Music Video Of The Day: Jump They Say by David Bowie (1993, directed by Mark Romanek)


Though this is one of David Bowie’s most popular videos and also features one of the best performances of his often underrated acting career, the story behind it is a sad one.  Bowie wrote the song from the point of view of Terry Burns, his schizophrenic half-brother who once attempted suicide by jumping out of a window.  Though that attempt failed, a few years later, Terry did succeed in escaping from the mental institution where he was being held.  After escaping, Terry was hit by a train and killed.  Much like Bowie’s previous song, All the Madmen, Jump They Say was inspired by Terry’s life and Bowie’s own attempts to understand the source of his brother’s mental illness.

This makes the video all the more poignant as Bowie plays a businessman who comes to suspect that his colleagues are plotting against him and, in order to escape from them, ends up throwing himself from the roof of an office building.  Mark Romanek directs in such a way that it’s never clear whether Bowie’s character is correct to be paranoid or if it’s all in his mind.  Romanek throws in visual references to other films that dealt with the themes of paranoia and conformity, including A Clockwork Orange, Alphaville, and The Trial.  Romanek has subsequently gone from being an in-demand music video director to directing films such as One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go.

When this video was released, Bowie was going through something of a career slump.  Jump They Say was a bit of a comeback for him, reaching number 9 on the UK charts.

Enjoy!

Horror Film Review: One Hour Photo (dir by Mark Romanek)


I guess some people might argue that the 2002 film, One Hour Photo, isn’t really a horror film.

It’s an argument that I can understand.  The film does have its scary moments, like the scene where Sy Parrish (Robin Williams) dreams that his eyes are exploding.  But there aren’t any ghosts or vampires or hockey mask-wearing slashers to be found in One Hour Photo.  Even the film’s most disturbing moment — in which we see that Sy’s apartment is nearly empty except for a giant collage of pictures that cover his living room wall — is more depressing than scary.

It’s really a very sad movie.  In fact, it’s probably even more sad today than when it was originally released.  Now, when you see Robin Williams’s sad eyes and you hear him talking about how reality can never live up to a photograph, it’s impossible not to think about the actor’s 2014 suicide.  I remember that, when One Hour Photo and Insomnia came out in the same year, there was a lot of talk about how unexpected it was to see Robin Williams playing such dark characters.  Now, of course, that darkness is a key part of Robin Williams’s persona.

In hindsight, it’s also sad because one watches the film with the knowledge that, even if Sy hadn’t lost it at the end of One Hour Photo, he still probably be a lost soul in 2019.  When we first meet Sy, he’s working at the one-hour photo lab in SavMart.  He talks about how much he loves developing pictures.  When someone mentions that they’ve been thinking about getting a digital camera, Sy nervously chuckles and says, “Don’t do that, you’ll put us out of business.”  Of course, in 2019, people take pictures with their phones and even digital cameras are viewed as being something of a relic.  If Sy were around and free today, I doubt he’d have a job.  If he did have a job, it’s doubtful it would be one that would allow him to cover his wall with someone else’s photos.  Instead, in 2019, I imagine Sy would be one of those people following strangers on social media and printing out all their pictures and probably sending them unsolicited DMs and private messages.

Sy is obsessed with the Yorkin family, Will (Michael Vartan), Nina (Connie Nielsen), and their son, Jake (Dylan Smith).  Even though the family barely knows who Sy is, he knows them because Sy has spent years developing (and stealing) their photos.  Sy views them as being the perfect family.  They’re the family that he wants to be a part of.  “Sometimes I think of myself as being Uncle Sy,” he says at one point.  But then Maya Burson (Erin Daniels) brings in her photos to be developed and Sy learns that the reality of the Yorkins is not as perfect as the photographs.  And Sy loses it.

Actually, there’s quite a few reasons why Sy loses it and the film suggests that, if the Yorkins had never stepped into SavMart, Sy would have found another family on which to obsess.  Something is missing inside of Sy.  Incapable of dealing with reality, Sy instead deals with posed pictures of happy times.  Towards the end of the film, there’s a throw-away line that attempts to offer some sort of insight into why Sy is such a lost soul.  Personally, I think the film works better without an explanation.  Why is less important than the fact that Sy exists.

In the end, One Hour Photo qualifies as a horror film not because of any paranormal danger but because it’s a film about the horror of everyday life.  You never know who might be watching you.  That friendly clerk who waits on you at the grocery store might be following you home and imagining that he’s a part of your life.  You never know.  One Hour Photo is the film that suggests that, lurking behind every friendly smile, there’s a blank Sy Parrish.  It’s a scary thought.

Music Video of the Day: Devil’s Haircut by Beck (1996, directed by Mark Romanek)


What is Beck’s Devil’s Haircut about?

Not even Beck seems to be sure.  According to Songfacts, Beck has offered up several different interpretations.  He’s said that the song was an updated version of the American folk song, Stagger Lee:

“I don’t know if I ever HAD any youthful purity, but I can understand that you might be tempted to make commercial shit and compromise to do it. I try not to compromise on anything. I think we associate becoming an adult with compromise. Maybe that’s what the devil is. In ‘Devils Haircut’ that was the scenario. I imagined Stagger Lee… I thought, what if this guy showed up now in 1996. The song had this ’60s grooviness, and I thought of using him as a Rumplestiltskin figure, this Lazarus figure to comment on where we’ve ended up as people. What would he make of materialism and greed and ideals of beauty and perfection? His reaction would be, ‘Whoa, this is disturbing shit.'”

He’s also said that the song is simply about the evil of vanity (literally a devil’s haircut) or a song about being on tour (hence, the briefcase blues).  Beck has also said that, while writing the song, he thought that “Devil’s haircut was a really bad lyric.  If I can’t finish a song, I’ll just put in something temporary. That’s what ‘Loser’ was. Then the temporary one always becomes the best one, because it wasn’t all thought out.”

As for the video, director Mark Romanek claims that it was inspired by both Midnight Cowboy and The 400 Blows.  Beck, wandering through New York City with his cowboy hat and his radio, was meant to be a modern-day Joe Buck while the freeze frames were inspired by the end of Truffaut’s portrait of alienated youth.

Two of the videos most memorable moments were accidental.  When the car nearly runs over Beck, it is meant to recall the “I’m walking here!” scene from Midnight Cowboy but the car’s driver didn’t hit the brakes soon enough and Beck was actually hit by the car and injured his leg as a result.  The other unplanned scene was when the pigeons took flight just as Beck approached them.

The video for Devil’s Haircut would go on to win two MTV Music Video Awards, one for Best Editing and one for Best Male Video.

Music Video of the Day: God Gave Me Everything by Mick Jagger featuring Lenny Kravitz (2001, dir by Mark Romanek)


After writing 24 hours worth of material for World UFO Day, I’m a little bit exhausted so I’m offering this energetic video up without comment.

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Cochise by Audioslave (2002, dir by Mark Romanek)


Fireworks seem like a good way to welcome in the month of May.

This video was filmed, over the course of two nights, near the Sepulveda Dam in Los Angeles and apparently, all of the explosions and the fireworks convinced local residents that they were under terrorist attack.  Lead singer Chris Cornell was in rehab at the time of the shooting and commuted directly from the facility to the set and then back again.

Enjoy and let’s make the best of May!

Music Video Of The Day: Novocaine For The Soul by Eels (1996, dir by Mark Romanek)


So, I’ve been having a bit of a Mark Romanek film festival tonight!

Val and I have looked at several Romanek-directed music videos here on the Shattered Lens.  Here’s just a few of them: Perfect Drug, Closer, Criminal, Hella Good.  Shake It Off.  Hurt.  (Also I should mention that I’m a huge fan of Romanek’s adaptation of Never Let Me Go.)

For this video, Romanek decided to create the impression that the band was flying by suspending them in the air.  In the audio commentary for this video (which can be found on The Work of Director Mark Romanek), Mark Oliver Everett says that he was scared for his life at certain points during the filming.  He also complained that the bass player, Tommy Walter, wasn’t moving realistically for someone floating in the air.

That may be true but Tommy’s the best-looking guy in the group so who cares?  Or, I should say, he was the best-looking guy in the group.  Tommy left Eels a year after this video came out.  The drummer, Butch Norton, left several years later.  Apparently, Mark Oliver Everett is incredibly talented and also extremely difficult to work with.

Anyway, it’s a good video!

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails (1997, dir. Mark Romanek)


First things first, the music video is there despite what it looks like. Somebody just decided to get clever and put the YouTube video-has-been-removed pic as the thumbnail. If it actually gives you the error message after clicking on it, then I’m sorry. I’m also sorry that the last few seconds are missing. However, I can’t agree with a YouTube commenter about that problem. The music video doesn’t fall apart without them. I do have to agree and disagree with another commenter. This song will indeed wash your ears clean of Fifth Harmony’s song Work From Home, but I don’t see anything wrong with that music video. They are just very passionate about equating construction equipment with sex.

Meanwhile, over in the music video for The Perfect Drug, Trent Reznor is reminding me of why I bothered to buy the soundtrack for Lost Highway (1997) back when it came out. I didn’t care about any of the other songs. I just wanted The Perfect Drug. I wasn’t even a fan of Nine Inch Nails. I just fell in love with the song. My favorite part is the drum solo near the end. The music video is what lured me in with its’ cold Victorian look that was a beautiful and haunting representation of the music of Nine Inch Nails. I am sure that bit in the hedge maze was meant to be a reference to The Shining (1980) to fit with the theme of madness/obsession. I could have featured this music video anytime, but I figured October was as good a time as any.

This music video brings back a lot of familiar faces from earlier music videos I have spotlighted.

Danielle Cagaanan was an executive producer on the music video. I can’t find a whole lot of information on her credit-wise. I can find a bunch of other information. She must have gotten married because she now goes by the name Danielle Peretz. I also found out that back in 1994, she accepted an award for Spike Jonze being that year’s top director. You can even see a picture of her here with the director of the music video for Green Day’s Longview. According to American Photo magazine in 1995, she gave Spike Jonze his start with MTV. I also found her Linkedin page. It looks like she founded her own company this year that helps youth with cognitive challenges find jobs. Back during the making of this video, she was near the end of her 6 years at Satellite Films/Propaganda Films before hopping over to MCA Records.

June Guterman is back. She is the one who produced the music video for Lil’ Devil by The Cult.

Jeff Cronenweth is new. He has shot some music videos, but he’s probably best known for his work on other films like Fight Club (1999), The Social Network (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Gone Girl (2014).

Robert Duffy is back. He edited this as well as Hella Good by No Doubt, Closer by Nine Inch Nails, and Losing My Religion by R.E.M–among others. He has also worked on numerous Tarsem Singh films.

Tom Foden was the production designer. He did the same for Closer by Nine Inch Nails. He has worked on numerous Tarsem Singh films. He has one credit that jumps out at me. He was apparently an assistant art director on Playboy: Kerri Kendall – September 1990 Video Centerfold (1990), which was directed by Michael Bay. I would think that was a fake credit on IMDb, but Michael Bay did direct music videos back then. One of those music videos being I Touch Myself by Divinyls. Also, it really isn’t that uncommon for major directors to get their start in porn. Abel Ferrara’s first feature film was a porno.

Enjoy!