Monday, April 30, 2007

Seen A Shooting Star Tonight: Junior Boys "In the Morning"

Well-respected director Jaron Albertin tackles age, beauty and narcissism in the latest video for 2006's best single...

Junior Boys "In the Morning" (Hi-Res)

dir. by Jaron Albertin

What at first appears to be a single falling star soaring through the heavens soon splits into three separate meteors burning into oblivion. Beneath that astronomical phenomenon three characters stumble through the darkness, each illuminated by an occasional streetlight or fluorescent sign. The Hermetic maxim "as above, so below" is often cited as the basic philosophy of astrology, and implies that events in the celestial sphere directly influence earthly matters. Whether or not Jaron Albertin's video for "In the Morning" supports that belief, it's true that after observing the final fires of a distant rock these characters will face their own demise.

Stars in the sky commonly represented immortality in Greek mythology, and thus a "shooting" star was seen as loss of that permanence. Gods and goddesses, though often depicted as all-powerful perfect creations, were not immune to the possibility of death in extraordinary circumstances. One such story of fallen grace involved Narcissus, the son of the river god Cephissus and the iconic symbol of self-love - a beautiful youth literally killed by his own reflection.

Yet though the key phrase in the Junior Boys infectious song is "too young," the people who wander through this video are a bit removed from the beauty of their youth. Thus when the drunken woman sees her face in a pool of her own saliva, the image recalls Velázquez's The Rokeby Venus as much as it mimics Waterhouse's Narcissus. It's an aged look of shocking recognition rather than a fascination with beauty - the end of an oblivious life of vanity.

Narcissus by Waterhouse

The mirrors in which each character comes to terms with their own fleeting existence are created by the seeping body fluids of their intoxicated nights. Blood, urine and drool literally carry the evidence of a self-indulgent lifestyle, and in studying these rather unpleasant liquids they truly understand their loss of beauty. Like a prominently flashing sign implies, these characters are forced to strip away all the false coverings of their thoughts and stare directly at the naked truth of their lives.

A Norwegian court recently ruled that the "striptease" was a form of art. If it truly is, it's surely the most vane/cheap form of expression imaginable. One presents self-beauty as a consumable product aimed at eliciting a very precise reaction from the audience. Yet all art holds traces of this same self-indulgence, and some may even accuse Albertin of committing this very "crime" here in this video. But unlike the director, the characters in this story are never aware of their own stage performance until it's too late.

None of them are actually shown drinking, and so alcohol isn't the real catalyst here. Rather it's a pseudo mid-life crisis, like a moment of clarity in the night that opens their eyes. Severe drunkenness is simply a symbol of self-obsession and self-pity - in many ways these people were only avoiding something they already knew as fact. The fear of growing up and "losing" beauty has pushed them to the extremes of contrived behavior. The irony is that to spend your days worrying about or avoiding the reality of aging will only increase the pain of the eventual realization.

Vanity, though it seems a product of pride, is more about a lack of confidence (as is binge drinking). To be "too young" is to hold fast to the naivety of believing in one's own immortality long after you've lost true innocence. While many videos and works of art idealize the image of the "shooting star" (artists who shine brightly for a brief moment), Albertin's characters are disconnected from themselves - spiraling towards an eventual burnout. Like the billions of unseen meteors dying in the universe every second, these characters perish alone - leaving no trace in the morning.

All is Vanity by C. Allan Gilbert

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