M83, "Graveyard Girl." Directed by Mathew Frost
In the concept-and-spectacle-driven world of music video, once in a while you have to stand up for old-fashioned narrative, especially when it's done right. The most accomplished demonstration of linear storytelling in a music video came courtesy of French shoegaze band M83 and director Mathew Frost.
in his unparalleled appraisal of the videos of M83, Brandon Soderberg astutely describes the video as a dreamily anachronistic vision of a high school situated somewhere between the cigarette-wielding 1980s teens of John Hughes movies and the cell phone infested campuses of the present. The grainy, Maysles-style handheld documentary shots lend vintage authenticity to this concocted microcosm, while the tightness of most of the shots suggest the claustrophobic worldview of the protagonist.
The heroine is the cutest social misfit this side of Ally Sheedy, enhanced with Molly Ringwald's hair. She haunts the campus like a goth ghost in a black hoodie, losing herself in sketch sessions at the local pet cemetery - where she meets the dreamboat campus jock in a moment of quintessentially cute vulnerability, tending to his dead dog's grave. From there the video takes us on a vivid journey, both narratively and emotionally, through a quick succession of shots, none lasting longer than 5 seconds. It's clean, efficient and yet breathtakingly evocative, using an economy and purity of gesture and image worthy of Bresson. Details like the girl's writing "Would you?? NEVER" in her notebook, or photo of the boy and his dog prominently placed on her dresser are tossed off like throwaways, but brim with wondrous suggestion over this girl's rampant inner life. Bless the wonders of YouTube to allow viewers to dwell on these lyrical flashes with instant rewind.
The video is not without its shortcomings - I could do without the goofy vision of dog heaven midway through, because it literalizes the imaginative depths of this girl that had otherwise been suggested through the swift, subtle details of her real existence. And the ending is such an out of left field Hollywood dream come true that I'm more inclined to view it as her imagination spilling onto the screen, thus rhyming with the dog heaven sequence - certainly a more interesting reading than believing that this guy would run after her; he hardly knows her! Still, what precedes this climax is a stunning display of music video storytelling, brisk, precise, poetic.
Equal if not greater attention has been paid to M83's other video from this year, the Eva Husson-helmed "Kim and Jessie," a delightfully choreographed teen dance video suggesting sexual initiation on wheels. If only it didn't owe so much to dance routines from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video and The Big Lebowski... but it's a surreal joy to watch all the same.