Sunday, September 03, 2006

Noise or Music.

There's an errata at the end of this piece, so take the points with a grain of salt...

Got time to waste? Want to avoid writing short stories or editing a friend's resume or plotting out the next 4 months of finances? That's why You Tube has been brought into existence. To wit: Experiment IV, a one-off video from Kate Bush in '87 or so.

Yes, around 20 years ago. Don't remind me.

Consider Burton, my film critic friend. One of his first acts in film school was to coerce our class to skip some of the more obscure Czech new wave films and go downtown to see the rereleased Manchurian Candidate (at least a different flavour of old), which seemed far more relevant to whatever we wanted to be seeing/doing those days than the Czech new wave. Numerous snippy comments about the professors being stuck 20 years in the past were thrown amongst the popcorn and after-movie Guiness.

Said the man who has chosen to write about a Kate Bush video. From 1987. The irony ain't lost here.

Back to Terry and Kate. I never forgot the video, which at the time I found pretty cool. I was armed with the knowledge that it was directed by Terry Gilliam who was just taking some serious acclaim for Brazil at the time, so, you know, that almost made this particular video art, in italics yet (I was around 17, so I also thought that Red Dawn and Streets of Fire were pretty legitimate cinema as well, let's not get into that). And how has it dated?

How well could it date, really?

It's definately Gilliam, the wide angles and deep focus give it away. He'd directed Bush's video for Cloudbusting and they must have shared taste in weirdness. Anybody who'd (deep breath) base a song and video on a book by Wilhelm Reich's son has what can best be described as a creative mind, and for Gilliam to transplant that decidedly American hysteria into a very British countryside...takes guts. Or at least a dedicated vision. Look up Reich and Orgone and Orgonon (no relation)for yourself, it'd take too long to explain his particular flavour of strange.

Let's get back to Bush and Gilliam. The line between eerie and cheesy is thin at the best of times, Experiment IV leaps over the line more than once (the maquette doesn't play well at all). But the sense of chaos and the fear of something fast and unpleasant still has a kick. Gilliam can turn it back into horror simply by slowing down the film, breaking a few windows and flinging a Pana-glide (if that's the term) down a hallway with inconsistent lighting. Yeah, it's a 20 year old Kate Bush video. But the pedigree has dated better than most.

Dancing with Tears in my Eyes for example. Both cheesy and depressing. Cautionary tale for yesterday's war (although it's a nuclear meltdown that wipes out the locals in this one, rather than a nuclear war). Reeks of bad agitprop. And there is such a thing as good agitprop (by good, let's instead say effective). I finally managed to see The War Game recently, and a 40 year old take on post-Nuclear England still makes you consider the humanity, the futility, the waste, rather than Tears' bad filters and guitar solos.

I cringed at remembering that the Tears video existed and even more so knowing that somebody put it on You Tube. But I actively looked for Experiment IV, proving that I either care for Gilliam more than I admit (love 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing, but never liked Munchausen, thought Grimm was a bad idea, and a little Monty Python goes a long LONG way), or I should really do some work and stop procrastinating. Perhaps both.

Errata Sept. 5th: Sheepishly here...while the videos might look like Gilliam's work, they were apparently not directed by him, the anonymous Reza left comments on this post that pointed to two quotes from Kate Bush where she discusses the videos. Proving once and for all that I'm old, I remembered the term Gilliam tossed around with both videos years back and assumed that he directed them. Thanks Reza, sorry Kate, hi Terry.

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Reza said...

The video for "Experiment IV" was actually directed by Kate Bush herself. See here for more details:

Also, the video for Cloudbusting was directed by Julian Doyle, not Terry Gilliam. Though Kate Bush and Terry Gilliam together wrote the storyboard for this video. See here for more details:

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