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Ranked: Jonathan Glazer's Music Videos

Features
by Jessica Kiang
April 3, 2014 1:09 PM
4 Comments
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As part of our continuing efforts to make everyone in the world go see "Under the Skin," which opens this Friday, earlier in the week we featured a rundown of director Jonathan Glazer's top ten commercials. But, advertising is not the only string to his bow (though no doubt the most lucrative), Glazer is also a well-known music video director, who, while not quite as prolific in this area, still boasts more than a couple of touchstones in his short videography. What's also notable about his promos is that within them, like with his commercial work, you can trace the evolution of the stylistic elements that Glazer would bring to his features, from the crisp lines and bold colors of the poolside terrace in "Sexy Beast," to the somber, chilly palette of "Birth," to the imagery of "Under the Skin" that ranges from gritty to sleek to surreal. It's a treat to watch a director as visually confident as Glazer work in a longer format, but it's also a treat to look through his back catalogue to see that confidence grow and mature.

Glazer has in fact directed eleven videos, though one of them, the alternate video for Jamiroquai's "Cosmic Girl" we simply can't find online, so, craving your indulgence for that omission, here are ten of Glazer's music videos, ranked from our least to our most favorite. By the way, if you're in Brooklyn, you can see many of these videos tonight with a screening of "Birth" at BAMcinematek.

10. Nick Cave "Into my Arms"
So, yes, this is pretty stunning in terms of its high-contrast black and white portrait photography which was perhaps a reaction to the bubble gum colors of "Karmacoma", but it's still an outsider for us in terms of Glazer's filmography for being just a little uninspired, relative to some of his other outings. And while the imagery at any one moment is beautifully composed, we have to say we find the succession of miserable faces, no matter how gorgeously captured to be rather enervating. Still, it's the kind of promo that could well be the best thing some lesser director would ever do, so we're not going to trash it that much, but the monochromatic, despairing approach does feel a bit like overkill when accompanied by Cave's already lugubrious voice, and misses some of the hopefulness of the lyrics.

9. Massive Attack "Karmacoma"
Of all the gushing quotes splashed across the latest trailer for "Under the Skin" (our two included) we have to believe that the most gratifying for Glazer may be that from LA Weekly which suggests that in him we may have found "an heir to Kubrick." Glazer's ongoing love affair with the director crops up time and again in his work, and was fully in evidence here in his first major video, and the first of two collaborations with the wondrous Massive Attack. However, while "The Shining" influence is writ large, down the hotel hallways and creepy twin girls, it does feel a little sophomoric in its broad day-glo palette and self-consciously oddball characters and situations.

8. Dead Weather Treat Me Like Your Mother” 
Glazer's most recent foray into promo territory was for this scuzzy track from quasi-supergroup Dead Weather and features Jack White and The Kills' Alison Mosshart striding through a suburban wasteland firing machine guns at each other while squawking out their lyrics. It's kinda fun, but then again also so extremely, self-consciously badass that it almost tips over into self-parody. But not quite, and in any case, the dynamism and the grungy daylight look, all lens flare and whipping hair is pretty great to look at, and something different again from Glazer

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4 Comments

  • cirkusfolk | April 3, 2014 6:06 PMReply

    I find it funny that you bash the first 4 videos you include in your top 10. Wouldn't a top 10 by it's very nature mean you love them all? And as far as the video for Karma Police is concerned, the idea was first offered to Marilyn Manson who turned it down. So I guess it doesn't matter what song plays over these which to me feels a little in genuine.

  • Glass | April 3, 2014 7:52 PM

    "the idea was first offered to Marilyn Manson who turned it down. So I guess it doesn't matter what song plays over these which to me feels a little in genuine."

    You should know that this is the case for most music videos. Directors always keep a cache of video ideas in their heads (or notebooks) so they can have one ready to go the minute they hear a song. It's not "ingenuine" - a song and a pre-existing idea can marry together so perfectly that it doesn't matter which came first. It's not the viewer's concern.

  • Ryan O. | April 3, 2014 6:31 PM

    It's a ranking of worst to best, so it doesn't mean that they like those four. It just so happens that he has exactly ten videos under his belt.

  • owdl114 | April 3, 2014 1:55 PMReply

    Weird to think that when that 'Universal' video was first released, 'A Clockwork Orange' was still withdrawn from British distribution.

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