Run Away With Realiti: Texture in the Music Video

Realiti and Run Away With Me open with introductions that clearly define the shape of the song and the music video to come. Realiti is like a city-made watercolour painting dripping with cerulean, tangerine, mauve, lemon, periwinkle and navy. The establishing shot of Grimes amidst the eastern architecture has an effervescent quality from the musician’s starburst bangs and amethyst sunglasses down to the swirls and tails on the kimono pictured behind. This attention to colour creates texture of vibrancy which directly contrasts the chilly atmosphere of the song, but effectively embodies the soul of the music. Run Away With Me’s video begins with something a little more sweeping and epic. The image of Carly Rae Jepsen twirling in a summer dress on a park bench has a forever quality that resembles attic memories and eternal love. It pairs perfectly with the epic horns and promises of tomorrow. Jepsen dares viewers to come with her as an outstretched male hand clasps her own and they’re off.

After these rather different establishing moments that reveal the tone of their music videos Realiti and Run Away With Me intertwine and follow a similar path conveying an idea of freedom through movement. Both videos introduce a city, and a landmark where Jepsen and Grimes perform respectively.

The major difference between the two is that Jepsen is among people and Grimes is solitary, which speaks to the different moods created in the songs. Realiti is a song of internal recollection while Run Away With Me is an underneath the bleachers-star soaked sky-track of deeper love and possibility. Run Away With Me is a song of the present and Realiti is a song of the past. Jepsen grasps a hand. Grimes cradles herself.

Run Away With Me is strong at cultivating a mood of ample freedom and careless anarchy that’s only possible when you’re head over heels in love. Realiti is a little trickier, with an ever-present wistfulness and lyrics that more closely resemble Bjork’s Hyperballad. Realiti is a composite of tour footage and quickly thrown together performance, but like Run Away With Me it’s a sensory experience tied to the action of a memory. For Grimes it is an actual tour and for Rae Jepsen it’s narrative.

Both women use their bodies through dance to further the texture of their music videos. Grimes’ dancing is more solitary and keeps in tune with her song. She rocks her shoulders from side to side on an electronic beat, she glides her hips when the synths slither into position for the chorus and jumps when the chorus reaches its climax. The editing of the video is pristine in combining these shots into a cohesive full picture of various settings (Fountain, Forest, Cave, City, Boardwalk) that are united through the dancing created by this song.

The forward momentum created by the jostling camera, Grimes dancing and the window-shots of cities through cars in movement make the video feel like its a living, breathing organism, and the colours are amoeba-like and comforting, always resting in a present glow as if the lights never go off. It’s Michael Mann-esque in its execution of the digital nightlife of the city as a place of pure beauty. In Realiti the city doesn’t sleep, because the city is alive. It’s as much of a statement for the architecture of cultures as it is a snapshot of tourism during Grimes tour of Asia.

Similar patterns arise in Run Away With Me, but because dance is a subjective outlet for expression Jepsen favours something more direct, running & spinning. In Frances Ha during one key moment of expression Frances runs to her then apartment accompanied by David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. It’s an exhilarating moment cloaked in a loose bit of irony, but when Frances runs she spins, because her expression of happiness is to twirl. Jepsen does the same thing here, but without the irony.

Like in Realiti architecture is used to show the depth and beauty of the world, but in Run Away With Me the world is made small by falling in love. The structure of the song oozes longing and need over verses that come together in the falling stars and fireworks of a chorus that delivers a promise that the world can hold us and we can make that world ours. That the barriers could slip away and everything would be attainable in an act of self-declaration. “I’ll Be Your Sinner in Secret. Run Away With Me“.

The music video can be a cinematic mirror to the song. Realiti and Run Away With Me find the soul of the music in the images they present, and project a clear visual interpretation of what the song means and what the song conveys. These videos elaborate on texture, movement and emotion to amplify certain elements of music to connect with the viewer. When music and cinema intertwine there is an inherent magic in the symbiosis of the two artforms coming together to maximize into one whole. Too frequently music videos try to be cinema by way of narrative storytelling, but the strongest music videos find reality in the abstraction of images coming together to evoke a feeling instead of a story. Realiti and Run Away With Me are striking in their visual similarities, but tonal differences. They follow similar structures and image progressions, but because the songs have different focal points the music videos feel differently despite their sameness. They are sister films, and two examples of the possibility of the music video as an art form of image based reflection.

Female Filmmaker Project: Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner, 1940)

 I cannot speak objectively with movies about dance. There is no greater sense of joy than the intersection of music, plus cinema, plus movement. The moments where characters simply decide it’s time to move and are accompanied by song stick with me like nothing else in all of filmmaking. The final frames of Beau Travail, Frances running through the streets to “Modern Love”, Gene Kelley stomping through the rain, The Red Shoes: that’s my cinema. So when Dance, Girl, Dance begins with eight lithe, graceful women in top hats, all moving symbiotically in frame to a jaunty tune I knew I’d love this movie, but it offered so much more than just dance.

It’s ironic that a movie “dance” in it’s title wouldn’t be a traditional musical, but instead a comedic drama, but either way Arzner and Ernst Mantray have a resolute interest in capturing the beauty of movement. Arzner’s blocking is incredible throughout and becomes especially significant whenever she is shooting the dancing sequences. Whether individualistic or in group movement her cinema becomes minimal and so defined by the shifting of legs, arms and hips when song begins. The action is completely linked to how they get around the room. The shadows fill out the picture, and the windows, chairs and mirrors give layering to how the dance takes up space. When Maureen O’ Hara dances, as seen above, Arzner’s lens accommodates her symphony by never over cutting or turning the entire event into directorial virtuosity. Instead Arzner humbly hands her camera over to O’ Hara who simply moves. That’s all the movie needs here.

Once again, Arzner sits back and let’s O’ Hara’s movement dictate the emotional heft of the scene, as this time she begins to work as a stooge to Lucille Ball’s more brash and anti-ballet burlesque performer “Bubbles” and in doing so is booed relentlessly.

She does the same for Lucille Ball’s more playful sequences while never shaming her body or her decisions. This is important as it doesn’t betray the film’s final moments by throwing Lucille under the bus for O’ Hara’s character. Her image making is of equality. They just move for different reasons.

If this were just a film about a series of consecutive dance sequences I would still love it, but it far exceeds the confines of formal craftsmanship and digs into something much deeper when O’ Hara longs to exist in show business. There’s a sequence of images throughout that show O’ Hara’s base desire and sadness at not having what she wants. Seeing the angelic light on the dancer in the production she covets, the morningstar: the dream, the sadness at applying make-up for a job that doesn’t give back. One woman scratching and clawing and climbing to survive with the help of only a few others and working as hard as she possibly can. That is the greatest humane quality of the picture. She never gives up, and this boils over in one stridently feminist and eye opening moment in the closing moments of the picture.

She gets a twinkle in her eye right before she decides to speak her mind. They’ve been tormenting her for months, and while she appreciates the kindness her friend offered her with this job has turned out to be a thankless one where she is depreciated night after night. But she always danced, because her tutor told her to in her dying breaths. She’s had enough though, and the booing must stop. She lets go and finally lambasts the men for ogling women in a way they can’t even their wives, she criticizes their enjoyment of haranguing a hard-working woman for a peek at titillation. She detests that they seek to commodify her body when she wants to be celebrated for it. She moves with grace, but she’s treated like swine and for what reason? Because she doesn’t take off her clothes. One woman stands and claps at the close of her speech. I wanted to join her.