image of flying birds, and her movements suggests an inherent need for escape and free expression. The officer on the other hand is decked in the stifling uniform of the law enforcement, holding a mechanical flashlight while she carries the more dangerous fire. The building itself almost looks like a prison with it's meager windows under the moonlight.

Yet human beings, and especially in terms of their sexual and emotional make-up, are far too complex to be labeled as having only one particular type of desire or urge. The woman rings a bell in the middle of the video, as if calling her mate to dinner, and exerts a certain amount of control over the situation herself. Simone De Beauvoir argued that we all seek to be both the object and the subject in matters of the heart. The problem may be that the man is unable to let down his guard in the same way, he is consistently presenting an image of power and enforcement. It creates an aura of fear which plays with the Gothic sensibility of the camera work, and puts a wall between the two. She often looks despairingly at him as she stands motionless for him to grab - his inability to catch her creates doubt in her own mind.

We fear taking that next step, even if it is the step we've hunted for so long. We also simply love playing the game - almost more than we love winning. The chase is a thrilling experience, even if it fails to fulfill. Lindley-Jones and her director highlight the subtle eroticism of the mating dance - "oceans flow" around the sun and hands caress stone walls. The tragedy is perhaps that there must be an end, whether positive or negative. Despite the joys of love there is something to be said for the unique pleasures of flirting - the anticipation of love. Yet we seek more, and that's why each time we revisit these memories, no matter how high the peaks, we still end up feeling dissatisfied.

1 comment:

barry wasserman said...

i worked on WIZ and Lisa's music film and concur with the author of the piece. It touches and tickles so many interesting places in one's soul and one's psyche...to be a magic and timeless little gem.

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