Archive for the ‘Music Videos’ Category

Reporter: “Are you a mod or a rocker?”

Ringo: “I’m a mocker.”

  • From the press conference scene in A Hard Day’s Night


MTV: “You’re the Father of MTV.”

Lester: “I demand a blood test!”

  • Richard Lester (director of A Hard Day’s Night)

You could call A Hard Day’s Night a feature-length music video.  Or a musical fantasia on pop stardom—Beatlemania filtered through the lens of the French new wave.  This is what we get from Richard Lester’s 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night – a faux day-in–the-life of The Beatles.  Filmed in black & white, it was an artistic and commercial success.  Before the film even opened, United Artists had already made their investment back from soundtrack sales.  The film was embraced by audiences, from the intelligentsia who could deconstruct it, to the casual fan who just wanted to see John, Paul, George and Ringo sing some songs like Can’t Buy Me Love.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, was very careful about who was approved to work with The Beatles.  He had signed them to a three-film deal with United Artists just before The Beatles blew-up with their appearance of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963.  United Artists had no idea how long the phenomena would last so they were eager to cash in while they could.  The Beatles wanted the film to be different from other pop music films of the time.  Director Richard Lester, an American living in England, had done a short film with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan called Running Jumping & Standing Still.  It was the style and tone of this short that led The Beatles to select Lester as the director for their film debut.  The script was written by Liverpool native Alun Owen, who was  able to craft dialogue that was natural for the boys.  The episodes of the film allowed The Beatles to do things they did in life.  Lester thought what was most important was that The Beatles were allowed to be natural; to be themselves.  And that is part of the film’s success.  People also loved the music.

The plot exists only as a frame to hold the many episodes.  Sure we have the Wilfrid Brambell as Paul’s “other” grandfather subplot (I started to view him as almost a Mephistopheles like presence in the background but I think that was just me).  Basically all we are asked to do is to follow the John, Paul, George, and Ringo (playing themselves) as the band is running around and preparing to appear on a television special.  It is one big episodic romp . . . with musical numbers.

The filming of A Hard Day’s Night was completed on a compressed schedule – the film began shooting in March 1964 and was released to the public in July of that same year.  When the completed film was shown to United Artists executives there was total silence in the room.  A former UA executive said, “No one knew what to make of it.  Then [UA executive] Bob Benjamin said, “I don’t know what that was about, but I think we’re going to make a lot of money.”  Film critic Andrew Sarris has called A Hard Day’s Night “the Citizen Kane of jukebox movies”.  That about sums it up.


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“Music videos are . . . they’re little hobbies, in a way.”  – Anton Corbijn, photographer, director of the films Control and The American, and director of music videos

Echo and the Bunnymen’s Seven Seas


Following are comments about Anton from musicians he has worked with…

“He’s the visual part of Depeche Mode.” – Dave Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence music video

Depeche Mode’s Behind the Wheel


“Comes closer to what I see in mind than any other video.” – Kurt Cobain

Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box


“At certain points it felt like Anton was part of our band . . . he was an outsider who became an insider. ” – Bono

U2’s One

Photograph for U2’s The Joshua Tree


“Anton has never taken a bad picture, never.” – Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM (pictured below)

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to purchase a copy of the DVD click the cover

To visit Anton Corbijn’s website to look at more of his work – click HERE

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To buy a copy of Touching From a Distance – click the cover

If you have never seen Joy Division:

click HERE for a television performance of She’s Lost Control

click HERE for the video of Love Will Tear Us Apart

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“We all appropriate things from what we’ve seen before.  The key is knowing what to appropriate and how to use it.” – Steven Soderbergh


“And that phrase, ‘More daring and more sincere,’ hit me like a ton of bricks.  It really struck me as the best definition of what makes something good that I’d ever heard” – Mark Romanek


The Director’s Label Series is a showcases the art of music videos.  In addition to Vol. 4 – Work of Director Mark Romanek, the series features the work of  directors such as Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), Chris Cunningham, Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind), Stéphane Sednaoui, Anton Corbijn (The American), and Jonathan Glazer (Birth).

Music videos are often viewed as a promotional tools instead of  art.  The Directors Series has a higher aim.  By viewing these directors work as compilations as opposed to just individual music videos- you can really see the seeds of their art.  I am going to break down Romanek’s work into three basic categories of ideas that are important to him and his work: Icons, Energy & “Cuisinart of references”.  Sometimes his videos have all three, sometimes only one, but every one of his videos has one or more of these aspects happening in the images, sound, etc.


Romanek’s videos work traffics cultural icons.  He perpetuates existing icons like Madonna  and creates new ones like Lenny Kravitz.  Focus on one icon – conceptual focus.  This is “forever” on the film.  Madonna: Rain

One of the most common types of videos are the performance video.  Rock music is all about energy.  Romanek has said “It’s a rock video…it’s not Pinter.”   They should capture not only the song but the tone of an experience.  Linkin Park – Faint

I loved when I read Romanek’s use of the term “Cuisinart of references”.  He says he was “like a vacuum cleaner of new art and photography and architecture and design.  The idea of referencing and recontextualizing other things, and that it is okay to steal if you steal with a certain level of panache and cleverness.”

In this case he credits One Minute Sculptures by Erwin Wurm for his inspiration.  Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop

Romanek has always wanted to make films.  He was able to learn the craft while making these music videos.  He has used making music videos like a “sketch-pad” – to see what film making aesthetics suit him.

Johnny Cash – Hurt

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Click the cover to see some of Romanek’s earlier video/commercial work.

to purchase a copy of the DVD – click here

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