Well, to be honest, I love trains in Europe. One of my fondest memories of Italy was riding the train to Venice. And, when Jeff and I were in the UK last year, I discovered that I absolutely loved the London underground. Everyone told me that I wouldn’t but I did. Of course, I also usually took a Dramamine or two before boarding so I was often kind of out of it.
Outside of the DART train in Dallas, I’ve never really spent any time on any trains in the United States. To be honest, I’m always a little bit shocked to discover that Amtrak is actually a thing. A few years ago, I read an article where someone was complaining that people in the South and the Midwest don’t ever use Amtrak and, as a result, we don’t ever elect politicians who understand the importance of funding the trains. To be honest, down here, we really don’t care about Amtrak. We all own cars and we know where the highways are so we don’t need the trains.
As for this video, Michel Gondry put it together from footage that he shot while riding ten different trains across France. Gondry carefully edited the footage so that, while appearing like a seamless journey, the landscape changes in time to the music. It creates a wonderfully dream-lie and surreal atmosphere, one that reminds me of Gondry’s later work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
That said, the video starts out so exuberantly but then it takes a bit off a strange turn about halfway through, which really shouldn’t be a shock considering that we’re talking about Gondry and The Chemical Brothers here. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call it body horror (because no one appears to be particularly horrified), it still definitely feels as if our dancers taken a trip into the world of David Cronenberg. Fortunately, things work out in the end. They always do.
A video featuring a human-sized toy bear beating up a hunter?
The question isn’t why wouldn’t I share this video. The question is why haven’t I shared this video yet?
The song, of course, is a look at human behavior through the eyes of an animal. Bjork had the following to say about the idea behind the video:
“Human Behaviour is an animal’s point of view on humans. And the animals are definitely supposed to win in the end. So why, one might ask, is the conquering bear presented as a man-made toy? I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t think it would be fair to force an animal to act in a video. I mean, that would be an extension of what I’m against.”
This was the first video on which Michel Gondry and Bjork collaborated. (Gondry, of course, would later direct Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.) Gondry had the following to say about the video:
“When we did our first video, for “Human Behaviour”, I was thinking: “Great, we’re going to Iceland and we’re going to shoot a lot of great landscape.” And she [Björk] said no – she had a similar idea as my friend Etienne in Oui Oui, she wanted to use animals to reflect human nature. And it was great, because as soon as she started to throw some ideas, they started to bounce in my mind and imagination and I immediately came back with other ideas, and we did a video that was very collaborative. “
So, there you have it. The animals always win in the end.
Needless to say, this song was not originally recorded by The Rolling Stones. Despite what the title has led some people to assume, the song actually has nothing to do with the Rolling Stones. Instead, the song was written by Bob Dylan. It’s long been debated just who exactly Dylan was addressing in the lyrics. Some people think that Dylan was writing about Edie Sedgwick. Grace Zabriskie, who is probably best known for playing Sarah Palmer on Twin Peaks, has long claimed that she was the one who inspired the song. It would appear that only Bob Dylan knows for sure and it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll never tell.
Regardless, I really like this song. A part of it is because I relate to the lyrics. I almost feel like they could have been written about me at a certain time in my life. The other reason I love the song is because the taunting tone of the lyrics makes them perfect whenever you’re looking for something to say to someone who you dislike. For example, someone once unfollowed me on twitter and I responded by tweeting the lyrics of this song at her until she finally deleted her account. That was fun.
Anyway, it seemed somewhat inevitable that this song would be covered by The Rolling Stones. This video, which was directed by the prolific Michel Gondry, follows a young woman as she discovers how it feels to be a complete unknown. The woman in the video is played by future Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette.
Seeing as today is International Women’s Day, I thought I would take that as an opportunity to spotlight the Neneh Cherry music video she did with Michel Gondry. I already did Heart, which she did with David Fincher. Since Cherry happens to be from Sweden, it works into the “International” part of the day and the ABBA retrospective I’ve been doing.
It’s exactly what you would expect from Gondry–distortion of time and space. Also, notice how Gondry not only uses the color of her jacket as an indicator of where she is in far shots, but shows up as the color of cars and other things as well. Take a look at the text on the “TV FOR DOGS” box. It says “No Crap Programs”, “Look Reel [possibly Real]”, and “For A Dog Vision”.
François Nemeta was the assistant director. He worked on around 13 music videos with Gondry and has done 20+ music videos himself. The most recent one I can find is from 2014, so I assume he is still in the business. You can visit his website here.
I recently decided to pin a tweet to my account saying I’ll take requests for music videos to do here. Lisa jumped on it in short order. Of her requests, I decided to go with this one first.
I was originally planning to go back and try to put this music video in some context, but I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew. If I were really to do that, then I would probably be going back at least as far as 1978, if not back to the 1960s. Forget that, I’ll get to those music videos in time. You don’t have to know anything about where elements of this music video come from to enjoy it.
The Chemical Brothers were probably my first introduction to this style of music. It never really stuck with me. I remember there being some show on MTV that generated screensaver-like patterns to songs such as Block Rockin’ Beats. That was enjoyable to catch late at night. But like I said, this genre of music never really became a thing for me.
I like the song, but it’s the music video that interests me. I won’t lie. I took one look at the thumbnail for the music video, and thought of Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush. Then I hit Michel Gondry’s IMVDb page and a few music videos caught my eye. He has done some for Björk because of course he has. Two other music videos that jumped out at me were Blow Me Down by Mark Curry and Les Jupes by RoBERT.
There’s a constant theme of distortion of reality in Gondry’s work. For example, you can see this in 1995’s Like A Rolling Stone by The Rolling Stones. You can see the spinning of reality to reveal fantasy in his version of Sheryl Crow’s A Change Would Do You Good where it’s a viewfinder rather than something you would expect in a musical. You can see the clock in Feel It by Neneh Cherry. Another interesting one to look at is Hou! Mama Mia by Les Negresses Vertes.
You can go on and on here piecing this music video together from Gondry’s previous work, but I won’t. To really do it justice would require doing a full retrospective of Gondry’s music videos.
You can go through and interpret the video. I’ll leave that to you. Gondry doesn’t make it cryptic. My favorite part is the television test pattern. I like how the clock is normal at the start when she wakes, blank when she goes to sleep, and giant when she buries herself under her covers at the end. The hour hand does a horizontal flip between the way it is shown at the start as opposed to the end. Also, the blank clock has the drum set on top of it that progressively moves from the sidewalk across the street to being in her apartment.
Just enjoy it! I did. Thank you for the recommendation, Lisa. Someday I’ll get around to going through all of Gondry’s work that I can get my hands on.
Georges Bermann and Julie Fong produced the music video. They both worked mainly with Gondry.
K.K. Barrett was the art director. I can only find a couple of credits, but three of them happen to be ones that have already been done here. He was the “Philosophical Consultant” on Weapon Of Choice by Fatboy Slim. I still have no idea what that means. He was the production designer on Elektrobank by The Chemical Brothers. He was also the art director for Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins. That means they hired an art director who is famous for working on a remake of a classic example of Cinema of Spectacle (A Trip To The Moon), would go on to do a Fred Astaire inspired music video, and had already done a music video with The Chemical Brothers. Even more so, he was doing music like this known as electropunk back in the 1970s with a group called The Screamers. You can see him on drums in the video below–assuming it is still up.
He has also worked on famous films like Her (2013) and Lost In Translation (2003).
First off–thank you so much for filling in for me this week, Lisa. I was really sick. I’m glad this daily post was kept up. Also, of course Downtown Sasquatch counts. If I said no, then Lisa might revoke my Degrassi fan card. I also have to agree since there are some music videos that will tread that line as well that I have in mind for the future. Onward!
I have mentioned before about the great musical apocalypse of the late 90s. In 2001, The Strokes released their album Is This It. They had bad and good timing. The bad timing was because it was released shortly before 9/11, which meant they had to remove a song that would have gone over like a lead balloon at the time. They had good timing because it meant that the late 90s era was dying. You did had Limp Bizkit trying to get clever with their music video parody for their song My Way. You actually had Sum 41 with their music video for Still Waiting that seemed to be trying desperately to make fun of bands like The Strokes. I even remember that my local Bay Area alt rock station played along and actually aired the song like it was breaking news that the band had indeed changed their name to The Sums. It felt kind of sad. A last gasp. At least in retrospect we can enjoy some of those songs now that we are out of that era.
But we are here to talk about the notorious The White Stripes. They had actually been around prior to The Strokes’ Is This It. They released their debut album in 1999. The Hives had also released their debut as early as 1997. I can’t speak for everyone, but once The Strokes album came out, then there just seemed to be untold numbers of these garage rock revival bands. So many so that The Killers went ahead revived new wave–post-punk depending where you look–while they were at it. I’d say their music is a little bit of both. Sadly, this period got so white hot that it seemed to largely fizzle itself out by the mid-to-late 2000s. Too bad.
In 2002 The White Stripes sort of decided to team up with Michel Gondry to make this music video. According to Wikipedia, Jack wanted to work with Mark Romanek because he directed Devil’s Haircut for Beck. However, the record company screwed up and hired Michel Gondry. Jack remembered he did Deadweight for Beck, which he also liked, so he was find with Gondry.
Aside from one short part that they did with CGI, it was all done with genuine LEGO bricks that they went out and bought to make the music video. The kid at the start of the music video is Gondry’s own kid.
For me, this is right up there with the music video that was done for The Alan Parsons Project’s song Don’t Answer Me. It’s an experimental music video rather than a regular short film music video.
Sébastien Fau did the special effects on the music video. I can find one other music video credit for him where he worked as the director for what appears to be a French music video. He does have a couple of other credits on IMDb, but that’s it.
Romain Segaud worked as an animator on this music video. He did a couple more music videos as a director, but that’s all I can find as far as music videos are concerned. Beyond that, he seems to have primarily done work for French television.
The plot plays out like something from a Philip K. Dick story. I don’t want to reveal too much because I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone who hasn’t seen this film. Eternal Sunshine is one of those rare films that carries with it the joy of discovery. Depressed Joel (played by Jim Carrey) discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has hired Lacuna Inc. to totally erase all memories of him from her mind. Embittered, Joel decides to go through the same process. The Lacuna technicians (Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo) comes to Joel’s apartment in the middle of the night and start the process of erasing his memories of Clementine. However, as Joel is losing his past, he realizes that he doesn’t want to lose his time with Clementine. Hence, Joel finds himself running through his rapidly fading memories of Clementine, trying to save at least some scrap of her memory from being erased. Meanwhile, as Joel fights to save his identity, Ruffalo entertains himself by inviting his girlfriend (Kirsten Dunst) over to Joel’s apartment while Elijah Wood sneaks off so he can meet his new girlfriend — who is none other than Clementine.
The genius of this Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is that it takes an idea that seems very much “out there” and uses it to explore emotions that we’ve all felt. Who doesn’t have someone that they wish they could wipe from their mind? Me, I wish I could forget the exchange student from Keele University who broke up with me via e-mail. I’d love to obliterate all memory of the frat boy who told me I was “white trash” or the former love of my life who managed to break my nose and my heart with just one movement of his hand. We all have those people in our lives and what we forget is that by wiping out all the bad memories, we lose all the good ones as well. Yes, Paul Walsh may have made me cry with his e-mail but, for two months before that, he held me while I cried and I can’t remember what I was crying about but I do remember feeling like I had never been held like that before. And Dane may have hurt me terribly but now, every time I doubt myself, I simply remember that I’ve already survived the worst that could happen. As for that frat boy who called me “white trash” — well, fuck him. Yeah, there’s really no downside to erasing him from my mind. In fact, I’ve already started because, to be honest, I can’t remember his name for the life of me.
Ironically enough considering the title, there’s very little sunshine to be found in this film. Not only is every scene drenched in melancholy but, quite literally, director Michel Gondry appears to have exclusively filmed on overcast days. For such a deliriously romantic film — one that celebrates the idea of enduring love — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is almost totally told in tones of gray and darkness. In fact, as I watched the film last night, I was struck by the fact that often times, the only color in the film was provided by the Clementine’s ever-changing hair. (Interestingly enough, Joel mentions Clementine’s hair as one of the things that he especially wants to forget about her.) That the film works as both a dark comedy and a love story despite the grim images is a testament to the talents of both screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry. (On the basis of the director’s later films — the latest being the enjoyable but shallow Green Hornet — I kind of suspect that Kaufman perhaps deserves a little bit more credit that Gondry.)
I think it’s also a testament to the talents of the film’s cast, all of whom gel into a perfect ensemble and allow the audience to believe in the film no matter how odd the film’s events may seem. As I watched them last night, I found myself thinking about how much I truly love to watch good acting. As long as a film has one or two good performance, it can be out-of-focus, choppily edited, and an hour or two too long. By the same token, I find nothing more offensive than a million-dollar film full of expensive technology and boring performances. (Hello, Avatar. How are you, Battle L.A?) When I find a film, like Eternal Sunshine, that is actually both well-made and well-acted, I’m pretty much in love.
As the two lovers, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet have a very surprising and very real chemistry together. Watching them, you believed in their love and then you just as strongly believed in their hate. This is one of those odd love stories where you not only believed that the two of them would actually get together but you also completely understood how and why Joel eventually drove Clementine away. Carrey makes Joel’s depression believable without allowing it to get tedious or repetitive while Kate Winslet — well, where to begin? Kate Winslet is probably one of the best actresses ever and this is one of her best performances. I’ve always had a bit of a girlcrush on Winslet — there’s an honesty to her performances that few other actresses can match. When she’s onscreen, the audience is with her. She never puts up the whole “film star” barrier and, as a result, she inhabits her characters completely and brings them to life with both their strengths and their flaws. And Clementine has got her share of flaws. (I remember that when my mom saw this movie, she absolutely hated Clementine and the ever-changing color of her hair.) Winslet doesn’t shy away from making Clementine human and, as a result, I think she elevated everyone else in the film as well.
As good as Carrey and Winslet are, the supporting roles are well-played as well and, as in all great movies, they give the impression of a world that existed before the movie started and one that will continue after the end credits. I especially loved the performances of the Lacuna Staff, from Tom Wilkinson’s bland yet intimidating doctor to the creepy geekiness of Elijah Wood. Mark Ruffalo and Kisten Dunst have a few great scenes where they’re partying the night away in Joel’s apartment while Joel’s memory is slowly erased. The sight of a very hairy Ruffalo and a very giggly Dunst dancing in their matching panties pretty much epitomizes “geek love” for me. I know that some people have complained that the scenes with Ruffalo and Dunst seemed out-of-place when compared to the ones between Carrey and Winslet but actually, I love the chemistry between Ruffalo and Dunst. Even playing one of the nerdiest characters ever, Mark Ruffalo is still hot. As for Dunst, she’s basically playing the same character that she always plays. (As my friend Jeff recently put it, “Kirsten Dunst In Her Underwear” is as much of a film genre as drama, comedy, and science fiction.) But I’ve always thought that she’s a likable enough actress (plus, by going red for Spiderman, she also indirectly helped this redhead’s social life) and she actually provides a nice (if surprising) moral center for Eternal Sunshine.
(Also, I’ll admit right now that if my boyfriend had a job that allowed him to hang out into a different stranger’s apartment every night, I’d probably sneak over and dance around in my underwear as well.)
It took me a while and a handful of viewings to really appreciate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When I first saw it, I thought it was a strange film. I liked it but I never expected that it would become one of my favorite movies. However, with each viewing, I find myself relating to and loving this film just a little bit more. So, thank you to everyone who voted in my poll and who gave me a chance to fall in love with this film all over again.
Here’s how it works. Earlier today, I put on a blindfold and then I randomly groped through my DVD collection until I had managed to pull out ten movies. I then promptly stubbed my big toe on the coffee table, fell down to the floor, and spent about 15 minutes cursing and crying. Because, seriously, it hurt! Anyway, I then took off the blindfold and looked over the 10 movies I had randomly selected. Two of them — Dracula A.D. 1972 and A Blade in the Dark — were movies that I had already reviewed on this site. So I put them back and I replaced them with two movies of my own choosing — in this case, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Between now and next Sunday (March 27th), people will hopefully vote in this poll. On Sunday, I will watch and review whichever movie has received the most votes. Even if that movie turns out to be Incubus. *shudder* (Have I mentioned how much I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?)
Now, of course, there’s always the possibility that no one will vote in this poll and I’ll end up looking silly. Those are the risks you take when you set up an online poll. However, I have a backup plan. If nobody votes, I will just spend every day next week shopping for purses at Northpark Mall and then blogging about it. And by that, I mean blogging every single little detail. So, it’s a win-win for me.
Anyway, here’s the list of the 10 films:
1) Barbarella— From 1968, Jane Fonda plays Barbarella who flies around space while getting molested by …. well, everyone. Directed by Roger Vadim.
2) Barry Lyndon — From 1975, this best picture nominee is director Stanley Kubrick’s legendary recreation of 18th-century Europe and the rogues who live there.
3) Caligula — Yes, that Caligula. From 1979, it’s time for decadence, blood, and nudity in the Roman Empire. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, John Steiner, and Theresa Ann Savoy.
4) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — Oh my God, I love this movie. Jim Carrey breaks up with Kate Winslet and deals with the pain by getting his mind erased by Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, and an amazingly creepy Elijah Wood.
5) Incubus — From 1969, this low-budget supernatural thriller not only stars a young William Shatner but it also features the entire cast speaking in Esperanto. For. The. Entire. Movie.
6) Inland Empire — If you want to give Lisa nightmares, you can vote for David Lynch’s disturbing 3-hour film about lost identity, sexual repression, human trafficking, and talking rabbits.
7) Kiss Me Deadly — From 1955, this Robert Aldrich-directed cult classic features hard-boiled P.I. Mike Hammer and a host of others chasing after a mysterious glowing box and accidentally destroying the world in the process.
8 ) Mandingo — From 1975, this infamous little film is a look at slavery, incest, and rheumatism in the pre-Civil War South. Starring James Mason, Ken Norton, Perry King, and Susan George. Supposedly a really offensive movie, one I haven’t sat down and watched yet.
9) Sunset Boulevard — From 1950, hack screenwriter William Holden ends up the kept man of psychotic former screen goddess Gloria Swanson. Directed by Billy Wilder.
10) The Unbearable Lightness of Being — From 1988, Philip L. Kaufman’s adaptation of Milan Kundera’s classic novel (one of my favorite books, by the way) features Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin having sex and dealing with ennui. After I first saw this movie, I insisted on wearing a hat just like Lena Olin did.
Everyone, except for me, is eligible to vote. Vote as often as you want. The poll is now open until Sunday, March 27th.
(Edit: Voting is now closed but check below for the results! — Lisa)
And I would! For an overweight, kinda disheveled guy who gives off a definite fear-of-intimacy type of vibe, Seth Rogen has a definite charisma and appeal to him. But, is he believable as a super hero? That’s the question posed by the new film, the Green Hornet.
In The Green Hornet, Rogen plays Britt Reid, the son of a wealthy Los Angeles newspaper publisher. Britt has a difficult relationship with his dad (played by the great Tom Wilkinson). His dad constantly reminds Britt that he’s wasting his potential and Britt responds by holding wild parties and throwing TVs off of balconies. (I’ve always wondered what the children of rich people do whenever their favorite show comes on since they always seem to be destroying any nearby televisions.) Anyway, Britt’s dad suddenly dies and just as suddenly, Britt inherits both his dad’s newspaper and one of his dad’s mechanics, Kato (Jay Chou). It turns out that Kato is something of a genius who spends his spare time sketching women, bullet-proofing cars, and making weapons. Kato’s also a skilled martial artist. Well, of course, what else can Britt do but fight crime with Kato as his loyal sidekick? Of course, fighting crime means coming into conflict with the biggest crime lord in Los Angeles, a paranoid Russian mobster (Inglorious Basterd’s Christoph Waltz) who is having a rather bloody midlife crisis. Along the way, Rogen also hires Cameron Diaz to work at the newspaper and soon finds himself competing with Kato for her affections. (I can’t remember, off the top of my head, the name of the character that Diaz plays but it doesn’t really matter. Much like Gwynneth Paltrow in the Iron Man movies, Diaz is mostly there to be herself.)
So, is Rogen a convincing super hero? No, not really. But that’s kind of the point of the entire movie. If The Dark Knight was the first truly postmodern comic book movie than The Green Hornet is the first mumblecore one. If The Dark Knight was the first movie to question what the deeper meaning of comic book heroism might be, The Green Hornet is the first movie to confidently answer with “there are none.” As played by Rogen, Britt becomes a super hero because there is literally nothing else to do. Kato becomes his sidekick for much the same reason while the film’s villain spends most of his time agonizing over what his evil catchphrase should be. That’s the genius of a The Green Hornet: it’s a super hero film about people who seem to understand that they’re characters in a super hero film and therefore, they have to act accordingly even while they comment on the absurdity of it all.
There is a plot to The Green Hornet but it’s really not that important. Ultimately, this film is all about Britt’s relationship with Kato. Kato is upset to constantly find himself being referred to as being the Green Hornet’s sidekick. Britt, meanwhile, is painfully aware of the fact that he contributes next to nothing to the team. Both of them find themselves competing for the affections of Diaz who doesn’t appear to have feelings for either of them. At first, Britt and Kato do the whole male bonding thing and then, after Waltz comes after them, they end up going their separate ways only to reunite in time for the film’s conclusion. This is a bromance disguised as an action movie but, fortunately, Chou and Rogen are both engaging and likable and they have a definite chemistry together that makes them fun to watch.
That’s probably the best way to sum up The Green Hornet. It’s a likable, entertaining, and frequently very funny movie that has a few memorable moments and, in this case, that’s more than good enough.