100videos (100videos) wrote,
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100videos

#4: "Close to the Edit," Art of Noise







Rank: 4
Artist: Art of Noise
Title: Close to the Edit
Director: Zbigniew Rybczynski
Year: 1984

If "Subterranean Homesick Blues" [q.v.] is where the art of music video began, then "Close to the Edit" is where it exploded. In the earliest days of MTV, videos were mostly limited to performance clips of one sort or another, without much variation beyond stage dressing. Early attempts at innovation centered around making clips more cinematic—highly admirable, but still keeping within familiar parameters. Director Zbigniew Rybczynski, however, came along and demonstrated how far the art form truly could be taken, and how wide the playing field truly was (and to everyone's surprise, it was a lot wider than they'd thought it was). Yes, the early-to-mid 80's was a time of enormous creativity and vision in the music video field, and there are any number of clips that demonstrate that (e.g. Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," much of Michael Jackson's early work). The reason "Close to the Edit" occupies this slot, though, is how I react to it now. Four things strike me about it as I watch it today: 1) It has aged amazingly well. This is the rare video of the period that they could release tomorrow without missing a beat; it's so fresh and cutting-edge, in fact, that MTV would occasionally screen it during "Amp," their hip, hypermodern late-night techno show of the late 90's, and it blended in as pretty as you please. 2) Even after becoming jaded by years of dark and creepy Tool and Nine Inch Nails video freak-outs, it still manages to shock. The members of Art of Noise, notably Anne Dudley, didn't care for the concept, thinking the idea of destroying classical instruments to illustrate the breaking down of musical tradition was trite and obvious, but they quickly changed their minds once they saw the final product. No matter how urbane I've become, something about watching three men grind a violin into the dust with their sneakers makes me recoil a bit to this day. And don't even get me started on that unnerving girl dolled up as a New Wave club floozie.... 3) The choice of setting is flawless: an abandoned train track somewhere above the streets of Brooklyn, if memory serves. (FYI: As of a few years ago, reports confirmed that the burned husk of that piano is still there.) 4) Watch the editing. I'd never noticed until recently just how tightly this thing is cut. All the movements, all the steps and the swings of the hammers and strokes of the chain saws land on the beats of the music, but it look closely: it took a snotload of work on Rybczynski's part to get it that way. He swings between regular and fast motion with reckless abandon; at times he seems to be cutting it on a frame-by-frame basis, which succeeds in sending the whole enterprise another few notches up on the "unnerving" scale. From here on out, there would be no limitations, no boundaries, and no end to what music video could become, but this, one of the first, is to this day one of the best.
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