Marcello Anciano | Pete Angelus, David Lee Roth | Alan Arkush | Vaughn Arnell and Anthea Benton | Beug and Simpson | Steve Barron | Zelda Barron | Marshall Berle | Gilbert Bettman,Jr | Patricia Birch | Mike Brady | Derek Burbidge | Marty Callner | Carina Camamile | Peter Cristopherson | Frank Delia | Brian De Palma | Howard Deutch | Nigel Dick | R. Dolezal and H. Rossacher | Stanley Donen | Terence Donovan | Doug Dowdle | Jay Dubin | Paul Flaherty and Jack Cole | Matt Forrest | Chris Gabrin | Duncan Gibbins | Bob Giraldi | Godley and Creme | Bruce Gowers | Brian Grant | Brian Greenberg | Edd Griles | Mick Haggerty | Peter Heath | Graham Herman, Richard Perry | Scott Hicks | Rupert Hine and Jeannette Obstoj | Tobe Hooper | Tim Hutton | Wayne Isham | Peter Isrealson | Stephen R. Johnson | John Jopson | Paul Justman | Martin Kahan | Jonathan Kaplan | Danny Kleinman | Mick Kleber | Mary Lambert | Don Letts | Jay Levey | Dick Maas | Keith MacMillan | Albert Magnoli | David Mallet | Mike Mansfield | Alan Metter | Simon Milne | Michael Miner | Jean-Baptiste Mondino | Andy Morahan | Nick Morris | Russell Mulcahy | Jill Mulharon | Tim Newman | Dominic Orlando | Kenny Ortega | Bill Parker | Maurice Phillips | Tim Pope | Preachman and Fisher | Bob Radler | Bob Rafelson | Sherry Revord, Kevin Dole | Mark Rezyka | Dave Robinson | Zybigniew Rybczynski | John Sayles | Rick Sereeni | Peter Sinclair | Jeff Stein | Tony Stevens | William Tannen | Julien Temple | Storm Thorgerson | Eric Watson | D. J. Webster | Jim Yukich
Classic Film and Television Home Page
Readers will also want to consult the very informative MTV's Who's Who in Rock Videos (1983), text and research by John Tobler. That book deals with the very early 1980's, while the list in this article mainly deals with the mid 80's. There is almost no overlap between Tobler's book and the credits below. The credits below were taken from the TV screens of many different networks showing music videos, over the years.
There are some highly informative web sites dealing with music videos. I wish these had been available when I was studying videos in the 1980's!
Marcello Anciano's work often is set to lyrical ballads. Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" has a good finale, in which the characters in the band assemble finally for their first group shot, then disappear.
Van Halen/David Lee Roth
Arkush is a well known film and TV director, often specializing in comedy. "Beast of Burden" has a catchy melody, and a video carefully shot to capture its rhythm. Its delightful Bette Midler performance, and gathering sense of suspense, make it a gem.
Dead or Alive
One of the most visually dynamic dance videos is Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round". As the name implies, the video is full of circular movements of the band. The over all effect is complex and dazzling. Its style recalls Russell Mulcahy.
Fun Boy Three
Many of Steve Barron's video's are about the encounter between film and reality. It is not quite illusion and reality; rather it deals with the juxtaposition of worlds created out of film, and real life. In Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby", we see the band acting in a film, and then watching themselves in scenes from the film. The video climaxes with a camera tracking over to a mirror, where we see the camera and the crew reflected, shooting themselves - an ingenious and atmospheric climax. Another video shows a woman comic book artist falling asleep over her drawings, dreaming that they have come to life. In A-Ha's "Take On Me", the characters alternate between animated comic book drawings and reality. A character we first thought was just a drawn illusion, eventually becomes a real young man, played by the band's lead singer. The return to waking is memorable too: three cuts on movement, including a spinning fan: a really beautiful figure of style.
We also have Brian Adams singing his haunting ballad Heaven, one of the best songs of the 80's, to a whole theater full of TV sets. The hotel rooms of Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out", shot through their windows, also give a two kinds of reality effect. Adams' "Cuts like a Knife" is done in a drained swimming pool, and has illusion vs. reality, but no filmic elements. The movements of the characters, combined with the camera movements, are especially striking and beautiful here. The camera tends to circle and swoop around the singers. The hero's black leather jacket returns in "Take On Me".
Zelda Barron directed the delightful women's coming-of-age feature film, Shag (1988).
Berle is the grandson of comedian Milton Berle, who plays a role in this video. It shows a flair for comedy.
These two story videos are full of comic violence of the car chase variety. They remind one of scenes from 1980's TV cop shows. Bettman also worked as a director of such TV episodes.
Birch is a prolific choreographer. Her one shot at feature directing, Grease 2, is a much underrated gem that shows her tremendous sense of visual style. This performance video with Cyndi Lauper is much simpler, however.
"Black Cars" (1985) recalls Fellini, especially such sixties extravaganzas as 8 1/2 and Toby Dammit. It has an Italian night club setting, with several characters being the extreme sorts one finds in Fellini movies. The car accident recalls Toby Dammit. It also evokes the clothes of Miami Vice, which had burst on the scene the year earlier, in 1984 The hero magically gets in a green suit half way through, around the same time as the women start to multiply.
Callner's Twisted Sister videos are especially lively. When Congress held anti rock hearings studying censorship, Twisted Sister was summoned to testify. They showed up not in suits, but in full stage gear, a startling act of defiance that showed commendable artistic resistance to censorship.
The young boys in "We're Not Going To Take It" magically transform themselves into the band members of Twister Sister. Then much havoc ensues, with Road Runner types of impossible, tongue in cheek action. The same scenario is literalized in Callner's video about virtual reality, "Get a Grip". Here, the teen-age hero first re-styles his on-screen alter-ego, changing his hair, giving him cool glasses and clothes. Then impossible stunts ensue, which as the film warns, are "only safe in cyberspace". Both films are full of wish fulfillment fantasies. In fact, these are so direct, and presented so directly as such, that the film implicitly asks us to both enjoy and skeptically question them.
Boys Don't Cry
ELO's "So Serious" uses an unusual photographic technique, constructing a dream like video around it. Shot in Miami on and around the elevated train, it is a gem; I would like to know more about its director. Its use of colored light anticipates the photography in the theatrical film Sugarbaby.
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "So Serious" share a common ground plan. Both are story videos. Both take place in sophisticated urban areas. Both involve high tech transportation areas high in the air: the Miami elevated train in "So Serious"; the roofs of skyscrapers in "Heart". Both involve young men dressed to the teeth in the formal, dress for success suits of yuppies. Intermixed with these realistic elements are fantasies, realized as special effects. Both films teach lessons at the end. In each case, the lesson involves learning disbelief in what the world is trying to teach the protagonist. He learns to be a non-conformist in a totalitarian world in "Heart"; and she learns not to take romantics heartaches so seriously in "So Serious".
Right To Rock
De Palma is the well known film director (The Untouchables, Get To Know Your Rabbit). Here Springsteen gives a lively stage performance of one of his prettiest songs.
Deutch also directed such theatrical films as Pretty in Pink (1986).
Tears For Fears
Guns 'N' Roses
Tears For Fears' "Shout" ends with a democratic celebration of people of all ages. Dick did the great charity video for Band Aid, against Ethiopian famine.
"Paradise City" (1988) is most notable for the snow white motorcycle outfit that Axl Rose wears. Wish people would wear snazzy clothes like this today!
Dick is still making videos today. His Prague-shot Dion video is full of fantasy sequences, something that also appears in "Rule the World".
"Rock Me Amadeus", with Vienna based rapper Falco, is full of camera movement. During the first half, the tracks are either directly toward or directly away from the viewer. They have tremendous propulsive power, as they follow Falco into buildings or rooms of Viennese palaces. He is definitely making a entrance, as in old movies and plays. The movements in the second half are less purely in one direction, combining forward movements with tracks circling the characters. The video is full of mysterious sense of happiness - it seems like one joyous party where friends are getting together, dressing up, and having fun. It is one of the most upbeat and happy of all music videos.
Veteran MGM musical director Donen here recreates the revolving room effect from his Fred Astaire musical Royal Wedding (1950).
Hall and Oates
John Cougar Mellencamp
Dubin seems mainly to be a lively stager of traditional dance numbers. His Billy Joel videos have tremendous charm. Dubin likes traditional urban settings with a strong working class feel. His characters start with a mild urban macho, but this gives way to romantic feelings.
Dennis De Young
Story videos are a favorite of mine; it is especially interesting to see a whole plot squeezed down into three minutes. It supports an economy of storytelling that recalls the fast moving films of the early 1930's. Peter Flaherty and Jack Cole stressed warm hearted images from daily American life. Flaherty went on to direct such film comedies as 18 Again.
Art of Noise
Matt Forrest is interested in experimental film techniques, often based in animation - Max Headroom, no less, shows up in "Paranoimia". His "Dreamtime" shows a classic Elizabethan English house. The rich, imaginative "Peter Gunn Theme" (1986) is a full mystery story, told as a singing, dancing extravaganza. The stylized, abstract sets and costumes, the mystery plot, and the storytelling through dance all recall the Girl Hunt ballet that ends The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1954).
John Cougar Mellencamp
When you drive through Indiana you see endless inexpensive suburban homes that look just like the ones in "Little Pink Houses". It seems to have a different architecture than the rest of the American Mid West. The tracking shot over the bridge is also first rate in "Pink Houses".
Duncan Gibbins largely made story videos. His finest work was Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues". The film is rich in visual detail; Gibbins has the silent director's flair for creating interesting pictures out of a story. I like the way the hero changes his appearance, and the search. Gibbins directed the teen love story Fire With Fire (1986).
Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney
Giraldi's videos offer a gritty but glamorized look at life on the streets, whether it's the gangs of Beat It or the runaways of Love Is A Battlefield. Both also unexpectedly tell their stories through dance, with their low life characters being played by vigorous dance troupes.
Love Is A Battlefield shows the red-orange versus blue color palette that is sometime popular in feature films. An exception: Pat Benatar's dark green dress at the end, which is outside of this color combination. It emphasizes that she is standing outside of the system, and is a rebel character.
Godley and Creme
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Kevin Godley's recent video for the "Theme From Mission Impossible" recapitulates themes from the earlier work of Godley and Creme. The camera tracks through a maze of television sets, intercut with similar computer animation of a trail trough a blue maze; this recalls the tracks through a maze of candles in The Police's "Wrapped Around Your Finger". And the scenes of morphing faces recalls their early experiments with photographic dissolves to blend faces in "Cry". The numerous TV sets here also recall the robots in Herbie Hancock's "Rock-It". Godley and Creme were formalists, always looking for some new abstract pattern to put in their work. One of their most successful experiments were the 16 screens in Asia's "Heat of the Moment". The finale, when whirling pictures replace the static images in all 16 screens, is an especially memorable bit of mise-en-scène.
John Cougar Mellencamp
Gowers' work focusses on the gritty side of young people's life, shot in a grainy, almost home movie fashion.
Grant's videos show an expertise with camera movement. In Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know", the characters wander through a beautifully multi-colored labyrinth. Grants camera tracks their slightest move. It moves back with the singers, it moves forward with them, it curls around the side after forward movements to reveal more of the labyrinth. Even in frontal shots that other directors would film with a static camera, the camera is often moving subtly from side to side, in time with the music and the characters dancing. The great tracking shot of the video occurs around half way through. First, the camera moves down from a height to pick up on Houston; this is just a preliminary move. Then Houston moves forward, and the camera tracks with her. She goes a fairly long distance, directly towards the viewer. Suddenly Houston moves to the left, without any warning. The camera with great smoothness makes an equally abrupt move to the left, starting a lateral track. This left lateral track takes up much of the rest of the shot. Throughout this track, both Houston and the camera keep a largely fixed distance from the viewer, moving steadily to the left. Houston crosses room after room of the labyrinth here, but beautifully, she never wavers from a straight line, a purely geometric straight path. Sometimes she, and the faithfully tracking camera slow down, sometimes they speed up, but they also adhere to a pure geometric straight line. It is surprising, and beautiful, that a straight line exists through the maze. When she reaches the end of the maze, the camera moves in towards her to a closer shot; this final inward track functions as a brief close to the whole marvelous shot. Most of the shot consists of a giant L: a straight line towards the viewer, followed by a straight line towards the left. The angle between the two sides of the L is greater than 90 degrees, however. This tracking shot is the first time that the entire labyrinth has been transversed; it functions like the traveling shot at the end of Resnais' Muriel (1963), which shows the whole apartment the characters have been living in throughout the movie for the first time, all in one shot. It spatially integrates all the disconnected images the viewer has seen up to that point - a very visually satisfying experience.
Grant's videos often take place in a symbolic world. There are intimations of androgyny in both "The Other Side of Life" and "How Will I Know". "The Look of Love" recreates old fashioned vaudeville dance routines, the kind that showed up in Hollywood musicals set in the turn of the century.
"How Will I Know" recalls the title ballet in the motion picture, The Red Shoes (1948). In that ballet, the heroine encounters large, translucent screen panels. Like the panels in the video, these are full of brilliant patches of color. There are also scenes of "primitive" people covered with body paint, anticipating "Shock the Monkey". The whole ballet is full of the dream-like symbolism that will later appear in Grant's later work.
Prince's moves in this performance video recall Cab Calloway's.
Huey Lewis and the News
Griles' pieces tend to take place in the Real World, being small vignettes about ordinary people. They are shot in a realistic style, as well, following the characters around on a story. They do not take place in an abstract montage. They tend to have gentle love stories in them as well.
Griles' settings include the beach and nearby tourist shops in "If This Is It", and a diner in "She-Bop". These are places of middle class, even lower middle class, fun. A definite class segment of the United States is identified. The amusements shown are already a bit out of date - they hearken back to the 1950's, and perhaps the childhood of the director. So does Cyndi Lauper's home life in "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", and the 1950's cliché that girls want to spend their time on the telephone. The effect is not underscored, or made explicit. Just as The Jackie Gleason Show tended to evoke 1930's New York City even though it was officially set in the contemporary 1960's, so do these modern day 1980's videos seem to offer imagery appropriate to the 1950's. All of these videos evoke a communal existence: people have fun together. One sees conga lines in "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", and the people moving in lock-step through the diner at the beginning of "She-Bop". The lines at the diner perhaps recall the workers entering the city in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926). There is definitely a sense of de-humanization evoked. Their steady rhythmic quality recalls the nodding heads of people buried in the sand in "If This Is It". Griles' rhythmic motion is not subtle, but it is pleasing nonetheless.
Cyndi Lauper's character evokes the timeless aspirations of American working class women. Perhaps the great outpouring of affection that greeted her, was in part based on the fact that people "recognized" her. She reminded them of women they had grown up with. A decade later, Sandra Bullock evoked some of the same feelings.
Griles likes brilliant color - the finale of "She-Bop", with its different dancers eventually forming color coded vertical lines on the steps, is like a color variation on old Busby Berkeley dance routines in such black and white films as 42nd Street. Warm colors such as yellow, red and orange are emphasized. "Time After Time" is composed of images in blue and orange.
"Rhythm of the Night" is carefully designed in red and white, with occasional touches of a cool blue. The hero's clothes are white, with a red scarf, and others in his group are in red. At the end, everyone is dancing in front of a building with three neon arches on top. The front two are red and white; the fainter third one behind them is blue: the same priority as the colors in the film. The music gets more polyphonic in the finale, and so does the film: the hero's dancing at the end is in different rhythms from the troop behind him. And two other singers suddenly enter the film through superimposition, and add to the complexity of what is seen, before fading out again. Such appearances and disappearances of superimposed singers had earlier been seen in Mulcahey's Video Killed the Radio Star.
"Rhythm of the Night" is a highly infectious tune and video. Both the music and the dancing convey a sense of joy. DeBarge is from Grand Rapids, in my own state of Michigan; I was pleasantly surprised to find this tune turn up in the Australian musical film, Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001).
The Australia based Hicks also directed the theatrical film Shine (1996).
Rupert Hine's work shows an interesting command of rhythm and abstract imagery. His "One Thing Leads to Another", for the Fixx, is set in a circular tunnel, and really works as a set of abstract patterns in time and space.
Horror film veteran Hooper made this extremely lively film video with Billy Idol, which is the definitive expression of his film image.
Actor Hutton's video has some nice camera movements.
A good deal of Isham's work revolves around teen life, with an emphasis on its mildly naughty and rebellious features.
Stephen R. Johnson is an animator; he made many of the 1980's promos for MTV. He applied his style to a number of videos, as well. In the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere", there is a very steady rhythmic progression of the images, cut to the beat of the song. The scene where the red paint spills on the globe always suggests to me troubles and catastrophes plaguing our planet. His "Sledgehammer", made for Peter Gabriel, is his most delightful work. The scenes with the moving chairs at the end are especially good. The film builds to a complex rhythmic climax.
"Road to Nowhere" has two frames: the choir singing, and then the road. The film is nested within in these, which occur at the beginning and the end of the film. After this opening there is the circularly rotating circular object, in this case the cake, another framing device - many more of these occur in the final montage. The inner chapters of the video fall into three parts, two long sequences with a bridge between. The first long sequence shows a large image, often with one or two performers on a studio stage, with a frame within the frame of David Byrne running in the lower right corner. The transition section shows an elaborate animation, with Byrne seated on a large chair. The animation here is typical of much of Johnson's work in this period, and is the most detailed animation in the video. The second long sequence shows circularly rotating objects in the center of the large image, with not one but four frames filling the four quadrants of the screen. These sections are ecstatic, with a great complexity of motion filling the eye, and suggesting an overflow of imagery on the screen.
Much of the video's imagery suggests symbolic meanings. These mainly concern the purpose of life, and what we are accomplishing. Much of this seems philosophical. Sometimes these take fairly cheap shots: a sequence showing a couple from courtship to old age suggests that family life is just a ritual, perhaps arbitrary. However, this sequence does not show any deep feeling among the characters, and hence none of the beauty of family life. It does modify this towards the end with a striking shot of the couple circling and flapping their arms. The gestures suggest a secret ecstasy, a religious meaning to their lives. The couple seems to be touched with a divine fire, which they are expressing something sacred from deep within themselves. A later shot shows a couple dancing romantically, while dressed in prom like clothes: this suggests more meaning to romance. Another perhaps cheap shot shows a musician dragging an accordion up a hill: an image of the burden artists carry dragging their art around them through their lives. I can identify with this, however, and laughed at it. It is more of a home truth that the other. The climbing hill recalls Sisyphus. Other images: competition in the business world is spoofed by two masked men with briefcases fighting: it suggests the absurdity of business fighting in the broad scheme of things. This also seems to me a point fairly well taken. I am not sure business is futile: some business people accomplish a lot. But business fighting is always futile. It is as meaningless as this video suggests. The endless images of things moving around in circles also suggests futility, as does the image of the empty road itself, seeming leading on to nowhere.
"Road to Nowhere" also has political meanings. It is a protest against the arms race of the 1980's. It suggests that it will end in tragedy for the globe, with one of the most potent images in music video, the globe with blood spilled on it.
One rhythm in "Road to Nowhere" is people singing / not singing. When a person is singing, we tend to get a shot of a singer; the instrumental interludes between these tend to be alternating images. Another pattern superimposed on this represents longer units in the song. These units tend to have common melodies, arrangements, lyrics and intensity of singing. These units are reflected visually by the small square in the lower right hand corner. This square shows Byrne running in place against different backgrounds. This background tends to be of a uniform type during one of these larger units. When the song unit changes, the background in the lower square also cuts along with it.
In both patterns, the cutting tends to be razor sharp. It is timed right on the beat of the music. The video never misses an opportunity to comment on the lyrics, or the emotional feelings conveyed by the singers. The pictures are as tightly coupled to the text as are words and music in a Renaissance madrigal.
J Geils Band
The dropped decorations of "Centerfold" and the splattered paint of "Freeze Frame" show a good visual imagination.
John Cougar Mellancamp
Kaplan's videos mainly establish a gentle, melancholy mood of daily life. He is a prolific director of political films.
Howard Jones' "What is Love" (1983) reminds one of Resnais. In part, this is because it was shot in Paris; more profoundly, because of the use of unusual cinematic tenses. Jones makes gestures; in turn these launch lovers in other scenes through the same gestures. What the relationship is is hard to say: magic; imaginings visualized on screen? There is a montage effect: the joining of a scene of Jones with a scene of a lover gives each shot more meaning than it would have alone. This gentle, unassuming video has unexpected charm.
"Go Insane" (1984) has a recursive quality. We keep seeing giants poke into and take the lid off of smaller sets. It is like Edward Albee's play, Tiny Alice. Kleinman would do a second recursive work, "Big Love" (1987). This Fleetwood Mac video centers on the same singer as "Go Insane", Lindsey Buckingham. Here, the camera keeps pulling back, in a series of camera movements, that eventually lead into brand new sets, all featuring Lindsey Buckingham. The other members of the band are stationed along the paths of the camera movement, in a practice recalling long take sequences in narrative films.
"Sex as a Weapon" is an essay film, like those of Chris Marker and Agnès Varda. Its constant refrain is "Stop using sex as a weapon!" This has three different levels of meaning. In the original song, the lyrics seem to refer to a personal relationship, between the singer, and a lover who is exploiting sex for manipulative purposes. The video is a full scale assault, on the other hand, in the use of sex in the media, especially sex linked with violence or aggression. It deals with and deconstructs James Bond movies, femme fatales, and TV commercials and shows that exploit violent sexual imagery. It is a remarkably powerful and endlessly inventive piece. The song uses split screen imagery, like some other videos of the era: the only really systematic use of this technique by a large group of filmmakers in film history. The song can be given a third meaning: a plea to stop the war on homosexuals that has been fought by bigots for so long. This meaning is explicit in neither the song nor video, but it is hard not to see the lyrics in this fashion. Benatar and Kleinman have certainly come up with something powerful here.
This pacifist video shows real flair. Little kids, standing in for warring countries, destroy their weapons, while the singers urge them on. Disarmament has never been so glamorous, or so witty. Kleber went on to do the title sequence for GoldenEye, showing the Bond women destroying communist symbols.
Lambert's glamorous Madonna videos did much towards establishing that singer's identity. Best moment in Material Girl's choreography (by Kenny Ortega): when the dancers all begin to move down the steps.
Letts' work shows the humorous side of daily life, mainly in Britain.
Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al Yankovic
Maas is a Dutch director of feature films. "Twilight Zone" is a classic, filled with creative imagery, and dynamic editing, often on movement. Its framework seems influenced by Buñuel's feature film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). Maas shows a excellent sense of camera movement. The most remarkable scene is towards the end. The characters in the spy story that has been unfolding, are, surrealistically, taking part in a song and dance routine on stage in a theater. No explanation is given of how this is happening; it just adds to the total surrealism of the plot. The song and dance is filled with traditional, deliberately cornball gestures and movements of old an vaudeville dance routine of the 1920's, while the sinister trio of hit men are given the movements of a light hearted 1950's rock and roll band. The whole effect is delightfully strange and bizarre. The exaggerated traditional gestures underline the sheer strangeness of these characters taking part in a stage show at all. They are also very well synchronized with the music. So is every cut from shot to shot throughout the video. The director shows razor sharp timing: every cut from shot to shot in the film takes place exactly on the beat of the music. Maas uses camera movement here as well. A long shot with a static camera establishes the geometric relationships of the characters on stage (Shot 1). In Shot 2, the camera tracks from left to right on stage. First we see the hero singing and dancing at the left of the stage. Then the camera moves past him, focusing on the dancing women in the stage background. Finally the shot moves completely to the right, picking up the three hit men. The hit men gradually fill up the frame of the screen, as the shot concludes. Their rhythmic do-wop gestures are in time with the music. Immediately, in time with the music, the director cuts to Shot 3. This is an outdoor scene, "realistically" shot as part of the spy story, showing the hit man dragging the hero forward. They are moving rapidly, directly toward the viewer, and the camera is tracking with them, moving steadily toward the front and the viewer. The camera movement is wonderfully synchronized with the movement of the hit men, occurring exactly at the same speed - something that is very difficult to do. The transition between Shots 2 and 3 shows the classic dictum that cuts should be made on movement - between the lateral track and do-wop gestures of Shot 2, and the magnificent forward momentum and grace of Shot 3. It is one of the most beautiful transitions in all of music video, showing the thrilling power of camera movement. I have seen it dozens of times over a decade, and it never ceases to thrill me as I watch it.
Stevie Wonder,Paul McCartney
Love the finale of this video, which puts the band inside a mirrored area giving a kaleidoscope effect. Magnoli directed the feature Purple Rain.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Mallet is good at creating a high energy, upbeat, lively rock and roll atmosphere. He often gives a glamorous and romantic side to hard rock / borderline heavy metal.
Among Mansfield's many videos for Adam Ant is the lively "Goody Two Shoes".
Among all the deliberately frenzied and frenetic videos of the 1980's, Dean Martin offered this sample of his laid back charm. Its quiet, low key approach offered a devastating parody of the over done videos around it.
Metter is a feature film director who did Rodney's funniest screen outing, Back To School. He also did the delightful teen pic, Girls Just Want to Have Fun (the feature film, not the original Cyndi Lauper video).
Simon Milne did the best Duran Duran video, "The Union of the Snake". It shows our hero descending into a mysterious underground city under the desert, a relict of an advanced an exotic civilization. It is reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's classic sf tale, "The Nameless City" (1921). The video is full of highly creative visual detail. Milne used a similar, if milder effect, in his time traveling Kajagoogoo video. "Too Shy", in which the band, dressed in ultra modern clothes, find themselves entertaining what looks like 1940's soldiers and their girlfriends in an old dance hall. It is a very sweet effect. A stylistically similar mix of a modern band and old fashioned dancers can be found in Modern English's "I'll Stop the World and Melt With You", a video whose director I do not know. It lacks the time travel element of "Too Shy".
The Pet Shop Boys
"Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" shows a creative use of color. It starts out with the clothes all white, with black letters on them - an unusual figure of style. Then the characters' clothes all gradually shift, till the screen is suffused with pastel color. These are beautiful color harmony effects. George Michael's two toned shorts are unusual here. Finally, the screen turns into black light, with similar clothes in glowing neon - a completely third change of color, all using similarly shaped, but differently colored clothes.
"The Edge of Heaven" returns to the set-up of "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go", but with variations. This video can be considered as a direct sequel, one that continues the theme of changing of clothes. This time, the back up band is all men. And the leads are in fringed leather outfits: George Michael in buckskins, Andrew Ridgely in a fringed black leather jacket - an outfit very popular in the late 1980's. There are transformations of the heroes' clothes here, but very brief, including flashbacks to "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and other earlier Wham! videos.
Russell Mulcahy also has a gift for camera movement. In Video Killed the Radio Star, the final movements especially with the set sliding apart, the camera gliding over it, and the singers in motion is especially dazzling. This 1979 video is virtually a manifesto for the music video, and was fittingly the first video played on MTV in 1982. He did a similarly elaborate stage vehicle for Billy Joel's Allentown, and took to the streets of Monte Carlo for Elton John's I'm Still Standing. The staircase shot in this video is really memorable. Mulcahy's Culture Club The War Song is a great anti-war film. The final image - an army of child skeletons marching down the street, is a reminder of who gets hurt in war. It reminds one of the skeleton army in Breughel's equally pacifist painting, The Triumph of Death. Mulcahy's Total Eclipse of the Heart gets much atmosphere out of the Bethlehem insane asylum, long time home of painter Richard Dadd, and one of 19th Century Britain's strangest buildings. Mulcahy has gentler moods as well. Fleetwood Mac's Gypsy takes place in a lyrical, fairy tale forest. And Spandau Ballet's True celebrates the band.
Mulcahy's The Shadow is one of the most gracefully directed feature films of recent years. Each shot in the film is elaborately, carefully composed. Many of the shots are static; Mulcahy regularly uses gentle panning shots as well. For dramatic emphasis, Mulcahy uses tracking shots that start out as long shots, and gradually close in on medium shots of a character: usually The Shadow himself, but also the scientist in the film. The first shot that introduces The Shadow, on the bridge, is of this type. These shots are not propulsive, they do not track movement of the characters. Instead, they seem designed to take us into a character's psyche, to underline some dramatic moment of experience for some character. The greatest camera movement in the film is the first shot inside the Cobalt Club, the glamorous nightclub of the film. It contains a combination pan and crane shot covering the whole of the club, then turns into a track in on The Shadow, who is making an entrance into the club. After closing in on him, the camera then pulls back, and begins a reverse pan/crane shot through the night club again, this time gently following The Shadow as he makes his way through the club. It is really beautiful.
I have noticed that some famous music videos have the contrasting red-orange / blue color scheme that is used for so many color films. This seems to have started in the 1950's with directors like George Cukor (A Star Is Born) and Vincente Minnelli (The Reluctant Debutante, Some Came Running), as well as some of William Castle's Westerns. It has since become a design principle in the works of Almodovar and Gus Van Sant. The music videos come in between these two eras of filmmakers, and perhaps form a bridge or transition.
Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) uses accents of reddish-orange and blue throughout. They are rarely the dominant colors - they are typically embedded in schemes of white or silver. This anticipates Almodovar's combination of orange and blue with lots of gray in High Heels. Everything from the heroine's red and blue spangled cap and red and blue cape, to the tie worn by the keyboardist at the end, blue above, red-orange below, fall into this scheme. In both cases these are accents in the heroine's frosted silver-white costume, and the keyboardist's silver sports jacket. Throughout, the orange tends to have a strong reddish coloration. The shots on TV monitors often have a blue background, while the big stage set at the end first has red-orange lights in its background, before the lighting changes to pure white. Red-Orange is often associated with radio - the radio sets, the recording sign in the studio - while blue is associated with video. The film is full of imagery about the transition from radio to video, as the catchy tune suggests. The scheme is occasionally complicated with bits of purple, such as the purple spangles on the heroine's cap, intermixed with the red and blue. This use of purple is not part of the filmic tradition or red-orange versus blue.
The film also opens with night scenes, framing a moon and some stars; it turns to all white by the end. There is an intricate interplay of imagery and structural elements throughout, as well as some good camera movement toward the end from a crane. The use of TV monitors within the film - appropriate for a video about video - will return in many 1980's music videos, notably Heaven (Steve Barron).
The metallic suits here also start a music video tradition, although Elvis Presley and other early rockers had long favored gold lamé. The lead has shiny boots, too, that seem to blend with his trouser legs, being the same color. They are visible in the final shots. Both the heroine's costume, with her cape and front insignia, and the heroes' boots recall the traditions of comic book super-hero's costumes. By contrast, the drummer is encased in a black leather look, also a music video tradition.
Gypsy seems to be a tribute to the films of the 1910's. An early section shows Stevie Nicks wandering through 1910's slum streets, dressed like Lillian Gish in The Musketeers of Pig Alley (D. W. Griffith). And the scenes in the enchanted forest recall those in The Bluebird (Maurice Tourneur). The overall film has a structure like D. W. Griffith's Intolerance. It contains a series of settings: the slum, a nightclub, the street outside the club, and finally the magical forest. These are all linked together by Stevie Nicks, shown by herself in a room, just like Lillian Gish rocking the cradle in Intolerance. The scenes are separate at first, but towards the end, Mulcahy cross cuts with increasing rapidity between the various segments, just like the famous cross cutting finale of Intolerance.
Rio, which shows Duran Duran on a luxurious yacht, shares stylistic features with I'm Still Standing. Both deal with luxurious, water resort style living. Both have a bright, almost neon palette - the telephones and the cocktails in Rio are especially brilliant in color, and both videos feature brilliantly colored party clothes. The phones are coded for gender: a bright pink for the woman, baby blue for the man. People show up wearing brightly colored body paint in both videos too, with strongly contrasting colors all swirling together in dramatic patterns. The colors extend all over their faces.
The Dog Police video is a surrealist comedy gem, done for a band that was just trying to "break in".
Newman's works are lively story videos, largely shot on the streets of LA. He is the cousin of composer Randy Newman, for whom he did the delightful LA tribute, "I Love L.A". Newman has a very personal style. He often focusses on down trodden characters who are trying to get ahead.
The Pointer Sisters
Chris De Burgh
Hall and Oates
Men Without Hats
Tim Pope's three best videos are very different. Neil Young's "Wondering" is delightfully minimalist, with the singer popping up against various ordinary backgrounds. Its a spoof both of minimalist filmamaking, and the frenzied videos of other directors. Talk-Talk's "It's My Life" is also very simple in technique. But this video's film clips of many animals in the wild, counterpointed with the passionate plea from the singers, makes for a potent and moving animal rights message. By contrast, Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance" is an elaborately staged medieval festival, full of the charm and good humor of this director.
Grand Master Flash
"Do Fries Go With That Shake" has a lively comedy style.
The recent showing of "Don't Dream it's Over" on Pop-up Video added much to the enjoyment of the video. It needs annotation: being told that each room shown is a "forbidden room" of one band member they were not allowed to enter as a child, greatly adds meaning to the work. Proyas has since gone on to make such science fiction films as Dark City and I, Robot.
Rafelson is a prolific feature film director. "All Night Long" has wonderful choreography, by a troupe of dancers all in well done pastel colored clothes - the video is a riot of color. It also has good camera movements.
"I Don't Wanna Know" is an engaging comedy story video.
Weird Al Yankovic
Mary Jane Girls
Dave Robinson does excellent comedy videos. His works show a sense of rhythm, and a fondness for working class British life, that recall the videos of Julien Temple. His characters tend to put on little dance routines, wearing everyday clothes and in homely settings, that mimic traditional show biz shtick. These are both humorous, and rousingly energetic and cheerful.
"Shadows of the Night" is a full historical video, with parts acted by Judge Reinhold and Bill Paxton. The use of a frame sequence here is fairly typical of 80's videos. Videos loved to emphasize such structural features of storytelling. It also allows Robinson to violate historical authenticity. Since the whole video is a daydream of Benetar's character, it allows him to portray her as a World War II era pilot, something that women were not allowed to do in real life. The video recalls Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen (1967), which its heroes out to destroy one of those Nazi-occupied chateaus.
The plot of "Jenny" has some structural features in common with "Shadows of the Night". Both have powerless heroes sneaking around, spying on powerful bad guys' homes.
Art of Noise
Pet Shop Boys
Alan Parsons Project
Rybczynski is a Polish born filmmaker, living in London, who does experimental films and videos. Both "All the Things She Said" and "Opportunities" contain multiple copies of people, to unusual, avant-garde effect.
John Sayles is a prolific feature filmmaker. His best known video work consists of three videos for Bruce Springsteen. They are full of warmth, and Sayles' ability to evoke working class life and imagery. Sayles also has a rhythmic flair to his work, a sense of a steady pulse of images emerging from different sections of a song.
"Cruel Summer" is a little film showing a montage of vignettes and dancing around New York. At the time, it seemed typical of music video, and nothing special. Seen today, its good spirits, and fluid sense of movement make it seem most appealing. Simmons' technique and approach recall Julien Temple, with working class looking characters wandering around real city streets, having adventures drawn from real life. Such Temple pieces as "Come On Eileen" show a similar approach.
Both "Karma Chameleon" and "Major Tom" evoke eras in American history. "Major Tom" recreates an astronaut's flight, using found footage of real space voyages. It intermixes this with elements of 1950's American car culture. The mix works - after all, the astronaut flights were created in the same 50's era. Both the early space missions, and car culture, reflect a fascination with machines that go. "Major Tom" ends with a brilliant figure of style, in which the singing lead is superimposed over the falling space capsule, returning to earth. These are two of the many strong vertical lines in this video.
Hall and Oates
Stein's videos for Tom Petty and The Cars combine animation and size changing techniques, to give an almost psychedelic effect.
Men At Work
My favorite of all Men At Work videos is "Down Under"; it closes with remarkable imagery of a procession in the Outback.
"Overkill" is a moody video, mainly set on city streets at night. It favors the red-orange versus blue color scheme often found in films and videos. This is especially appropriate for the neon signs that populate the video.
The Rolling Stones
Dexie's Midnight Runners
Two 1989 movie musicals were made in America, both by British directors of movie videos, Temple's Earth Girls are Easy and Zelda Barron's Shag: The Movie. By contrast, in 1989 few Americans seem to have made any contributions to that most wonderful of all film genres, the movie musical. (In 1990 we got the excellent Lambada, made by the Israeli director Joel Silberg.) I have no idea why Americans are so indifferent to a genre that they glorified for so long, but it is certainly a shame, and an index of the artistic poverty of current American feature filmmaking.
Julien Temple, the director of Earth Girls, has a long and very distinguished history as a director of music videos. Of all major video makers, his productions are probably the closest to being "little movies", and hence it is not too surprizing that he has made a successful transfer to feature film. By "little movies", I mean several things. His films are shot on locations, or sets representing locations; they do not exist in an abstract background. He has no interest in the sort of experimental abstractions done so well by Godley and Creme, say, or the interest in mixing animation and live action of Steve Barron. (Barron has himself pursued his interests in two feature films, the commercial failure Electric Dreams (1984) and the wildly successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).)
Secondly, the people in his videos are all individual characters, such as one might find in a book, play or movie. They are not usually a chorus or an aggregate of dancers, or a bunch of people representing a type. This contrasts, say, with Russell Mulcahy videos, such as "Allentown", where there are groups of dancers representing "Athletes" and another group representing "Factory Workers". Members of these groups have bits of business indicating their activities, but none of them emerges as an individual character. Even in Mulcahy's Duran Duran videos we might recognize the group members as different people, but the director doesn't really create different characters for them to act out (exception: "A View To A Kill".) They behave largely as a group. There is nothing wrong with this approach of Mulcahy's at all; it works very well in music videos; but it is very hard to transfer to the conventional feature film, where everyone usually is a individual character.
Third, in Temple videos, actions are always discrete "events". This is harder to explain, but let me try. In Brian Grant's videos, say "Shock the Monkey" or "She Works Hard For the Money", things just happen to the central character, who has "experiences". In some scenes in "Monkey" singer Peter Gabriel is dressed in a business suit; in others he is made up with face paint like an inhabitant of Highland New Guinea. In some shots he is London; in others in a lake; in other in a mysterious room. All of these scenes are cut together without any transition. The various scenes represent different states of mind, or emotional effects, or different kinds of personal experience, or different visual patterns, and the director is linking them together for artistic purposes, without any worry about logical continuity (on the level of surface "plot") or realistic explanations about how we got from one scene to another. Since the scenes represent states of mind, they can transform themselves as rapidly as our emotions do. They bring the world of inner feelings and ideas alive on screen. This technique is especially suited to a director like Grant, whose avowed purpose is to create film analogues of religious rituals on video.
This is all very good, but it is very different from the traditionally "plotted movie", or book or play, where things happen as a series of events. The technique used by Grant, and many other video directors, is perhaps closest to the Symbolist poem, where images are strung together without any necessary connections. (It does differ from Symbolism in that literary technique often deliberately disarranges the grammar and syntax of sentences. The film technique does nothing of the kind. Images are closely strung together, but there is no equivalent to the syntactic disarrangement).
Such transitions from one image to another do not exist in Temple's films. Instead, his videos are made up of events, one following the next, as in a conventional movie. Note that the events in Temple's videos are not always supposed to be rawly realistic. Characters can do whimsical or humorous things, like the dancing charladies in "Come Dancing", and magical things, like the sudden shrinking of the hero to two inches tall in "Poison Arrow". This shrinking is an event, however fantastic; we say as we are watching, the hero has shrunk, just like Alice in Wonderland shrank, or the heroes in Fantastic Voyage shrank. (The shrunken characters return in "Great Wide Open".) By contrast, no such magical event occurs in Brian Grant's "Shock the Monkey" when the hero alternates between European and New Guinea dress. We know the director is simply cross cutting between two images for effect; the two types of dress represent two sides of the hero's personality, or perhaps more accurately, two sides of human nature. We do not say, oh look, the hero has been magically transformed by some wizard or spell.
Temple's videos show remarkable ingenuity in getting complex plots into small spaces. In "Undercover of the Night", for example, the video recreates the conflict in El Salvador, creates an atmospheric portrait of a tropical country, has a whole plot about a political murder, puts the various members of the Rolling Stones as fairly well defined characters in the plot, and manages to morally condemn both sides of the conflicts by showing their performance of atrocities against civilians. In addition, it cuts back and forth between a framing story about people watching these events in the USA, their different kinds of responses (concerned, apathetic and denying), and linking political to sexual repression. All this in a music video lasting no more than five minutes. Filmmaking of such density has hardly been seen since Alfred Hitchcock.
Temple has a flair for camera movement. In "Come Dancing", the camera soars through the dance hall. It hovers over the dancers on the floor below. And rises up to people in the balcony, a location that also shows up in "Poison Arrow". In "Come On Eileen", the camera is always circling around the characters, panning up and down a street, or making other small motions that are closely synchronized with the movements of the performers.
"Come On Eileen" shares a common style with the opening of Absolute Beginners (1986). Both show Temple's camera swooping through city streets, with much complex and beautiful camera movement. Both streets' buildings' facades tend to be around three stories high. Both streets are friendly places, with many pedestrians walking through them. The pedestrians are all trying to socialize together. Temple's camera shows great freedom. It can start and stop, pan, rise or fall, track along city streets at eye level, or from a considerable height.
The beautiful final shot begins with the camera relatively still, and then begin to move when one of the characters moves. Here Eileen enters the shot in motion, while the hero is still. She pulls him along, and gets him in motion. The camera begins to move as well, following both. It is a subtle and delightful look at the mystery of motion, how motion arises out of stillness.
An earlier shot in the video depicts a similar motion creation. Here the hero is singing at a street corner. As his friends march in around the corner, the camera pulls back and begins to move with them. The motion of the camera gradually accelerates. It progresses through a series of gradual but definitely marked out stages. Some involve increased circular motion around the corner. Others increase the speed of the tracking. By the end, the hero and his friends are all walking together, with the camera in full motion with them. It is a beautiful and complex effect.
Julien Temple often favors working class areas for his videos. He has an especial fondness for dance halls, and other venues of musical entertainment. His locations look like real places. They are not fantasy never never lands constructed for the screen; they look like the kind of places where people actually lived.
"Save It For Later" (1983) recreates a 1950's coffee house, complete with beats and intellectuals among the clientele. Temple emphasizes the books the characters are reading - these are definitely intellectuals. This was an era in which people were deeply proud of their reading, and other intellectual pursuits, such as visiting art galleries. Some of the political controversies of the era get evoked, too: one customer is reading Orwell's 1984, and another Marx's Das Kapital! The video is a dry run, for Temple's much more detailed look at the 1950's intellectual milieu in Absolute Beginners.
"Do It Again" (1984) features the Kinks time travelling to different eras of modern Britain. "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" also has Boy George suddenly showing up in different British eras and locales. This is an extension of Temple's interest in historical settings. In "Do It Again", the singer also gets many surreal costume changes. These recall the many costumes of "Poison Arrow". There is something surreal about the changes of era, locale and costume here.
Planet P Project
One of the most imaginative story videos is Rainbow's "Street of Dreams". It shows both a man in a psychologist's office getting hypnotized, and the man's dreams. Dreams are a terrific subject for videos because anything can happen in them; here we have de Chirico like streets. The film manages to tell a very complicated story in just a short time. I also like the way the psychologist's watch swings are synchronized with the beat of the song. Its style looks a little like Julien Temple.
Pet Shop Boys
This video shows a striking sense of color and style. It evokes a mix found in countless old Hollywood musicals: the women are in brightly colored clothes, the men in black and white tuxedos (and occasionally white tee shirts).
Alan Parsons Project
Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart
Miami Sound Machine
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Webster is a story video director, and a good one. "People Get Ready" is especially involving. It was made to celebrate a reconciliation between Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart.
The villainous - but handsome - husband in "Voices Carry" is dressed in a definitive version of the GQ look of the time: double-breasted gray suits, a black raincoat, and finally a snazzy tux. The video shows the love-hate relationship people had with those sexy yuppies. People were fascinated in the mid-1980's with the snazzy new clothes of the era - they are clearly the best men's clothes of the last thirty years. The final confrontation is staged as a sustained shot; its unblinking length suggests the embarrassment of the husband and the defiance of the wife are both intensely felt emotions that are going deeper and deeper, and not receding or fading. The finale echoes two earlier scenes, which sowed the heroine's hair and earrings. This contrast allows a story to develop without words, with one scene playing off another. Earlier, the director juxtaposed scenes of current conflict in the couple, with happier times earlier in their relationship. This too allowed him to tell a story without words. It also allowed complex temporal structure, part of Resnais' legacy to the modern cinema.
Genesis/Phil Collins/Mike and the Mechanics
Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine
Jim Yukich has made many videos for the Genesis team. His Phil Collins' "Please Take Me Home", which intercuts footage the director shot in many cities during their world tour, is unusual. The song, full of ostinato repetitions from the singer to let them go home, moves instantly from city to city, with prominent landmarks in the background. Ever since Dziga Vertov's The Man With a Movie Camera (1928), filmmakers have been exploring the possibility of joining different cities together through montage.
John Eddy's "Jungle Boy" celebrates the young rocker with a full fledged, gently tongue in cheek Elvis Presley treatment. It reminds one of the fun of rock and roll. The band in "1-2-3" are dressed in a wide variety of motorcycle outfits, and dance up a storm during the video; this is similar to the motorcycle-jacket clad Eddy in "Jungle Boy".