The music video market is a great place for directors to make their mark before moving onto bigger and better things. Other directors will take the chance to use the platform as a form of experimentation, or to lend their expertise to making a short film centred around a music performace. Here’s the ten best:
(Had trouble embedding #5 and #3, but the clips are available on youtube.)
10. ‘Bad’ – Michael Jackson
It’s no easy sell when the biggest pop star of the 1980’s wants to make themselves look tough for a video – imagine if Justin Bieber went down the same path but with more fluro colours. When it came to making Jacko look gangster they turned to Martin Scorsese, the man who helmed ‘Goodfellas’, ‘The Departed’ and ‘Taxi Driver’.
Scorsese went all out turning this into the black leather version of ‘West Side Story’, complete with Wesley Snipes, epic smack talk, whip cracks produced by Jackson’s dance moves and some iconic imagery.
9. ‘Right Here Right Now’ – Fat Boy Slim
Garth Jennings has had a hit and miss movie career. ‘Son of Rambow’ is an epic hit, while his adaptation of the ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ was an equally epic miss. His music video was much more successful as seen by this gem. The awesome, CGI creation depicting the evolution of man from a single celled organism is a single take is a work of art, with a funky sting in the tail.
8. ‘Under The Bridge’ – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The drugged fuelled, sexually exploitative verbal explosions of nonsense that characterise the work of the RHCP’s is not one people would automatically associate with the dreamy, surrealist works of ‘Good Will Hunting’ director Gus Van Saint. Yet this strange collaboration happened, and as strange as it was (the expression ‘pec porn’ has been used) it kinda worked out well for the bands most heartfelt, mellow musical offering.
7. ‘Weapon of Choice’ – Fat Boy Slim
Oh Spike Jonze, you so wacky. His work on ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’ was strange, but anyone familiar with his work as a music video director would know that this is par for the course. With plenty of great examples to choose from, the pinnacle of his oddness has to be the simple concept that is Christopher Walken bust’n out his dance moves. Hell yeah. Wait – does that make his Christopher Dancen?
6. ‘Only’ – Nine Inch Nails
David Fincher made a name for himself in his early films with his unique style, one feature of which was his extreme close ups generated using cutting edge technology. This is best utilised in ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Panic Room’ with what was referred to as photogeomatry. Fincher put this to great effect in this imaginative and very cool clip.
5. ‘Atmosphere’ – Joy Division
Whilst he’s best known for his work in music photography (any great album cover that features a black and white photo) than his video work, Anton Corbijn created a massive library of fantastic clips for Nirvana, U2, Nick Cave and many others before stepping into cinema with ‘Control’ and ‘The American’. Filmed almost a decade after lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide, this stands as a testiment to the strength of the performer and his enduring legacy.
4. ‘Into My Arms’ – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
I can only imagine how the pitch for this clip must’ve gone. “We’re going to film a bunch of people crying in front of the camera. That’s it.” It takes the director of ‘Sexy Beast’, Jonathon Glazer, to create the rich visuals needed to accompany this heartfelt ballad, resulting in one of the most engaging and affecting clips ever produced.
3. ‘Hurt’ – Johnny Cash
Mark Romanek, director of ‘One Hour Photo’, turns this tribute to the lifelong career of Johnny Cash into an emotional look at the last years of his life. Already an improved version of the Nine Inch Nails song, this clip became a last exit for the great man.
2. ‘Thriller’ – Michael Jackson
John Landis, while hardly on the A-List these days, did give the world the greatest horror comedy ever put to film: “An American Werewolf in London”. He also set the standard for big budget music videos by collaborating with Wacko Jacko on this classic clip. Telling a story which sees Jackson changing into a werewolf and then leading a zombie troupe in a now iconic dance routine.
1. ‘Let Forever Be’ – The Chemical Brothers
I’m not even going to try and describe what happens in this video. In order to put the events of this clip into words, I’d need to have my brain removed, turned inside out and buried in jelly for a week. Michel Gondry, the director of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, could’ve dominated this list with his amazing output of music videos, but as I limited this countdown to one per director, I went with the mind-bending best.
Also worth checking out from Gondry is his work with The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, Bjork, Daft Punk and others.