Wednesday, May 04, 2011

At Perniö High School

Visiting Perniö High School I gave two classes, one about working in the field of film culture generally, and another about the music video. Although I have stopped following music videos actively, I still find it an exciting phenomenon from the viewpoint of film culture, because it can give a short-cut to the avant-garde of the cinema.

Recorded sound and recorded images have profound parallels in their development. The father of the cinema, Thomas A. Edison, was also the inventor of the phonograph. His original vision was to make sound films, combining film with the phonogram, but mostly sound and image recordings went separate ways until the late 1920s.

Interestingly, in France, the Pathé brothers, Charles and Émile, also combined the interests of music and image recordings. Pathé-Frères had two divisions, of which the recorded sound division was bigger first. Charles Pathé started to produce films in 1902 and built the first global movie empire before the First World War.

Interestingly, great film directors usually fail with music videos, and great music video directors have a hard time with feature films. But there are exceptions: Aki Kaurismäki made great music short films with Leningrad Cowboys. David Fincher, who started with videos for Madonna, is one of the best film directors today (The Social Network). On Friday in Helsinki there is a premiere of Never Let Me Go directed by Mark Romanek, a top director of music videos (and commercials) (and even he has made videos for Madonna!).

I don't know if the bright students at Perniö High School benefited from my ramblings, but for me the encounter was stimulating. It also put things into perspective. When I wrote my book on the music video, Sähköiset unet ([Electric Dreams], designed by Ilppo Pohjola), they had not been born yet.

PS 6 May 2011. In the 1980s it was still relatively easy to spot creative, worthwhile music videos, but the current mainstream video rotation has been tediously banal for a long time. I fully expect there are now more good videos than ever, but they are harder to find.

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