February 2005. Finally, the DVD compilation of New Order videos is really in the works. Rather than considering a commentary track, I proposed to make a new video for an old song. This would bring my history with the band full circle. I would keep the budget low, not involve the band, and I would do as I pleased without their approval. If in the end they didn't like it, they would not include it on the DVD.
I was in Paris working on another project, a personal film. One night a friend invited me to see the Swedish band The Concretes. They were wonderful. I met them afterwards and we went nearby for a drink. I told the singer, Victoria Bergsman, what I was up to in terms of developing a video for New Order. She told me of an idea she had for a video of a woman who goes shopping for a record (vinyl), takes it home, and dances to it.
Later I thought of that idea in terms of the song "Temptation". Because it was a long song it would be a challenge. I thought it thereby needed something special, simple. And Victoria 's idea was simple, even banal. It could work,
If the girl could carry the story
Victoria listened to the song and came up with a breakdown of the story.
She had someone there in Stockholm she thought would be good. So I encouraged her to do an informal test shoot with her.
Victoria shot some video and for me it showed that the idea could work. But I already knew that the girl had to be Victoria . Especially after she sent me some videos that she made in art school. As we discussed the project further, Victoria came to accept to play the role. But then she wanted to do it in Paris . That was fine by me. I knew the city well and shot my film "Souvenir" there.
Now I needed to find a cameraperson. We had so little money there could be no crew and we would shoot on video with available light. I had become friendly with the wonderful cameraman Darius Khondji, and he wanted to shoot with me. But when we set up a date, he had a conflict.
One day I was outside in a café when filmmaker Phillipe Garrel walked past. I stopped him to ask about the film I knew he was working on about May 1968. He invited me to a screening the next day at his lab. There is nothing better than a morning screening, especially of such a good film. Over 3 hours in black and white in the old, almost square, academy frame. The film went on to win the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival this summer.
I learned that the cameraperson was William Lubtchansky, whose work for Godard and Iossielloni, among others, I have long admired. I obtained his phone number, called him, and within an hour I was at his home. That is unheard of in France , where you usually have to make an appointment to make an appointment…
Before meeting him, I had learned that his daughter, Irena, was a cameraperson and had been assisting William for several years. He invited her over and I explained what we were thinking for the video. Irena knew of the band and I gave her the cd of the music to listen to. And she gave me a reel of her work as a Director of Photography.
Irena was really up for the shoot and was interested in learning to use the new HD camera. Guillame Diamant-Berger was loaning us the camera for the shoot, and he was a big fan of William Lubtchansky as well.
Victoria came to Paris and we met with Irena and planned to do tests on Friday, shooting on Saturday and Sunday. I took Victoria to a friend, Gerlinde Hobel, at the clothing designer Missoni's offices and she found an unusual belt with voodoo dolls on it. We borrowed it for the shoot.
Then we looked at records stores and a friend's apartment. The apartment seemed perfect for the space and light, and a good floor to dance on. It also overlooked a special garden I thought we could use.
The record store was more difficult. So on Friday that was our focus. We shot in two very different stores. Finally we went to Bimbo Towers, a place Victoria had introduced me to. It is small, eclectic shop with cd's and vinyl and books and other paraphernalia, much of which is from Japan. We had originally thought it would be too small. It worked. We got what we needed. The store was so gracious and the people in there worked with us. It so happened that the boy next to Victoria is from Los Angeles and works in a record store there. And you will notice a voodoo doll behind Victoria – a nice coincidence.
We also made some pick up shots in the streets. We were ahead of the game.
Saturday we focused on the dance, and did many of the remaining exterior running shots before. After setting things up, Victoria worked with Irena alone. I went out with Sylvain Homo to find the shot from a window and the opening shot. Just near was a great shot from above for when Victoria exits the record shop. And not far away was our opening. We also did many of the running shots and florist all in the same area so we would not lose time traveling. It was an area I knew well and there were already some locations I had in mind.
We finished on Saturday and had a wonderful meal to celebrate. The next day Victoria and I went through the footage and made notes. She had to return to Stockholm on Monday and I would begin the edit.
Catherine Quesemond was the editor. I met her at a dinner party given by Jeszebel and Nicholas Traube. I must say Jezabel gives many dinners and I have met so many friends in her home, including Guillaume who supplied the camera. Catherine had just completed a feature by Michel Piccoli which played in Cannes. She had never done a music video, and for me that was good. I liked her and the filmmakers she had worked with. And as you can see, I work a lot on instinct.
Amanda Stubbs is a producer at Partizan, a commercials company that represents Michel Gondry. She is also a dear friend and introduced me to Mathieu Hue and Julien Desplanguees of Nightshift. They do a lot of 3D post for commercial clients of Partizan and they agreed to work with us on the edit. Our budget was limited but they liked the project. They had their own facility where we could edit.
Catherine came in and in two days we had pretty much the final edit.
Each day Nightshift would put the edit on the internet so that Victoria could see and we could discuss it. It all went well and smoothly.
Nightshift was ready to do extensive graphics at the end that Victoria and I were discussing, but the edit seemed to hold its own. I was so happy that it turned out how it did, not using any tricks. When Victoria is dancing it goes dark – that was the real weather! We were so lucky.
The final touch was the titles and credits. I felt that it should be handwritten, like a diary. Victoria agreed and suggested Lisa Milberg from The Concretes. Lisa does all of her band's layout and graphics.
The video was re-titled "The Temptation of Victoria" and is dedicated to Michael Powell. If you have ever seen Michael's "A Matter of Life and Death" (in the U.S. it was released under the title "A Stairway to Heaven"), you will see the reference has to do with the move from black and white to color. And before Michael died, we were developing a short music film with him (see "The Sands of Dee").Top
Meanwhile, I had engaged the Chinese film cameraman and director Yu Likwai to make a video for "Ceremony". He had come to my attention because of the films he has shot or directed that used titles from Joy Division songs or albums, and one film featured a character dancing to a JD song.
Tony Rayns, whose expertise is Asian cinema, on which he regularly writes, programs for festivals and subtitles films, put me in touch with Likwai.
Likwai did not listen much to New Order but loved JD. I proposed Ceremony because it was written by JD and recorded by NO as their first single.
So Likwai sent me two ideas for a video. I was moved by one of them, so he had a direction that we briefly discussed by email. Then he just went and did it!
When he delivered the final video I was elated. He had no idea what the video I was making was about, so I was surprised to see how our two videos related: each focused on one character, had plants turning to/increasing in color, and ended on the face of the character. Yet the two videos were also so different.
The videos were sent to the record company and the band.
They loved them.Top
It had been several years since New Order made an album. In 2001 they came out with Get Ready. Crystal was the first single and the record company planned to make a video. The band asked me to find a director, but at the same time London Record's commissioner, Alan Parks, was also searching for a director. So for the first time I was, in a sense, competing for the job. I could not just come up with one director and idea and go and make the video. This put me in an unusual position.
I began contacting several directors whom I thought would be interested and make a good video. These included Michael Winterbottom ("24-hour Pary People"), Gaspar Noé ("Irreversible"), Ildikó Enyedi ("My Twentieth Century"), David Gordon Green ("George Washington") and Leos Carax ("Les Amants des Pont Neuf"). They were all interested.
What I was thinking for Winterbottom was his using the actors playing New Order in his film to represent the band in the video. He had another idea that was more "on the road." Green proposed a poetic video featuring young kids. Enyedi had something magical in mind, centered around an internet "shack" in the very rural countryside of Hungary . Noé had a high-tech idea floating over a landscape. Carax did not write a thing.
When Mark Romanek suggested that I contact Leos Carax, though I long admired his work, there was the reputation of how over-budget his "Les Amants" film went. So I was a bit anxious. But I admired his work.
Through Carax's then, now sadly late, cameraman, Jean-Yves Escoffier ("Gumma"), I emailed Leos. I arranged to have a cassette of the music sent to him, and I waited. Not too long after he wrote and directed me to a web site. Here I found a home-made video Leos had constructed starring his dog and his cat. It was amusing as well as making fun of the video format. Leos wrote that "the video will cost you nothing, but my fee will be large."
I knew this could not be THE video for NO or the record company, but I tried to encourage someone to pay for the video to put on their web site. It would be true to the NO style to do things different. But I could not persuade anyone. Still, this was the beginning of a good friendship for me. Carax's video has played in international film festivals and now I can deliver it to the public on this web site!
Then I tried to contact Jonas Auckerland because it had become clear that the record company, and the band, wanted a more commercial director. Jonas had done notable work for Madonna, as well as the edgy "Smack Your Bitch Up" for Prodigy. I was informed that Auckerland was not available but his partner, Johan Renck, was.
I submitted all of my proposals for the video, and mentioned Johan. Alan Parks had also been in touch with Johan. In the end he was the director chosen to direct the video.
In this situation Johan had his own producer and I acted as "executive producer." Basically, I represented the band on the shoot since they were not in the video.
The casting went well for the band members. However, the female backup singer was supposed to be a model but she was not available. Johan proposed an older woman who looked a bit like Nico and could have been one of the boys' mother. Johan suggested building a little flirtation between the keyboard player and the woman. I like the idea, and we went with it.
I cannot recall whether it was a long one day shoot or two days in the studio, but towards the end New Order were in London and stopped by. They loved the set and the band, but Bernard had a real problem with the woman. He hated the way she danced.
In the edit Johan had to try and edit her out as much as possible. Sometimes he blurred her image. It is too bad. I think his original idea would have worked and added an atypical idea to a music video going beyond the great idea of creating an entirely different image for the band…another band!
I cannot recall who requested, or suggested, that Warner's commission a new video for the cd single of Crystal in America , but I suggested Gina Birch (who had directed "1963"). They would only spend $5,000 and I knew that Gina had been shooting herself and editing a lot at home. She had been making videos for the Libertines which I liked. I also knew that Gina had recently adopted her first little girl Honey and could use the money.
Honey is in the video and it is in the homemade style that Gina has developed to use in live performances of her own music.Top
THE PERFECT KISS 1985
I was introduced to Jonathan Demme. We met in New York at the Café des Artiste's which has a wonderful little bar hidden in the back. We had quail eggs and talked about music. By chance he pulled out the first single "Subway/Sudan" by Thick Pigeon not knowing that the girl behind it, Stanton Miranda, was my girlfriend.
Jonathan was up for the video and asked for a $20,000 fee. This was quite large, but we said OK. And we entered in to making a short film, very much in the process of making a feature.
The song was nine-minutes long and New Order would not make an edit. The same thing had been true for Blue Monday. Radio was begging for a Blue Monday edit when that song was released.
This was the great quality of the band. Not only was their music good, but they held on to certain values, refusing to "play the game" of the industry. They refused to mime to songs – if they were performing, they would do so live.
So it was determined that the band would perform the song live in their rehearsal room. I had to put the crew together.
I wanted to work with another great cameraperson. I first contacted Jack Cardiff. He was busy writing his autobiography. Then I mentioned Henri Alekan. He hat shot the beautiful film "La Belle et La Bête" (Beauty and the Beast) by Jean Cocteau.
People said he wouldn't be interested in doing a pop video, would not travel to Manchester, and anyway would be too expensive. They were wrong on all counts. As a producer I always go after what I want. If it is right, it will happen.
Alekan was at least 70 then, and he brought his gaffer (electrician) Louis Cochet. He was about 5 years older. When they arrived at Manchester airport I grabbed Cochet's bag to help, and he slapped my wrist and took the bag for himself. And throughout the shoot he moved as agile as a monkey, up and down the ladder under the direction of Alkean.
The "focus puller" assisting the camera operator was Agnes Godard. She has become one of the great camera people of our time. Godard has worked in partnership with Claire Denis on most of her films.
The first thing Alekan did was to replace the skylights with large lights to illuminate the space. For individual shots of the band members he had Cochet hang a gauze-like material behind them to soften the background. The band was performing live so there was a multi-track truck outside recording each take.
Since we had a master cinematographer at the helm, I had them shoot in 35mm film. I had a dream that this could be a short film. I recorded the shoot in Super-8 film and that footage can be seen in the video "Shell Shock". I believe Tony Wilson had and editor put that video together. I like it, but every time I see the video I am sad because all the original footage has been lost.
After the shoot we went out to the Hacienda club. Not only did Alekan and Couchet join us, but they were seen chasing young women!
The edit of the film took place in London. A friend of Demme's, Hercules Bellville, introduced us to feature film editor Tony Lawson. Lawson had worked with Sam Pekinpah among others and he proceeded to edit the film on a flatbed. There was no transfer to video to edit on video.
When the edit was complete the music had to be mixed. Lawson has used a basic guide track to cut to, but now the music had to be assembled by taking the tracks that corresponded to each close-up on an instrument so that it would be in sync. Having an electronic guide track made that possible. This was put together and mixed at Amazon studios in Liverpool.
When we made a first print of the edit, Demme arranged to screen it in Paris for Alekan so they could discuss the "timing" of the print. That determines the final color they would be after. Our schedules only allowed this to be done on a Sunday. That would normally be difficult, but Alekan was so revered that we found a projectionist happy to make his facility on the Champs Elysée available.
After this Demme returned to Los Angeles while I got all the film and sound materials together. Then I joined Demme in L.A. where we did a film mix in a studio normally used for feature films. This meant we were preparing the sound to make 35mm prints. A graphic designer had been employed to create the title and end credits. So in the end we did have a short film.
We also had a way to present it in the cinema.
In New York "The Perfect Kiss" played as a short before Demme's Talking Heads' film "Stop Making Sense". In London it played with Nicolas Roeg's film "Insignificance". It also played in international film festivals.
To compliment the "film" I engaged artist Barbara Kruger to make a poster.
This video was regarded as very expensive. It was. If you take in to consideration all of the elements of having to mix and create a new unique track, along with working entirely in film to create film prints, it must have cost more than £200,000. Many years later this would become a more normal expense, but for Factory Records it was extravagant.
Jonathan Demme made a beautiful film. He shows how the song is made, and the people behind it in an intimate and revealing way.
When the film was projected I realized that the sound was slow. This was because the film was shot at 25 frames per second (fps) to transfer cleanly to video. In the UK, and Europe, the standard TV format is PAL which runs at 25 fps as opposed to America's NTSC which runs at 30 fps. But film is projected at 24 fps.
If you follow closely you will also see that the end of Hooky's playing does not coincide with the music. He stops and there are a couple more hits on the bass. A mistake, yes, but known and purposeful. I cannot remember the exact reason for this, but something I have learned over the years is that one tries to fix everything, but often it is necessary to leave a problem in the finished product. It gives it a life. It makes it more art and less a commercial product.Top
BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE
The idea to approach Robert Longo may have come from Steven Baker at Warner Brothers in Los Angeles . Steven worked in A & R and also had a good knowledge of the art world. He worked with bands that were very artistic in their approach to imagery such as the Talking Heads and R.E.M.
Anyway, I met Robert in his New York studio. He loved Joy Division and had an interest in New Order. By that time he had made maybe a couple of music videos, one for R.E.M. and another for a N.Y. based group Golden Palominos headed by Anton Fier.
Robert's girlfriend was Gretchen Bender, a video artist, and Robert wanted Gretchen to edit the video. At the time of the shoot designer Peter Saville was having an exhibition at the White Columns gallery. The gallery was on Spring Street, downstairs from the Of Factory NY (OFNY) office. Peter had made an installation with language on the walls and it figures in the video. The gallery is still running in a different location and is known for showing Jeff Koons early floating basketball piece.
Robert set up a structure for the video following the song: having the verses different from the choruses. He sent out cameraman Richard Dallett with a 16mm camera to pick up a variety of shots around NY: exteriors and interiors.
These would be cut in to rapid fire edits by Gretchen in to which she put computer graphics. Those were the verses. The choruses were animations of his "men in the cities" drawing series where men in black suits and ties were suspended in the air. In order to shoot this we had to find a trampoline. That was the most difficult thing for me as a producer. I finally found one on Staten Island and on a nice day we could shoot them against the sky.
There was the band element but they were on tour. So Tony Wilson took a cameraman from Granada Television (where he worked in Manchester ) and flew to Italy . There they shot close-ups of each band member, various pieces of landscape as well as the band performing on stage.
There was one other element which Robert wanted and that was to shoot a small scene between three people in black and white 35mm film recording them speaking lines that Robert had written for them. I remember that E. Max Frye, the writer of the Jonathan Demme film "Something Wild", argues with Jodi Long, who was an actress who played in Paul Shrader's film on Patty Hearst. I believe that this was the first time a music video had an unrelated scene cut in to the middle of the video interrupting the song for the length of the scene. I sadly cannot remember the name of the other woman in the scene but I believe she was a friend of Robert's.
At that time, 1986, such a rapid edit constructed by Gretchen was not seen before. The split screens that Robert employed also related to his visual artwork.
A year or so after the video was made I received a call from Fox Television. It was Michael Linder, executive producer for a new show he was developing, America 's Most Wanted. He had seen the video in a bar in Bali . Michael wanted something similar in the fast paced edit for the show's title sequence. I produced it and Gretchen directed and edited. I was in the first title sequence as a prisoner.
I am sorry to report that Gretchen Bender died last year. She and Robert had not been together for many years, and Gretchen had gone on to make a lot of art work in video including many collaborations with the dancers Arnie Zane and Bill T. JonesTop
My first music video production was for Grace Jones' "Libertango (I've seen that face before)" directed by Jean Paul Goude. We had remained friends and one day I mentioned that I was interested in doing a choreographed dance video for the song, but not like Janet Jackson or related West Side Story type fare. He rung up Phillipe Decoulfé in Paris and I spoke with him. Phillip was interested so I flew to Paris to meet him. He showed me a short film "Caramba" which was quite unique. Philippe was a choreographer and dancer trained in the circus and contemporary dance and costume played a big role in his work. I played him the song and he did not like it much, but he wanted to make a little film. I was convinced and got approval from Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson. The band were about to perform at Glastonbury Festival and then go on vacation. So it was arranged that we would go and film them playing the song live.
Back in Paris Philippe had found an old atelier that was soon to be destroyed and he developed the piece for this place.
His childhood friend, Thierry Fournier, who only has one leg, was dressed sitting on a board suspended over the main area. Attached to his head was a screen on to which the band was seen performing. Once that was established he could cut between the choreography and the band directly.
We edited the video in London . It was like nothing else I had ever seen.
The band like it (I think!) and it became possibly their most popular video.
It was given Best Video at the BPI awards. What was so special is that it was announced that it had no competition!
I must admit that it wasn't my favorite song when we began production, but the video had Philippe and I both liking the song a lot.
In America Warner Brothers was now playing a role in the videos. They made a re-edit increasing the amount of footage of the band. I was very upset to learn this. Luckily MTV went on the video before knowing about the edit.
Actually, when Philippe finished the edit and we sent it to the band, it was only then I noticed that the only shot of Peter Hook was of his boots, and very briefly! Well, that is why I was working with this band. If that was the best edit for the video then they accepted it.
When I look back on the video I am reminded of Marcel, the one doing the lyrics in sign language while moving around in the kind of boxing bag costume. He died of AIDS since. I am sad that so many people we worked with have had the same fate, such as the fine actor David Warrilow (see "Run").Top
The following was written early last year for a Spanish newspaper to coincide with his exhibition at MACBA ( Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona ). They edited using only what I had written about his short video works. What is written about the "Run" video was used as program notes at the museum.
To understand Robert Frank's fil ms (including videos) is to know Robert Frank. That does not mean that one need to have met him, because he hi ms elf is so present in his work.
Robert Frank's fil ms are the work of an amateur. He is like the Elephant child of Kipling with 'satiable curiosity, full of wonder, looking out on to the world, finding his way, recording the sights and the sounds, a sense of place and time, that eventually tells a story, and then we, the audience, are invited inside.
While we hear about today's "digital revolution", it is important to note that there were "pioneers" that came before, quite recently in fact. Filmmakers such as Frank who moved in to video for practical reasons. I am thinking of Alain Cavalier, Agnes Varda and, especially, Chris Marker. As they had each made many fil ms and struggled, as most filmmakers still do, with budget, crews, equipment, laboratories, producers…all taking time, precious time, away from the ongoing drive to simply make a film. Alas, video allowed them to shut the door, ignore the phone, and get to work. These are the true pioneers to whom the new filmmakers (young and old) must look, for they did not follow a trend. But neither did they forge ahead as heroes. They just kept on walking, and keep on walking. And we are lucky to walk with them.
When I first saw Robert's "The Present", screened for a photography class at New York University , I laughed, and I cried. I was so moved that I encouraged Robert to have the video converted in to a 35mm print so that it could be screened to a wider audience, such as in film festivals.
I have since seen " Paper Route " and his most recent video "True Story". What I find here is a trilogy of sorts, but most interesting is that its trajectory is backwards, but moves in to the future.
"The Present" begins with Robert "looking for a story". It becomes the story of the end of Robert's life. What echoes in the mind is the repeated phrase, "and put my negatives away". All of the material is shot in "the present" of that time (1997/8?). It is a kind of putting things in order at the end of one's life. Then came "Paper Route", an extension of "the Present" that is simpler, a kind of walk (in this case a ride) in the car of a man who delivers the newspapers in Mabou (Nova Scotia) where Robert spends a lot of time. They follow a routine and move in a circle as if suspended in time.
But now look at "True Story" and you find a mix of past and present, film and video. Robert is going forward by moving backwards, and it is less of a putting in order than a positive move ahead. There is a new life and it comes from reaching back in to the past, grabbing things (memories as found in objects and images) and pulling them in to the present. Robert speaks of the deterioration of the body, and of nature. For example, there is the scene of making a crutch for an old tree. While he says "it's a grim picture" (I have to think of Samuel Beckett), Robert see ms to be saying that everything is possible to carry on, we just have to observe and to care, to give a helping hand, in order to make certain that it will be possible. It is our responsibility, and our joy. So there is joy in Robert's new work, and there is silence. Because in silence we, the audience, can reflect. He is providing us with that crutch.
I have worked with Robert, twice. Both times as a producer of music videos ("clips"), one for the British band New Order ("Run") and the other for the poet/singer Patti Smith ("Summer Cannibals").
Years before meeting Robert I had been in his house on New York 's Bleecker Street to visit the artist Terry Fox who was living there amongst cardboard boxes filled with Robert's photographs. This was in 1976/7. The house was also a home to some homeless men (perhaps women as well, but I don't recall seeing any). Robert is like that: he has great compassion for his fellow man, and he's willing to live his belief.
I had been familiar with Robert's photographs, especially his quietly epic book "The Americans", as well as his legendary beat film "Pull My Daisy". One day in 1987(?) I knocked on Robert's door to see if he might consider directing a music video for New Order. Of course he did not know the band, and I did not even expect him to like the music. This did not concern me. What I could offer Robert was a small budget and the freedom to do as he pleased. The last thing I wanted was for Robert to even attempt to make a "music video" as defined by the music industry. It took some time before Robert agreed to make the video, and I fondly recall his relating that his positive answer came while taking a shower!
Unlike other people in my position – professionally referred to as "video commissioners" - I did not require a written proposal. In fact I had no idea what Robert would do.
To begin we bought a new video camera (at that time the new standard was Hi8), and we flew out to Southern California where New Order was performing. The first stage of the production was at the concert. Robert disappeared. I did not see him again until after the show.
Perhaps it was the following morning that I had arranged for
Robert to take individual portraits (photographs) of the band. It really could have been any morning - they were young (me too!), and it was rock and roll. None of the band enjoyed the early rendezvous (note the singer Bernard Sumner's portrait made in the hotel's underground car park - he best represents the early hour after a night on tour…). That was stage two.
Stage three was in New York . Willia ms burg , to be precise. A scenario had been developing in Robert's mind, perhaps influenced or confirmed by the trip to meet the band. We assembled a cast of the actor David Warrilow and a young girl.
Warrilow had been a member of the theater group Mabou Mines, and I might excitedly note that he was also a revered actor of the plays of Samuel Beckett. Beckett even wrote a play for Mr. Warrilow. The young girl was the daughter of a friend of Robert's, Tony Noguera, a Brazilian percussionist. To give a twist in texture to the video, we decided to shoot this sequence on 35mm film. It would differentiate it from the video footage of the concert.
The result of the video for "Run" was constructed in the edit with Laura Israel (this began a special and continuing relationship between Laura and Robert who work together on all moving image projects that Robert makes). There was no script for Laura to follow, and no "sync" performance of the band to the song. So it was the material itself that had to be "read". I learned so much from this experience.
What is the video in the end? The band's performance is embedded within the performances of Mr. Warrilow and the young girl. What have they to do with one another? Nothing. And Everything. For me the video is a dance – the movement of the musicians separated from the music itself, "observed", and played against the movement of the young girl playing her drum, twirling, dancing.
In between is the older man - so "of" his moment. He finds his place: a chair and a table. Approaches and takes his seat. It is not a restaurant, but rather the parking lot of a disused service station (gas station for cars). There are no other tables.
The man sits. He reflects. Something comes to mind that makes him laugh. He catches hi ms elf and looks directly in to the camera, at us, then returns to his little place. He notices the plant and checks to see if it has water. He rubs his fingers together to feel for the level of moisture. Only then is his proximity to the girl revealed. She is nearby, in the street. They never meet. She never even notices him, but he does her. He sees everything, in a sense. And, in a sense, he is Robert Frank.
Frank can only be of his time - the moment Walter Benjamin spoke of that, as soon as it is recognized, is past. History. Robert is history in the truest sense. We walk in his shoes. That's it: Robert walks his camera, which is why the work is so grounded. And the work begins with the walk, not before. There does not appear to be any plan that he is after.
- Michael H. Shamberg, January 2005.
Robert Frank's very short film, "Run", set to New Order's tune of the same name, remains one of the most gratifying tastes of cinema ever. It's a deep, rich and exhilarating emotional journey somehow compressed into the time it takes for New Order's engaging pop song to play out. David Warrilow's performance is subtle and sublime.
BLUE MONDAY '88
The Band have decided to make an edit of the song that radio in the U.S. wanted to play back in 1983 but said it was to long.
I was in the bookstore of the Whitney Museum looking through a catalog for a past Biennale exhibition. I saw a few hand drawn frames from a film by animator Robert Breer. It was 1988 and Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was a popular video using animation. I found it interesting to watch once or twice, but after that I was more interested in the technology rather than the imagery or the song. These simple hand drawings by Breer interested me.
I remember tracking Robert down through someone who worked at the Donnell Library Media department. He put me in touch with Robert adding that he may be interested in using his art for a commercial venture because he recently had a baby and could use the money.
Bob lived up the Hudson River in a town called Sparkill. Indeed, he was interested and he showed me how he worked drawing on index cards and shooting single frame in his small studio.
Steven Baker at Warner Brothers liked the idea but felt it needed more. He proposed adding William Wegman in to the mix. Wegman was known for the videos and photographs he made with his Weimeraner dogs. I knew Bill from the art world and thought that was an idea worth exploring. I learned that Bill and Bob had never met but knew of, and respected, each other's work.
It developed that Bill would shoot first with his dog Fay Ray (daughter of Man Ray) and we would develop the film and Bob would work off of those images. New Order was touring and Bill and I met up with them in Los Angeles. Bill invited the band to a friend's photo studio. There was nothing really planned but for a prop that Bob had prepared of a flipbook of the dog.
All the other things in the video were found in the studio. It brilliantly brings out the personalities of the band members who otherwise still refused to mime the songs and did not want to be put in to a position to act – they were musicians so they should play their music and, if not, then not be made to look stupid.
That footage was then processed and fed to Breer who completed his animations and everything was now on video.
I had arranged to have Gretchen Bender (Bizarre Love Triangle) edit the video. While I waited for Gretchen to make herself available I began to edit on her system. I accomplished one cut that stayed: Fay moving backwards on to a platform and placing her paw on the tennis ball to the explosive beat of the music.
Gretchen was still not available, so I engaged Laura Israel (she also edited Round & Round and Run).
As the edit developed Bob and Bill would alternatively visit Laura. We found that the video was more Bob after his visit and more Bill after his. That seemed normal, but eventually I had to bar them from the edit room once Laura had become familiar with the footage and ideas of each artist. So Laura made the final decisions with me and everyone was happy.
I'll never forget my arguing that videos had to stand up to repeated viewings so that it was all right to have to view it several times to understand or get in to it. Bernard would then remind me that for the U.S. MTV it might be OK, but in the UK they were lucky to get one television screening so it had to work the first time. I was proud that the video worked as I had hoped: it was low tech and could be both appreciated on one viewing and would hold up to many more.
I will note that Tony Wilson has a Weimeraner named William. When it takes Tony 10 minutes to get William in to the boot of his car his curses include blaming me for the video which gave him the idea.Top
The band had asked me to look at the work of Gerard de Thame. He has made some music videos and they especially liked on he did for Black. It was shot in black and white film and high speed to produce a slow motion. The video was beautiful so I contacted him through his production company Helen Langridge Associates. Anita Overland was his producer.
I looked at Gerard's work and it all was pretty much the same. I also noticed that all the tracks were ballads. I thought it might be good for Gerard to work with a track so unlike his other music videos that it might force him to do something different.
Gerard did not like the track, but since this was a band that would allow him to do something different, and they would not be involved in the video, he came up with a good idea. He referenced an Andy Warhol film "The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women". I knew and respected some of Warhol's work but had not seen this film. It was easily described: Warhol shot 2 1/2 minute spools of 16mm film of the faces of friends sitting on a stool. He called them screen tests. Then he just spliced the films together.
Well, the idea was good but I felt Gerard was really not in to making the video. So I suggested we do a test on video. I cannot recall what exactly was done, but it did not work and we decided that he would not make the video.
It was coming on to Christmas and we were running out of time. I was in London to make the video and I thought to call Richard Heslop. I knew Richard from his work with Derek Jarman whose work I respect a lot, and a person I also miss, as does the world. Richard was known for his especially beautiful Super-8 work.
We did not have a large budget and Richard was really up for shooting something around a Christmas theme. We were in a bar in Soho and met a young Asian woman whom Richard invited to be in the video. The other girl was Richard's girlfriend at the time. The young boy was his friend's, Sarah Myles', son. I cannot remember whose dog it was.
We shot in a shooting stage and all went smoothly. Richard operated a 16mm camera. In the edit Richard was in total control. It was there that he devised the "pill". This obviously related to the drug Ecstasy which was so popular at the time, and which had a direct relation to the song. I cannot remember whether it was a coincidence that Peter Saville used pill imagery for the sleeve, but you could say "something was in the air".
I was nervous in the edit as Richard created a lot of effects in post-production. This was not my style, and I did not know much about it. But it all turned out fine, even magical. It has a dark edge to it that I like. If you look closely at the montage of Super-8 footage you can see Richard with liquid or such coming in to or going out of his mouth.
Last week in London I ran in to the Sarah Myles on the street. She had just been thinking of me because she remembered we shared the same birthday (date, not year). It is good to be back in touch with a fellow filmmaker.
The band invited Richard to make another video for "Spooky". I had nothing to do with the production, but I quite like the video. Richard himself has a big presence in the video as does his Super-8 footage which looks to be mostly from Asia.Top
ROUND & ROUND
The band was not going to be in this video. The Warhol idea that Gerard de Thame had for "Fine Time" came to mind and I thought of the director Paula Grief. Paula had done music videos for some big bands and came from the fashion world. She used to work with Mademoiselle in the U.S. and Italian Vogue, so she would know how to get the models. I threw the idea out to her and she liked it. Her idea was to shoot in luscious black and white using Irving Penn's photographs as a reference. And then she would shoot very colorful images on a table top to cut in to the footage of the women.
Paula shot 13 beautiful women, models all of them. There was one in particular, Patty de Silva, who struck us and we decided to shoot her for the entire length of the song. We were glad that we did.
Laura Israel was the editor and was challenged to edit in flashes of the color images having no intentional relation to the beat of the music. Once that was completed with the 13 women, Paula used the exact same edit of the inserts and applied it to the "Patty" version. It worked.
I entered this video with the idea that it addressed the fact that women, especially beautiful women, are used in advertising to sell product. And music videos were essentially adverts to sell records. So our video would be completely women (or one woman) the difference being that each one is presented in a way where they become people and not just objects. Not editing each one and allowing them just be in front of the camera they could become the subject of the lyrics. So we were giving the public what advertisers say they want, but trying to push that envelope and transform it.
Does it work? I don't think as well as I had hoped. But the video still works.
The cutting in of the color imagery puts in a childlike playfulness. And the alternative "Patty" version became our favorite.
I believe footage from the shoot was also used in a television advertising campaign in the UK. I will ask Tony Wilson who will write about the videos as well.Top