Friday, July 28, 2006

Video of the week: Virtual Insanity

how does he do that?More often than not, the best music videos are made for incredibly bad songs.

The reason is quite simple: Artists traditionally make their biggest impact with their first few singles, at a time when the record company isn't prepared to spend wads of cash on a promo clip that might never be seen. Consequently, a breakthrough video is often a poorly-shot, grainy performance of a band styled by their aunt who works on the Debenhams make-up counter.

A couple of years later the video budget skyrockets at roughly the same time as the band's music leaves orbit and crashes back to earth. Hence: amazing videos for songs you wouldn't play to prisoners in Guantanamo.

Luckily, however, some bands manage to strike gold on their second or third album, and get a big-name director for a stunning single - which is exactly what happened to Jamiroquai with Virtual Insanity.

It's directed by Jonathan Glazer, who was also responsible for the Guinness surfer adverts and nearly drowning Thom Yorke in the video for No Surprises. The concept is amazingly simple - Jay Kay dances in a mental asylum.

The clever part is how it's filmed. There is one, locked-off, camera attached to a couple of walls and a ceiling which are suspended slightly above the floor. The "set" is then swung around on a set of castors while Jay Kay stands inside it - giving the impression he's floating across the floor. It's one of the most visually arresting things you'll ever see.

The whole thing looks like one continuous shot, but every so often the camera pans up or down to the roof of the floor -- if you look carefully, you'll see a cut when that happens (often the set has changed when the camera swings back into position).

According to wikipedia - so it may not be true - the couches that form part of the set are hooked to the walls so they will move along with the "room", detaching themselves when Jay Kay presses on them.

The singer likens his performance to "Fred Astaire on acid," which isn't a bad description at all. It certainly cuaght the attention of the public, who sent the song to number 3, and the industry, who awarded the video four MTV awards in 1997.

By the way, keep your eye Look out for a 'blooper' towards the end. Blood that was previously dripping from the wall suddenly gushes out as though they've just accidentally severed a very important artery. It's probably just someone squeezing too hard on the ketchup bottle, though.

  • Buy a DVD of Jonathan Glazer's best bits, inlcuding this video, here

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