Friday, June 29, 2007

Viewless Wings of Poesy: Petrol "Cera"

Sublime stuff from some talented Italians...

Petrol "Cera"

dir. by Postodellefragole

via antville

The characters flicker like candles in the night. Tears like wax melting into the ocean. Wraiths disappearing into the vast blackness that separates each from each. Their white attire reflecting the moon's dim light, while their eyes lay open deep fears of isolation.

The jilted man attacks the camera as if it were an unwelcome voyeur, but his violence implies he has more to hide. Petrol sing of the little things that go unspoken between lovers - and the way they build into crashing waves of anger and resentment. The three involved here are on the precipice of a sea change, and they can feel it in the all-consuming darkness of the beach.

Yet exactly how many are present on this night? There are apparently two men wrestling in the dust, a pained woman who is of concern to both, the outed cameraman (the viewer?) and then Petrol themselves - impressively jamming without the assistance of lights or electricity of any kind. But then there is the beguiling similarity in appearance of the two dueling men (we never clearly see their faces together in a single shot), the way one's head expands to suggest a psychological struggle and a final pan to the right where it appears the man is seeing everything from a distant view - all of which actually intimates only one soul wanders these shores at midnight.

This may very well be a lonely man watching his love fall apart at the hands of his own indecision and hysteria, but it's precisely the mystery of the narrative which keeps "Cera" such a compelling treat. There is a shot of the women running across darkness as if upon water, subtle effects distort the visuals on close-ups and throughout cuts are hidden in the same black where secrets are kept. The directors create a mood that is as disquieting as it is hypnotically beautiful. An enigma that wants no solution - only to evoke and entice feeling.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Warm Solitude: Taken By Trees "Lost and Found"

Taken By Trees "Lost and Found" [Hi-Res]

dir. by Sincerely Yours

It's a beautiful seaside city, but the winds are ominous. There is a lonely girl wandering the beach, who later enjoys the quiet vacation of a good book. Victoria Bergsman is sick with longing, yet afraid of commitment. She misses home, but doesn't ever want to leave this town. As much as she mopes about, she can't help but feel a strange contentment in these lazy days of her summer - having popsicles and dipping toes in the pool. She doesn't know what to do with herself, but there is a strange beauty in that "wild" confusion - a sense of hope in her own ability to self-recover. A storm's coming by the end, and the tide has already turned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lost in Translation: Kanye West "Stronger"

A big-time production that may just win Kanye his coveted MTV EMA...

Kanye West "Stronger"

dir. by Hype Williams

Kanye follows up the lavish "Can't Tell Me Nothing" with another Hype Williams video that looks even more expensive - and significantly better. Daft Punk permeate the visuals as much as the music, but Hype's futuristic machinery parallels Bjork's sublime "All if Full of Love" as well (if only in visual style). It's a feast for the eyes, and the pairing of flashy lights, Japanese motorcycle gangs and the rising synths of the track works wonders. What doesn't work are Kanye's dance moves or those ridiculous glasses (which he may or may not have borrowed from Kells).

The plot riffs on the original DP version, placing Mr. West in a strange, potentially brain-washing experiment - except this time he seems to be controlled by the legendary dance duo themselves. Shots of Kanye's newly toned physique are meant to emphasize the literal strength he's gained while overcoming criticism and the pressures of stardom. There are bandages on his heart as he enters the robot-controlled machine, but the Chicago rapper wants to assure us he is still full of passion and emotion. His eventual escape from that torment reveals his resolve - mirroring the boastful verses that open the song.

Yet ultimately it's all just an exercise in style. West spent three months searching for those designer frames, just to make sure you'd never seen them before and thus knew they cost more than your house. In much the same way, the entire video is essentially an advertisement of the rapper's wealth, which at this point in his career we are already well aware of. The song is actually a bit more interesting, with Kanye undercutting his bravado while talking to a pretty girl in the club ("I'm trippin,' I'm caught up in the moment"). And while exploring that theme might have made for a more meaningful experience, it most certainly would have gotten in the way of R&B star Cassie shaking her stuff. Which strangely ends up being the focal point of the video.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Turn to the Left, Turn to the Right: Joel Plaskett "Fashionable People"

Joel Plaskett "Fashionable People"

dir. by RT!

[via antville]

Director RT! avoids any hint of flashy or overwrought style, and ends up making one of the most charming and fun videos of the year. Plaskett performs for the camera with such ease, and this song is so darn catchy, it's surprising more people aren't talking about his recently released Ashtray Rock. The video begins with the cheesy idea of recreating the album cover for the camera and some equally silly directions on how to do so coming from the singer himself. We spend the next couple minutes watching a whole lot of bad acting from people doing many "questionable things," yet neither the director nor Plaskett seem above the fray. In fact the song, and the final shots of the video, suggest that everyone is playing a role of some kind - and that it isn't such a bad thing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

In The Morning: You Say Party! We Say Die! "Monster"

You Say Party! We Say Die! "Monster"

dir. by Sean Wainsteim

The song begins with spooky notes of impending doom, as lead singer Becky Ninkovic's describes the frightening "nighttime" that exists in her heart. Red Riding Hood has wandered into the desolated streets of Prague searching for some light among its dark corners, but she finds fear and danger waiting there instead. Her attempts to escape are futile, and it's clear she must confront the horrors of this night sooner or later.

Yet once she turns to face the monster which haunts her, she finally understands that it's love which scares her the most. Opening herself up exposes her to the beauty of human connection, and perhaps now she notices the street lamps which illuminate the city. In the tangled mess of her own heart, she finds the strength to overcome the anxieties of the world outside.

Take Me Out: Sloan "I've Gotta Try"

Sloan "I've Gotta Try"

dir. by Stardust

[via antville]

This gorgeously animated video is full of the imaginative qualities that Sloan seek to evoke in themselves and those around them through their song. Stardust uses a wallpaper-like motif, but each piece of plaster is vividly alive - fluidly moving from one frame to the next. The cumulative effect is somewhere between hand-made psychedelia and graphic poetry. When the camera pulls out in the end, we know the band had this beauty in them all along - it just takes a little courage to wear your colors on the outside.

In My White Tee: Kinfolk Kia Shine "Krispy"

Kinfolk Kia Shine "Krispy"

dir. by Vem

Months after first hearing Memphis rapper Kinfolk Kia Shine's "Krispy," the beat sounds as irresistibly clean as ever. And if you had any doubts about the meaning of the oft-repeated chorus, director Vem's spiffy new video makes it clear Kinfolk is all about the shine. It's interesting to hear a rapper boast chiefly about his style rather than the sheer amount of his possessions. Granted "jeans 900, shoes 850" is meant to signify his inordinate wealth, but Kinfolk seems more interested in discussing his aesthetic choices - in everything from footwear to home decor - than simply throwing money at the screen (ahem). As the drawly rapper glides through a hundred different outfits in the streets of his hometown, without the assistance of busty models or slow-motion car rides, he succeeds in establishing himself as a unique voice in the monotonous world of contemporary hip-hop - while still appealing to its core principles of self-promotion.

Friday, June 22, 2007

No Alarms: Seventeen Evergreen "Lunar One"

Seventeen Evergreen "Lunar One"

dir. by Elliot Jokelson

Seventeen Evergreen and director Elliot Jokelson depict the momentary escape from this "messed up place," inspired by beauty and love, with a slow-mo trip to the moon. The video contrasts images of the absurd with close-ups on the singer's sincere face, much like the Grandaddy-esque song melds the vocal delivery with spacey background noise. Jokelson uses lo-tech solutions to create this sense of realism and disconnect, from dust on the drums to flashlights in the helmets.

The "No Surprises" reference, with the fishbowl/lights imagery, is more than just an interesting visual though. Like in that Radiohead song, the singer here feels trapped by the banality of earthly living. So when he finally finds his "pretty face," he's floating some place far away - doing the splits in a spacesuit.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Love Some Waffle House: R. Kelly & Usher "Same Girl"

R. Kelly & Usher "Same Girl"

dir. by Little X

While the writing can't sustain itself through the second act, that first section is pure gold. The combination of dramatic build and comedic payoff (in every line), works wonders with the pitch perfect deliveries of Usher and Kelly. It's a small tragedy then that these two R&B superstars couldn't sustain the charm of the sing-song exchange all the way through. Little X helps them along with some typically flashy camera work emphasizing the duo's ridiculously lavish lifestyles, and Kells surprise ending is clever enough (if somewhat implausible). But in comparison to those epic finales that characterized his last foray into rap-opera, this one feels a bit tame.

I Think You Need A New One: Avril Lavigne & Lil Mama "Girlfriend (Remix)"

Avril Lavigne & Lil Mama "Girlfriend (Remix)"

dir. by ?

In the real world Lil Mama is a teenager and Avril Lavigne is a recently married 22 year-old, but on record Mama sounds like a rapidly maturing rapper while Lavigne wallows in the voice and style of a confused adolescent. Together they make a strangely solid team, which should guarantee another couple months of torture for everyone sick of that bubblegum chorus ringing in their ears. The video is an inspiration-less rush job, which comes as no surprise considering the shoe-in popularity of the song regardless of the work done here. But let's hope in ten years - when Lavigne is packaging a singles collection around "Girlfriend" - Lil Mama looks back at this, in the midst of a multi-platinum career, and has a good laugh.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Permanently Under Construction: Blue Scholars "Back Home"

Blue Scholars "Back Home"

dir. by Zia Mohajerjasbi

While much of Zia Mohajerjasbi's video is concerned with the suffering that follows the death of soldiers in a futile war, there is also substantial anger directed at a system which manipulates some young people into making that decision to fight in the first place. It isn't simply recruiters outside schoolyards, but the constant barrage of depressing images which kids growing up in the poorer neighborhoods of America must face on a daily basis. From decrepit environments to institutional racism, these minds are molded to doubt themselves and their ability to transcend their surroundings from day one.

Under these circumstances, the military does seem to provide an avenue for escape - and in many ways it could - but the subsequent illogic of our actions in Iraq makes it all seem like a pointless trap. The cumulative frustration of all this is personified in the simplicity of the title/chorus, and in a single poignant image. As an impressionable young girl walks past a black man being handcuffed against a wall, Malcolm X looks on from a fading graffiti portrait where the word "Sisters" is scribbled to his left. Social justice silenced and forgotten in the alleyways of the city.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

City By The Sea: Maia Hirasawa "Gothenburg"

Maia Hirasawa "Gothenburg" [if:mv]

dir. by ?

The home movie-style camera work and flooding sunlight evoke a sense of warm nostalgia as Maia Hirasawa and crew wander through the city of Gothenburg. The singer approximates the nervous excitement of returning to a place you once knew - a meeting filled with all the emotion of confronting an ex-lover. Anywhere you live for some time is inevitably linked in your memory to the situations, feelings and people you encountered in that period. A deserted alley may remind you of childhood happiness, but then a bustling marketplace or a beautiful tree bring back long-buried heartbreak.

Yet Hirasawa approaches with new hope - a lover who enjoys R. Kelly and promises to erase all the pain of the past. She wants to hold back her joy, cautious and aware of the potential dangers in "Gothenburg," but occasionally her true emotions break through. In those moments her voice soars above the city and she embraces her happiness without a hint of doubt - in love with life in its entirety.

Again and Again: Lupe Fiasco "He Say, She Say"

Lupe Fiasco "He Say, She Say"

dir. by Christopher Adams and Hana McDowell

Lupe's Food & Liquor was officially released in September of last year, but unofficially it's been circulating iPod's longer than that. Either way it seems a bit late to be commissioning videos for his critically acclaimed Grammy-nominated debut. Yet when you realize the public service announcement-nature of "He Say, She Say," you can see the justification behind it.

The track uses a creative narrative approach in telling its tale of absent fathers, and the video doesn't veer too far from that model. The use of longish takes in the first-person perspective is an adept way of focusing attention on the words, and reveals new sides to Lupe's story. The performance of the pained mother is compelling as well, but her counterpart has a harder time conveying real feeling. And while the video begins strong, it sputters out with a redundant series of images. Which could suggest a lack of ideas, but also (whether it's intentional or not) reflects the anti-climactic nature of real life situations with neglectful dads.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Listen to Her Voice: Rona Kenan "Ness"

The miraculous power of inner strength...

Rona Kenan "Ness"

dir. by Adam Bizanski

According to the Jewish Talmud, women have an intellectual power called "binah" - which translates literally as "between." This implies the faculty for differentiating truth amongst seemingly identical things, or finding the deeper meaning in complicated situations. A common Jewish morning prayer explains things in a succinct metaphor: "You have given the rooster binah to distinguish between night and day."

The video actually opens with cawing crows in the shadows, but our abused protagonist - like the rooster - is able to see the coming morning despite the onslaught of darkness. In addition to the sounds of ominous birds, the room is colored with dull and dreary tones, and the cycle of oppression seems endless. Yet she endures the parade of power-hungry men and ignores the foreshadowed death - making her own path out of that hell.

The men who walk in and out of the stifling room appear to have the same face, but they represent the collective blind abuse of women on the part of a patriarchal society. Before the first one even appears, the young woman is already tensely seated - hands in lap and feet closed together. It hasn't just been her husband or her father who has held her down, but a lifetime of abuse which has now developed into an intense fear and distrust of men. They all treat her with the same arrogance, so in her memory they fold into one evil persona.

The hope comes from her repeated attempts to stand up. No matter how many hats accumulate near the door she continues to resist. It's this small action which overtime builds into the self-confidence that allows her to eventually walk out. Once outside the crows scatter away and she escapes death - not just because she knew of the rising sun outside, but more importantly she understood the power within herself.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Obtusity Channel on Chime.TV!

You may have noticed we recently added an extra button up there under the header, mysteriously named "watch videos." It's actually an exciting new development for our modest little blog, and here's an explanation:

"Chime.TV is an always-on, never-ending stream of videos hand picked by humans so you can spend more time watching and loving life on the couch (or computer chair!)."

Now, thanks to the brilliant folks behind Chime, Obtusity has its very own music video network (sort of)! You can skip all our hyperbolic interpretations and get right to the good stuff: the videos. It's an always on, constantly updated streaming feed of the videos analyzed here on the blog. Check it out!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We Share Our Mother's Health: Hans Appelqvist "Tänk Att Himlens Alla Stjärnor"

Hans Appelqvist "Tänk Att Himlens Alla Stjärnor"

dir. by Andreas Nilsson

Andreas Nilsson, the creative mind behind all those crazy The Knife videos, returns with even more animated hilarity in this new work for fellow Swede Hans Appelqvist. The musician himself fills the song with strange sounds and distracting noises which contrast with his apparently somber tone (we admit, we need a translator). This undercurrent of absurd in the music is used similarly by the director to develop the image of a man playing his guitar amidst rampant silliness. It's quite literally a jungle out there, but Appelqvist seems safe and sound by the campfire with his guitar.

Or perhaps - since we lack the language skills to know for sure - the director has done a completely faithful adaptation of the track and Appelqvist is indeed singing of falling skies, hungry squirrels and the chaos of nature. It may very well be that the singer isn't lost in a strange world, but simply at home in his singular mind. Either way, we'd avoid the defecating man-eating beast at all costs.

I Would Never Wish Bad Things: Soko "I'll Kill Her"

Soko "I'll Kill Her"

dir. by ?

It's a simple video for a simple song - a song which you either love or hate with a burning passion. We fall into the former group, so it's nice to find Soko looking rightfully sardonic in this improvised performance on the streets of Paris. People have called her the French Lily Allen, but her pouty charm initially comes off as more sincere than "Smile" (if far less catchy). The hyperbolic chorus is merely a guise behind which Soko holds her real pain, and it emerges in those moments when she briefly glimpses in the dirty mirror. Yet her sulking expression of anger is funnier than it is affecting, and the self-pity is ultimately a tool for dropping witticisms. Which, so far, is a pretty good gimmick.

The Airborne Toxic Event "Does This Mean You're Moving On"

The Airborne Toxic Event "Does This Mean You're Moving On"

dir. by Jason Wishnow

It's pretty obvious she has moved on, and lead singer Mikel Jolet knows it - but that doesn't mean he'll stop asking. Director Jason Wishnow plays upon the mix of sincerity and stubborn denial in the singer's words, as well as the breezy tone of the music. In a little over 2 minutes he throws together multiple storylines of heartbreak - which could or could not be related - while still retaining a light and lively spirit. The various parts never fully congeal but the visual style is engaging, and Jolet is charming enough that the video doesn't need much else.

Seize the Moment: Another Chance "Everytime I See Her"

Another Chance "Everytime I See Her"

dir. by Justin Kerrigan

The appeal of Justin Kerrigan's work here is the ease with which he tells this age-old tale. He establishes the love triangle within a matter of seconds, and in the first minute we are already certain of the heroic conclusion. Yet as with any cheesy romance film, we watch not for the surprises but for the reassurance of a moral ending. The suspense is in the anticipation of Romeo making his move, and helplessly watching the girl run headfirst into a wall. Despite our immense familiarity with the story, the semi-lite tone of the work (cued by the song), use of young actors and the grandest middle school dance in recorded history keep things compelling right up to the dramatic finish.

Just This Time: Keren Ann "Lay Your Head Down"

Keren Ann "Lay Your Head Down"

dir. by Camille Vivier

Keren Ann is at a crossroads, between desert and ocean - water and ice. She can dry up in her memories or turn cold with a broken heart, but there seems no avenue to happiness. Yet even as she steps back her doubts are overwhelmed by the relentless sun - unable to shake the hope that this time everything will be alright. Like the child staring through crystals on the beach, the world looks much different when she holds him in her arms. And even if she knows it'll sink her in the end, she can't resist floating here a while longer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All Ye Need to Know: Cornelius "Like a Rolling Stone"

Cornelius "Like a Rolling Stone"

dir. by Koichiro Tsujikawa

Despite the use of toy cars and action figures, there is something overwhelmingly sad about Koichiro Tsujikawa's work here. Amplified by the spacious tones of Cornelius's track, the director presents a stunning vision of humanity's futility. Yet it isn't just that these little people move in circles, but they are all caught in their own vortex - orbiting only in their own galaxy. Many of the characters do indeed notice others, but in these cases the outside individuals now become the center of their world - whether it be a father, mother or lover. No one really seems cognizant of the anonymous person standing in front of them in line, let alone the bigger picture of humankind.

But sometime after the halfway point, Tsujikawa zooms in on a Venus de Milo-type women spinning inside one of the many portal-like doorways. Not only does she seem a unique figure in this redundant universe, but there is something unexpected about her beauty. Now as the director pulls out to show us this world once more, it suddenly has symmetry and grace where it once seemed pointless and stagnant. The ballet of the process - no matter how lonely - is at least something to admire aesthetically. The ability to enjoy such things is perhaps the only thing that prevents us from actually becoming stone.

Rock With You: Justin Timberlake "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows"

Justin Timberlake "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows"

dir. by Robert Hales

From the director of the Rorschach-inspired "Crazy," the fourth video from Timberlake's epic Futuresex/Lovesounds veers dangerously close to a Windows Media Player visualization. But the stark contrast between the first two-thirds and the finale keeps things from getting entirely sleep-inducing. As the star stands in a vast white space (where he's been before), the camera floats in on his now completely visible face. The effect is meant to highlight the sincerity of the "I Think She Knows" interlude - the wooing was the easy party, but now he stumbles when faced with his actual feelings (a muted suit and modest beard are thrown in for added effect).

But following the large scale of his last video - and considering the obviousness of the visual motifs utilized here - the video overall feels somewhat lazy. Granted watching Justin Timberlake dance to great music dressed in snazzy outfits almost guarantees airplay, but we've come to expect more from the new king of pop.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dance Lessons: M.I.A. "Boyz"

Our favorite English-born Sri Lankan artist drops a raucous new video...

M.I.A. "Boyz"

dir. by Jay Will

Though it's hard to believe, M.I.A. has taken the visual themes of 2005's Arular (seen everywhere from the cover art to the video for "Galang") and created something even more gloriously epilepsy-inducing for sophomore LP Kala. The vibrant collage of neon colors and cheap special effects found in the promo for new single "Boyz" (as well as her fantastic website) is a homage to everything from 80's video games to the advertising and film culture of Nigeria, Southeast Asia and Jamaica. But it's also a completely singular vision, and one that is impossible to pin to any particular movement or region of the world.

Which, by no coincedence, mirrors the melting pot style of her brilliant music. M.I.A. (who studied fine art, film and video at London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) aims to change the world with her message, but it's her intelligence and enthusiasm in pursuit of that goal which makes her so exciting. Earlier this year she ran amok on the streets of Sri Lanka in the politically-charged "Bird Flu," and here she manages to stuff every major dance craze in contemporary Jamaica into one hypnotic short video.

It would come as no surprise if M.I.A. films her next project in yet another new locale, showcasing the under-appreciated talents of even more people. She has no fear of expressing her own sexuality or desire for a good time (check out the recent non-album cut "Hit That"), but her greatest talent is the ability to code meaning into such fun music. Turns out boys are the same everywhere, which is good for free drinks and cross-cultural unity - but worrisome for global politics.

Check out the "Making of Boyz" here, and more set photos here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Hours: Róisín Murphy "Overpowered"

Róisín Murphy "Overpowered"

dir. by Jamie Thraves

Murphy's song is a far out masterpiece, and so we approach the video almost expecting avant-garde images to accompany that spacey bass line. Yet even as director Jamie Thraves emphasizes the singer's abstract outfit early on, there are drops of sweat that impose the reality of life from the opening shots. Murphy stumbles off stage as if drunk on fame, but soon after she leaves the surreality of performing she is on the bus home next to an actual drunk.

But Thraves' vision is about more than revealing the very average life of a popular artist. As Murphy sits next to that toasty man on the bus, she avoids looking at him completely. Later she is forced to notice a couple fondling each other, boys sprinting down the sidewalk and a police car blaring down the road - but she shows no real interest in any of this. Instead, as the action encircles her, she seems a bit overwhelmed by the sheer weight of its everydayness (McDonald's - a perfect symbol of banality - is shown in the background). She sleeps in her checkerboard dress to hold tightly to the intoxication of the stage, but her thoughts wander as she turns out the lights. Stardom is the drug which protects her from her deepest fear - that life is actually this boring and she herself is as mundane as everything else.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Running to Stand Still: Editors "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors"

Editors "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors"

dir. by Arni & Kinski

Editors want this escape from the insanity of social suppression to move you - to inspire a wave of hope inside. The band plays with purpose and lead singer Tom Smith emotes every note as if it's his last. The moment when the precious young convict skips across the water to freedom is meant to convey the greatness in all of us - the hidden magic which is stifled by fear and hate. And it is a magnificent image.

Yet despite the beautiful cinematography and well-intentioned narrative, it's hard not to feel this video is held back by the weaknesses of the song. The predictable progression and obviousness of the lyrics really bog down "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" (it drags a bit), and the story suffers as a result. Which is really a shame, as both the young actress and the artists behind the camera seem in top form. Proof that good directing can only take a music video so far.

We Have Crashed the Party: Arctic Monkeys "Fluorescent Adolescent"

Arctic Monkeys "Fluorescent Adolescent"

dir. by Richard Ayoade

A peppy riff is accompanied by clowns and sunshine, but these normally pleasant parts don't add up to the summertime jaunt you might expect. As Alex Turner delivers rapid-fire lyrics about an aging woman, the similarly grown-up clowns engage a suited group of men in a battle royale. Violence and hilarity ensue, but within all this absurdity there is more than a hint of sincere storytelling.

Like Turner's characters, these are men who lament the loss of their innocent youths; reacting defensively rather than pausing to reflect on their growth. The momentary flashbacks are bitter memories, and the "Karma Police"-finale is not catharsis - it's a resignation no amount of makeup can hide.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Don't Look Back: Bat for Lashes "What's A Girl to Do"

An absolutely killer new video, for an old song, from the next-big-thing...

Bat for Lashes "What's A Girl To Do" (QT)

dir. by Dougal Wilson

Rolling down the street in the dark of night is akin to playing catch with butcher knives - someone is bound to get hurt. Yet Natasha Khan (a.k.a. Bat for Lashes) can't seem to stop playing Russian roulette with her heart (and his), helplessly wandering into an impending train wreck. Beautifully sinister notes accompany the singer as she moves deeper into this Donnie Darko-ish world of life-size rabbits and roadside accidents. The cinematography is excellent, and the director imbues the setting with a contrasting mix of horrific tension and images of the absurd.

Yet as Khan ignores one foreboding sign after another - repeatedly admitting her love has weakened - we begin to wonder if what keeps her going is more than an inability to let go of a previously good thing. She may look disheartened as she rides, but the costumed company she keeps is having a whale of a time. Perhaps she persists past these crossroads for more self-serving (and understandable) reasons. After all, far after the tingling inside is gone - her lust remains.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Soldiering On: Green Day "Working Class Hero"

Candles burning amidst barbed wire...

Green Day "Working Class Hero"

dir. by Sam Bayer

From clenched fists to restrained tears, this is a video boiling with emotion - suppressed into black and white where it wants color. Director Sam Bayer and Green Day take Lennon's working class themes and apply it to the genocide in Darfur; to the universal struggle for freedom and expression. The boys aren't after your sympathy - sympathy is too easy - but more crucially your empathy. Bayer uses a deep focus on realistic portraits to give a face to the accompanying facts and statistics. People aren't just being killed, this specific man's father was murdered in front of him. A woman was raped next to her dead husband's body, citizens are hunted like rabbits and the Sudanese live in fear of making a sound - these are the witnesses. These people tell their stories not simply for help, but for understanding above all else.

Green Day both mock and embrace the pathos of the title, seeing it as an embodiment of the false American ideal as well as the hope for future change. The song trudges along like an army march, but the the chorus gains steam each time it's repeated. With a flag hanging solemnly behind them, Billie Armstrong and company challenge the "working class" of America to break through the walls of society which box them in, to fight for something real. The horror of Darfur demands immediate action, but it also presents an opportunity for millions around the world to step up and don the proverbial cape - to actually become heroes. In the process the artist's hope we might escape the communal self-doubt which terrorizes the world and fuels hate crimes in the first place.

Monday, June 04, 2007

What Goes Around: Hillary Duff "Stranger"

Hillary Duff "Stranger"

dir. by Fatima Robinson

A sketch of a plot and visual style, which recalls at least two pop videos already released this year, is mixed with vaguely middle eastern-sounding music (the beat is very "Don't Cha"-like as well) in this excuse to promote Hillary Duff's newfound sexual freedom. And with that goal in mind, the director does an amiable job - combining risqué belly dancing with overt scenes of the morning-after. It also wants to present the former Lizzie McGuire as a strong independent woman - even if her voice is still struggling to grow. Yet as fellow pop stars Britney and Lindsey can attest - showing skin doesn't neccesarily equal maturity.

Through the Windowpane: Kate Nash "Foundations"

A delectable gem we originally missed, discovered through Antville's monthly recap...

Kate Nash "Foundations"

dir. by Kinga Burza

As Kate Nash and her beau wrestle over a silent game of cards, the songstress steals a sarcastic glance over at her only "friends" - a lonely bowl of goldfish. What she comes to realize is this relationship not only suffocates her emotionally, but literally isolates the couple from the outside world. The intimacy that was once a source of enormous comfort is now as icky as an anonymous drunk passed out on top of you - vomiting on your brand new shoes. Suddenly she would do anything to get out and breath fresh air, to see some real flowers rather than those painted on her bedroom wall.

Yet ending a relationship is never that easy. There is always the fear (yellow permeates) of even more loneliness, and a struggle with forgetting both good and bad memories. On the one hand the littlest annoyances that silently pile up inside are beginning to nag incessantly, but at the same time she can't seem to shake the feeling of nostalgia she has for the earliest days of her love. Every time she looks at their cute little toothbrushes sharing a cup or their laundry tangled up on the floor, she must weigh it against disinterested looks and a fridge full of beer bottles. So like many she seems stuck, forced to put flowers in empty trash and pretend it's all right.

The video captures the worst moment in a failing relationship - when the only pleasure one gets is from winding up the other (cleverly shown to be a childish activity). Yet through all the arm wrestling and finger holding, what Nash discovers more than anything is how much her boyfriend seems to sleep. It's the utter lack of enthusiasm he shows - more than the mean things he says - that eventually pummels through their foundations. Sometimes all you want is an angry outburst, or at least a bitter goodbye as you walk out the door - but he's putting his feet up while she takes out the trash.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Calm and Ready: Common "The Game"

Common "The Game"

dir. by Neon

Ever stand middle of the pack at your favorite artist's concert and feel, for a split second, his or her eyes meeting your own? In that moment it's as if no one else is in that crammed auditorium, bar or basement venue - suddenly it's a private performance. Directing group Neon capture the sensation of those connections, but from the perspective of the musician as well as the audience. Common storms the stage looking for that reciprocity; he catches brief glimpses of fans singing along and is genuinely motivated by it. He loses himself in that communal experience, and wants to share it with each and every face in the crowd.

The rest of the video falls somewhere between 8 Mile and Raging Bull, with Common showing off his newfound acting ambition. As he speaks to the mirror we initially assume he's alone in the room, but in fact he's only isolated in his mind - revealing the strength of his concentration before a show. He quickly moves from a moment of hesitation at the sink into the excitement of approaching the stage, like a prize fighter preparing for battle. It's a compelling look inside the game, and raises expectations for Common's forthcoming Finding Forever.

We Ain't Goin' To the Town: The Answering Machine "Silent Hotels"

The Answering Machine "Silent Hotels"

dir. by ?

A performance video composed with a certain zest, "Silent Hotels" is an excellent introduction to an exciting young band. A spry guitar riff and catchy hooks keep things bouncing through darkly-lit shows and the occasional black and white road footage. The split screen emphasizes the individual parts that each member of the band plays, but in certain moments all three come together in a chorus of expression. Keep an eye out.

Here We Are Now: My Chemical Romance "Teenagers"

My Chemical Romance "Teenagers"

dir. by Marc Webb

In pseudo-Nirvana fashion, My Chemical Romance and a group of strange cheerleaders rile up a crowd of angry kids with their commentary on society's stereotypical perception of teenagers. This continues the themes of rebellion we've seen in a number of previous MCR videos, but the band adds a charming stomp to their typically pop rock sound this time around. Unfortunately the song doesn't hold the emotional weight it requires, and the band seem to know it - ending the video rather abruptly with a cautious disclaimer. Rise up and reject the oppressive trappings of society, but just don't hurt anybody while you're at it.

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