Wednesday, July 12, 2017

it's a video, robert

When a movie talks to you like today's title, you have to listen. (In case you're new, my name is Robert. Today's film is, yet again, Sing Street.) It's like it's asking me to talk about something different, less nasal-gazing, manic-depressive, woe is me bullshit. More talk about the movie itself...

Actually, one particular piece of the movie. A very small piece. But, an important piece. Since this is a film built on a musical foundation, any bit of music matters. And, I want to focus in on one in particular: when Conor first tells Raphina that he's in a band, she demands, "Sing that song off the radio. You know, the one by a-ha." Conor only manages the first two lines of the chorus to "Take on Me." Just "Take on me / Take me on." But, it is an interesting evocation, that reference, since Sing Street is built around music videos as well as music and "Take on Me" is known for its video. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 14 May 2010, calls the video "legendary." Keyboardist for a-ha Magne Furuholmen tells Kreps, "I have no doubt that the video made the song a hit... The song has a super catchy riff, but it is a song you have to hear a few times. And I don't think it would've been given the time of day without the enormous impact of the video."


Two things stand out for me regarding that video and this movie. First, the lyrics matter because the song is basically about someone (the singer, as it were) who's leaving, and someone who's been "shying away" from him anyway. "I'll be stumbling away," he sings, "Slowly learning that life is okay / Say after me / It's no better to be safe than sorry." He could easily be Raphina with her modeling dreams and her plans to run off to London to make it big. "It's no better than to be safe than sorry." Such a great line. The kind of thing it's easy to believe but hard to live by.

Second, that video. Girl discovers a guy in a comic book, then jumps right in to join him. Lots of rotoscoped animation and black and white visuals. It transforms the song into something more than just what it is. Like Duran Duran's "Rio"--one of the videos they watch in Sing Steet, like the video for REM's "Everybody Hurts" (which my daughter things is cheesy and lame, but I still love it), or Van Halen's "Right Now"--just a few music videos that really add to what the song is doing. But, what is important here, for me, is the basic idea of the video's story--jumping into the fiction as if it's reality, falling for a fictional character. Sing Street invites you to fall for Raphina just as Conor does. And, so does every romantic movie. So does any action movie, really. Or any film of any genre. Like every film is just a fantasy for you to occupy for a couple hours. Jump inside and imagine you're the hero, or imagine you can spend time with the hero, fall in love, have an adventure, whatever...

But, that is also how love is in reality, too. You fall for an idea. What you know about the person you fall for is limited. (Like what you know about any given film character is limited.) You have pieces of information, pieces of the whole. You won't even get more pieces, maybe, unless you get attracted, unless you get attached. I think I've written in this blog more than once about love being a mix of familiarity ties to expectation, like objectively you could love anyone, if you just spend enough time with them (and they don't do shit that absolutely turns you off, I guess). You get familiar, you expect things. And, they do the things you expect, and that's a pleasant experience. Same goes for movies, too. You watch a romantic comedy after seeing numerous romantic comedies, you have expectations, you're familiar with the basics, and then it slides right into the niches in your expectations, or maybe it avoids a few, which either pulls you in more because sometimes you need strange details to make the familiar whole work better, or pushes you away because you just want the comfort food and can't stand the new spice. (To mix metaphors a whole lot.) Same with any genre. But, also with people. Some people just fit into the niches in the idea of what you want, and you can't help but get attached, can't help but to have expectations and to want to have more, can't help but find something familiar because, damn it, you've got a type, or several types but you know what they are and you've seen them before and maybe this combination is new but the details--it's rare that you can really be surprised that you are attracted to a particular person...

And, that got wordier than I meant it to be. A little convoluted.

Still, there's this twisted up metaphor of "Take on Me" Sing Street and the way attraction works in the real world, and I like it. I mean, I like so much about this film--I'm not just using it to avoid talking about politics--but it's cool when a tiny little detail can evoke something so big. Hell, that's how I was able to write about Groundhog Day every day for a year, how I've kept writing about movies for hundreds of days more. Find those little details, familiar details, expected details--and unexpected details--and blow them up. But, that's not quite it all the time. That makes it sound like I have to put a lot of effort in, but what I'm trying to explain is that the blowing up process is pretty much automatic.

Just like attraction.

Just like love.

Now, choosing to embrace it and write about it (or to embrace that person and tell them and, ideally, spend time with them)--that takes some effort. And, it's not always easy.

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