Melies, De Chomon, Gaga, Bjork?: Cinematic Recall by Inez and Vinoodh

In the future I plan to write a chapter of my PhD on music videos, but here’s a brief preview of sorts.

When talking of early films there’s a worry that most of their lessons and aesthetics have been absorbed in the 1920/30s into the mainstream and it’s only artists and archivists who still care about the originals. Is there anyone in the public sphere who look into the past?

We spoke before of the text uses in Sherlock being a callback to German expressionism, but there are some music video directors who go even further back. Specifically I’m looking at Inez and Vinoodh, two Dutch fashion photographers, turned directors.

Here’s just a few examples of things that hint at this influence.

Moving tattoos in Bjork’s Hidden Place similar to moving tattoos in Duck Soup (which I’m certain is based off a specific trick film that currently evades me):

Layered images of faces and moons in Biophilia reminiscent of many early films (lets take Moonlight Serenade as an example)

These become more specific in other examples. This image of Bjork is very like Fernand Leger’s kaleidoscopic effects, whose film Ballet mecanique also seems to inspire a lot of Inez and Vinoodh’s use of repeated footage in temporal jump cuts.

Along with frequent uses of iris effects:

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 15.34.32.png

A specifically large amount can be found in the video for Lady Gaga’s Applause such as this shot, which owes a clear debt to Watson and Webber’s Fall of the House of Usher:

And a number of colourful explosions in black and white space similar to the work of Segundo de Chomon…

…who’s influence can be seen most clearly in the superimposed giant head imagery.

While each of these examples on their own is not perhaps convincing, together they should duo consistently interested in revisiting the trick film and the avant-garde silent short, in order to recapture the aesthetics of spectacle inherent in that era. Pop music and fashion are now explosive genres that need to hit the viewer with exciting and different visuals, in the same way the classic trick film brought in punters at the shows and the Avant-garde tore down established filmmaking techniques.

100 years on and they’re still relevant, that’s what thoughtful and experimental visuals can do.

More Inez & Vinoodh can be found here.


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