Friday, 13 August 2010

The Chauffeur.

Gather around, children. I'd like to tell you a tale that goes all the way back to the early 1980s, when the "M" in MTV stood for a little something historians like to call "music." Five young lads in the faraway (well, not too faraway if you live there) land of Birmingham, England decided to form a pop band. Taking their cue from the 1968 Roger Vadim-directed cult film Barbarella, they named themselves after the character Doctor Durand-Durand (yes, they removed the lower-case "d"s), and a cultural juggernaut was born.

From the very beginning, Duran Duran knew they wanted to be at the forefront of the world of music videos, and they dove into it with energy and zeal. For their second album, the 100% enjoyable 1982 hit-fest Rio, they decided (along with noted Australian film director Russell Mulcahy - director of Aussie schlock horror flick Razorback) decided to record a video for just about every song on the album. So it was that Mulcahy directed the videos for "Lonely In Your Nightmare," "Rio," "Hungry Like The Wolf," "Save A Prayer," and "My Own Way," along with many other Duran Duran singles from their first four albums. (Hell, Simon le Bon almost got killed during the filming of the post-apocalyptic "Wild Boys!")

But one video from that album that will stick in my memory forever was one that wasn't filmed by Mulcahy. That track would be "The Chauffeur." Directed by British animator and film director Ian Emes (if you've ever seen Pink Floyd perform live, his animation plays behind the band), I think the video for "The Chauffeur" stands out not only as a fine accompaniment to one of Duran Duran's most atmospheric songs, but also as a brilliant piece of art. Yeah, I said it. A Brilliant Piece of Art.

For one, it's the only video that doesn't feature the band in it. (Also, "The Chauffeur" is the only song on the album that doesn't have the title in the lyrics). Shot in a sumptuous black-and-white sheen that brings to mind the photography of Anton Corbijn, Herb Ritts, and the fetishistic BDSM work of Helmut Newton, the short film follows two hauntingly beautiful women as they dress up in revealing lingerie and traverse the London night by car and by tunnel on their way to a hot lesbian encounter in a parking garage. Once there, they're met by a third woman, a female chauffeur in an open-busted corset, whose erotic dance was designed to emulate Charlotte Rampling's freaking hot dance of the seven veils in the 1974 film The Night Porter.

Everything in this video rings awesome. The cinematography is crisp and clear, the framing is artfully efficient, the pacing matches the song's quite well, and - let's face it - the actresses are stunning.

Just a friendly note, kids, that this video is definitely NSFW. And in case you've ever wondered about that rather sinister voice in the background of "The Chauffeur"'s final coda (a wonderfully intense aural experience in its own right) - it's not Simon le Bon saying those things. It's simply an old nature show, with the narrator intoning seriously about "insects in the grass." So now you know.
Enjoy, then, 1983's "The Chauffeur" from Rio. You'll be glad you did.

No comments: