January 31st, 2007

homesick blues

#34: "Imitation of Life," R.E.M.

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Rank: 34
Artist: R.E.M.
Title: Imitation of Life
Director: Garth Jennings
Year: 2001

There are logistical nightmares, and then there are logistical nightmares. I actually didn't catch on how knotted a production "Imitation of Life" really is the first time I saw it; all I saw was a crowded party scene, with various stunts, cat-fights and bits of lip-synching going on. It wasn't until later that it started to sink in: strap yourself in, Abigail Mae, 'cause this here's a lulu. First off, it's a one-shot, single stationary camera video, which requires a decent amount of planning even under the simplest of conditions, which this isn't. The catch is, the single shot is considerably less than 30 seconds long, a tiny portion of the song's running time. What Garth Jennings then does is run the clip forwards, then backwards, then forwards again, in three-steps-forward-two-steps-back fashion, while simultaneously digitally zooming in and out on the relevant parts of the action: man on fire, Michael Stipe dancing, drink thrown in face, Mike Mills with a champagne tower, lovers' tryst in the bushes, etc. The jaw-dropping part is that the lip-synching all matches up perfectly, regardless of where they are in the video loop and in the song, which means different people are singing along to different parts at different times, sometimes overlapping, sometimes doing it backwards, for crying out loud. Jennings has said in interviews that this really was a nightmare production, with days' worth of rehearsals for a few seconds of footage, but ohh, was it worth it. Above all, I love that fact that you don't realize that you haven't seen the end of the loop, until the very bitter end. Happy birthday!