Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pat Benatar- Love is a Battlefield

A semester of short film study, and the format that still leaves me with the most questions is music videos. For some reason, the commercial aspect of the concept of the music video keeps me from fully advocating music videos as short films, in a general sense. Now I know that almost every film, in any manner, is funded and is essentially, product (right Karl Marx? LOLZ).
But a film comes from a creative place (most of the time), while a music video comes from a song, usually a single, and wouldn't exist without that. I choose to use Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" music video as an example to reflect on this issue, not only because it's featured heavily in the modern classic 13 Going On 30, but because it's an early pioneer in the narrative school of music video-making.

I remember VH1 Pop-Up Video once stating that this was the first music video to feature recorded dialogue (when the father warns Pat Benatar that if she leaves the house, she can never come back.) In its fledgling format, this was actually a very experimental decision, far more innovative than Rod Stewart staring into a camera in a mirrored room and lip-synching his latest fuck jam. "Love is a Battlefield" was one of the first music videos to genuinely try to tell a story separate from the song, and there are moments where the images are arresting enough to make you forget that this is a derivative of a Pat Benatar song. The filmmaker maybe thought that the video could pass as a real film.

But really, they're not fooling anyone. When someone turned on MTV (in the Martha Quinn days when they actually played music videos) and saw a blind girl being stalked by Lionel Richie or the Jackson family sprinkling gold on a town, I would sincerely doubt that anyone thought that these images were from anything but a music video. If for some reason these were viewed on a movie screen before a feature, then wouldn't the music cue people in on what they were watching? Although many films are hyper-soundtracked and often have montages without anything but music supporting the image aurally, there are other facets to the film that surround these brief music video moments, which allows them to be viewed as part of a film. Music videos are still works of art that are undeniably linked to the songs that birthed their creation, and because they are meant to spread word of mouth for something that can be bought.

And that line of thinking seems to work, until one looks at the world of fan-made videos. Although in past one could take their dad's video camera and shoot their own music video of a song (like a young Drew Rosensweig did for Miami Sound Machine's "Conga"), that idea has gained a new forum with the advent of Youtube. Tying into our discussion of web videos, even if something is filmed only for personal reasons, if and once it ends up on the internet in some sort of viewing venue, I would argue that it becomes a new, separate entity. Whether done in a somewhat professional, ironic way by a comedian or in a low-budget, more abstract way, these music videos seem to be a celebration of the song, without any interest in selling records. Although a video directed by Mark Romanek or Jonathan Glazer may have more creative expression and cinematic traits than these fan-made videos, they are still inherently funded by someone in an effort to sell something.

There's also an aesthetic issue about music videos, and that's the music inherent to them. Christine's point that the idea of characters in a music video breaking into song is no different than a musical is well-made, and undoubtedly truthful. However, I do have to respectfully disagree with her argument that "the song supports the message, but the film does not rely on the song to exist." It exists wholly as music video, and although the song falls to the background at points, there is no point where the song is not played in some respect. If the video was stripped of its music throughout, there would be a story there: woman leaves family for big city, finds it tough there, liberates her fellow coworkers, and then leaves town. But it's not presented that way, so why even speak in hypotheticals? Maybe it's a structural understanding we, as an audience, have picked up in the past thirty years, and if so, perhaps it is tough to see outside of the box on an entity so well-defined.

Now could someone explain where the underworld of Sims music videos fits in?


Anonymous said...

You're right. Music videos can't be anything but music videos.

Anonymous said...

I always feel that the stories told in music videos just stumble along.

Anonymous said...

music videos will always have a place in media history like old elvis presley movies just very very long music videos more expensive.

Anonymous said...

Music videos tell very disjointed stories, not interesting to me at all.

Anonymous said...

I think Music videos like this are tricky for the artists, unless they are specifically doing a song with a video in mind.

With a song, the artist allows you to portray the story in your mind. If they make a music video about it, they are ultimately eliminating all possible interpretations of a song except for the one THEY want to make.

Erica said...

Sometimes the story in the video gets lost amongst the randomness. Most make no sense.

Pat Benatar said...

Love is a Battlefield" was one of the first music videos to genuinely try to tell a story separate from the song, and there are moments where the images are arresting enough to make you forget that this is a derivative of a Pat Benatar song. Great stuff!