Monday, March 14, 2011

Music Videos and Silent Films: A Match Made in Movie Heaven?

If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a pretty big fan of music videos as a genre - when done well, they have all the entertainment value of a feature-length film distilled into three minutes of sold gold goodness. They also, more often then not, bear a certain resemblance to ye olde silent films of yesteryear, telling stories that exist outside the lyrics and allowing the music to become an accompaniment to the action of the film.

Unsurprisingly, some videos have taken this comparison even farther. Two examples stand out in my mind immediately, the first being the video for "Tonight Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins.

A fun story, right? Boy and girl go up in a rocket ship to the moon, beat some aliens with umbrellas, take a dip in the sea to hang with mermaids, and live happily ever after. Seems like I've seen some of this imagery before . . .

"Voyage a la Lune" by George Melies is the first-ever movie made with an actual plot - before that, it was all movies of people sneezing, horses running, sunrises, trains, etc. Here, we see true theatrical mastery: a storyline and special effects, with lots of women in short pants thrown in for kicks. I believe they call it "cheesecake."

A final note: My apologies for the distracting voiceover, it was better than some of the ridiculous soundtracks I found out there, but still it's very distracting.

From the more recent end of the musical spectrum, we have "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie. In the video, the mysterious Doctor reveals the 'Living Dead Girl' to the carnival-goers, to varying degrees of horror and amazement. When she escapes, the townspeople chase him out of town.

Pretty old fashioned looking stuff -- so old fashioned looking, in fact, it shouldn't be a surprise that the video's imagery is taken almost verbatim from an original silent film called "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" directed by Rober Weine. The highly stylized sets seen in both films come out of German Expressionism, an art movement that sought to manifest psychological moods in environment. The film is nearly an hour long, but if you have the time to watch it, I promise you won't be dissappointed -- but if you don't and just want to see the carnival scene, the fun starts around 7:56.

Good times, right?

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