During the 90s, the music video reached its pinnacle as an art form. Directors like Mark Romanek, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham established distinct visual styles, thanks to big budgets and bigger ideas. A successful career in music videos could even launch a film career, as it did for Jonze and Gondry; it was a great time to be a music video director! Inevitably, the bottom fell out: between MTV’s dwindling music video airtime and record company budget cutting, music videos went back underground.
Thankfully, the medium is too rich for something like “music industry collapse” to kill it. Just look at Barcelona’s CANADA: a trio of directors (Luis Cerveró, Nicolás Méndez & Lope Serrano) who are making some of the most innovative – and provocative – videos in over a decade.
Last year, the video for Spanish exotica artist El Guincho’s “Bombay” (directed by Méndez and produced by the collective) was a surprise hit. With El Guincho as Carl Sagan, the clip is a journey through the cosmos. A collage of found footage and surreal images, “Bombay” is teeming with sexual energy. While fleeting glimpses of breasts dominate the video (either painted, with sparklers, or au naturel), it’s more titillating than pornographic.
The brand new video for “Ice Cream” by math rockers Battles has the same vibrant style (on first viewing, I immediately thought of “Bombay”). Once again, CANADA goes for sexy, opening with a nude girl eating ice cream in a bath tub and including shots of girls licking things like pine cones. And don’t forget the climatic, ladies-only paint fight. The real fun in “Ice Cream” is found in CANADA’s playful use of double exposure. Watch out for a man cliff diving into a woman’s bikini, or a brilliantly choreographed sequence where a woman dances with herself.
CANADA is saving the music video, one clip at a time. Check out their gallery for more, but here is their effort for Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light:” another NSFW mind trip!