This week’s Dilate My Mind (Change My Mind sounded a bit plain) focuses on the Falling Down video. Daily Duranie has argued that the video is one of the smartest clips they ever released. For some context on why, check out the blog here. For one of us (me), this is my first time sitting through the entire video!
Justin-fied But Ancient
The video for “Falling Down” suffers from two primary flaws: what it is, and what it is not.
Let’s begin with the former.
In their heyday, the lads of Duran Duran could be excused for dressing up and role playing in their various video romps. After all, that’s the medium that helped shoot them to worldwide stardom. However, the boys are no longer boys; they are grown men, with children, in their forties and fifties. As wonderfully clever as the videos’ premise may have seemed, the sight of them dressed up as doctors in a psych ward for super models is disturbing at best at this point in their careers. Duran has unfortunately reached the stage where their videos should only include them if they are playing their instruments.
What’s worse, the video (and by extension the song) lacks the one ingredient that could have, potentially, brought them some press: Justin Timberlake. He famously co-wrote the song with Simon over a weekend, and I suppose that’s him breathing in the beginning of the song. We’ll never know for sure if it was Duran or Justin who put the brakes on a more overt collaboration, but regardless, it certainly couldn’t have hurt from a publicity perspective.
Taken together, and it’s clear that “Falling Down” is not, by a long shot, one of the smartest videos the band has ever done. – CK Shortell
Losing Their Balance
Duran videos are at their cleverest when they flip the expected script. The self-mockery of the band in ‘Rio’ is what makes it witty. Lounging about on an expensive yacht is just showing-off. Getting yanked into the water while prancing around on your fancy yacht, by the girl one is pursuing, is self-deprecating and charming. They use the same energy delightfully in “Girl Panic” by taking on the roles of the media and hapless bellhops at the mercy of the ‘band’.
The video for “Falling Down” is almost a lot of things, but doesn’t fully commit to any of them, much less turn anything on it’s head. It’s almost a horror film. It plays at being a Hitchcockian thriller. It even approaches social commentary on the entertainment industry and its treatment of women, but veers away from making an actual statement in favor of the male gaze. Consequently, lacking an appropriate narrative follow-through, it’s almost smart, but falls down before the finish line.
One of their earlier videos even plays with these same elements of creepiness to greater effect.
“Perfect Day”, nominally a performance video, juxtaposes a gorgeous, relaxing melody with the claustrophobic confines of a colour-saturated padded room, where the Durans seem almost captive, subjected to a series of beautiful, unsettling images. Breaking the fourth wall to show that the stage is just a stage helps to build tension with the implication that they could leave at any time, but are choosing to stay and reap just what they’ve sown. Now that’s clever. – Laura Skurka
More Than A Footnote?
While it’s true that the vast majority of Duran Duran videos are not particularly clever or intelligent1 – they have always tended, especially in the early days, more towards a dreamlike escapism – I don’t believe the video for ‘Falling Down’ stands out in this respect either. It’s the usual daft ‘male gaze, models, slightly subversive themes’ nonsense that permeates the Duran fantasy world in general, and frankly that’s what makes it great.
The story of the video is as flimsy as any other – girl goes to a highly unrealistically-portrayed rehab facility,2 girl lies around in a bathtub posing in expensive lingerie, girl leaves rehab without having made any progress – and is really just an excuse for lots of provocative shots of models in furs and six-inch heels (so 2007!)3 having breakdowns and spitting out pills. It’s all very beautifully shot and directed, but let’s not pretend there’s some great meaning or substance here.
After all, you can’t say the ‘band members are suddenly rehab doctors’ narrative is any more clever or complex than ‘band members foil a revolution’ or ‘band members go to a wedding’ or ‘band members buy a sex robot’. It’s all just part of the glorious and visually pleasing episodic story that is Duran Duran. Tune in next week to see where their adventure takes them next! – Dee Cooke
1The cleverest video DD ever did was ‘Girl Panic!’. I’m not a fan of that one.
2 The glamorisation of addiction recovery here makes me uncomfortable.
3 I want to buy shoes now. Mmm, shoes.
Rehab Party Massacre
I watched the entire video for the first time tonight (gasp). I remember hearing the limpness of the guitar and instantly being turned off on Red Carpet Massacre. I never gave the video a chance and it took years for me to realize how incredible the album is. Using “Falling Down” as a lead single wasn’t very smart on the label’s part but we are here to judge the video.
Director Anthony Mandler came to the video after a year of working with some major artists: The Killers, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nelly Furtado. He knows how to make it look pretty. Apparently, the band worked with him on two versions of the video; one of which was full of nude models (article here). I imagine the reaction to this video if the models were naked and I think the band were very smart to never release it.
As for the video, I am torn. I want to read something smart into everything they do. “Shake up the picture, the lizard mixture” has a deeper meaning, I swear. (internal voice: it does not) In this case, I’m hanging my hopes on the book that briefly flashes in the window of a door. Psychodynamically Based Psycho Therapy sounds like a great read. Based on a brief visit to PsychCentral, it likely covers this:
The goals of psychodynamic therapy are a client’s self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior. In its brief form, a psychodynamic approach enables the client to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships and manifest themselves in the need and desire to abuse substances.
In this case, is “Falling Down” an attempt to show how past behaviors (“Girls On Film”) can manifest in the present? Both videos are nothing more than soft-porn wrapped in the artifice of “art”. According to the psychodynamic approach, the dysfunction from, for example, the male gaze and the patriarchal society that houses it could lead to substance abuse. And here we are, watching models who could have been pillow fighting in a Duran Duran video now locked in a rehab facility trying to deal with that reality. It’s uncomfortable – and sometimes art should be.
I want to read this video as an apology, or perhaps, an acknowledgement of how their videos could have had a damaging effect even though they most definitely never intended that. It was 1982 and they were conditioned to think and act as they did. As the doctors, the band seeks to help the women but in the end, they just play the song because that is all they know how to do. Only then do the models smile. There is a sadness to the entire clip that drains away any attempt to tantalize the senses. If “Falling Down” is a group of men finding some sort of enlightenment; that seems smart to me. I’m not sure we get there but it’s still smarter than lizard-men dancing underneath a desert. – Jason Lent