This week for Video Vanguards, we’re talking about The Chauffeur. Let me be upfront about this – it isn’t a video I typically choose to watch. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone when I say it is right up there with Girls on Film. While I understand the art to the video, it just wasn’t ever one that interested me. That’s why I am insisting on watching it this week, and studying it a bit further – surely there has to be something to learn from it. (As I’m preparing the iFrame for the video, I’m getting an alert from YouTube that the video has age restrictions on it and is only available on YouTube, so you may end up needing to go directly to the website to watch it from there)
I know people love this video. Maybe you all are the same ones who loved Warren, because I still don’t get that either, and yet here we are.
I’ll be honest: I can see (and I can’t really unsee) the reasons the video was and is so loved. Boobs. This isn’t the cheap boobage found in videos like Girls on Film (okay, those probably weren’t cheap either, but The Chauffeur video is shot in classy black and white. That makes it artsy, right?) There are women (the boobage *had* to be attached to someone, am I right?!?). Women who have a deep, unbridled passion for other women – which was fine, even if at the time I watched this video, it was likely my first real introduction to anything beyond the girl/boy sort of chase I would see at school. Yes, I was young, and yeah, I was absolutely, 100% sheltered. Duran Duran taught me a lot. Hell yes, I had a lot to learn. There it all was, right on film for millions of kids just like me, who were seriously JUST looking for even one single member of Duran Duran to pop up in this video.
Alas, more on that in a bit. What I have learned though, is that this video was directed by Ian Emes, a filmmaker from Birmingham. He’d gone to the art school, is most known for his work in animation as he’d done videos for Pink Floyd. This video, shot in at least the style of (if not a direct copy) from a film called The Night Porter, which I admittedly have no interest in seeing, but have read on several sites (including Morgan Richter, who has done a wonderful analysis of this video already on her site here.) was the direct influence for several scenes in the video. Emes also took inspiration from the photographer Helmut Newton.
From my own short-lived escapades into the art world, I want to say that the styling of the video is also borrowed from a type of cinematic style called Film Noir. Granted, Film Noir is typically used for crime fiction or melodrama, but the styling itself – the dramatic black and white images, the trench coats, and even the not-too-subtle undercurrent of erotica, comes directly from Film Noir, which is really sort of a carryover from German Expressionism. So, see what I mean? It’s artsy! In a lot of ways, given what I know now (hindsight is really one of the best gifts we have), I can understand why Duran Duran wanted to do a video like this. What I still cannot quite give them a pass on, though, is that there are no members in it.
Obviously, the lack of Duran Duran in the video didn’t hurt them in either the long or short run, but this is just one more of many decisions they made, particularly during the early part of their career, that always made me wonder. In fact, at the time they had far more female fans, and I do mean young female fans, which just makes me squint and think “What in the hell was that band thinking? Did they feel that they would watch the video more than their fans?” What were they trying to say? I just didn’t ever quite get it. I still don’t – but then, maybe the band themselves really didn’t understand the purpose of videos at the time this was made, or perhaps, they really didn’t know who their fans were yet.
The video itself was made in 1982, according to Wikipedia and IMDb. The album Rio wasn’t released until a bit later in the year (May), and reached #2 in the UK before later conquering America, but the timeline indeed suggests that Duran Duran had no idea what (or whom) was about to be crowding into their shows and screaming for them.
While the adult me can grasp the concept of why an artsy video would have been appealing, I can also say that I would have loved this video about 10,000% more had it been a member of the band as the chauffeur. I’m not even picky – I would have accepted ANY AND ALL MEMBERS. Alas, we had an unidentified male that suddenly became blond bombshell and Blitz Kid Perry Lister as she stepped from the vehicle. I know from personal experience that I always become a blond bombshell when I step out of my Lincoln MKX after dropping my 13 year old off at school. Well, in my dreams anyway.
This is getting weird, so we should just move on.
The video does offer something in the way of a plot to really think about, particularly during my time in 1980s America, where I can assure whomever wasn’t around at that time – things like trysts between two females were not discussed in most homes. Sex wasn’t discussed in most homes, for that matter. But in this video, it is clear that the women are fighting their inner passions for one another, trying to hide what they feel, meeting in a parking garage for a secret rendezvous. Then on top of that, there is the chauffeur, who is hiding how he/she feels. It is that part of the story that I never quite picked up on as well. Was it indeed a man who fantasized about his occupant, and upon realizing that she wanted another woman, felt that he needed to embody a female figure in order to appeal to her? Or, was it a female chauffeur dressed as a male who was also hiding their true self until the moment of truth when she emerges from the car, and then dances in order to express herself? Leave it to Duran Duran to always keep me guessing.
Oh yes, the two women do end up dancing together. Everyone likes to say it is some sort of sexy game of patty cake. Well, I think it’s dancing. Very slow, almost uncomfortable sort of dancing, particularly when I watched it as a kid, but even now I feel like it’s incredibly awkward. Can you imagine the directions? “Okay ladies, just put your hands together and sway back and forth for the next three minutes while you’re staring at one another.” Nope, not awkward in the least. I hope they were paid well.
There was one other scene in the video that I’ve often wondered about, and that is when one of the females walks to parking garage. She crosses a bridge with a Burberry trench coat tightly wrapped around her, only to be grabbed (groped?) by someone in sunglasses and a trench coat. Some people say that person is female, others say it is male. I say it’s downright creepy, and I’d have punched them in the throat. I know I said there are no Durans in this video but I have to tell you, when I watched the video before writing today it looked like Andy in those sunglasses for that brief second.
Gosh, I’d have hated to throat chop Andy Taylor. Good thing he’s not in the video!
The real question is why the scene is even in the video, but like much of this – I don’t get it.
I will wholeheartedly agree with something else I read on Morgan Richter’s site – and that’s DD’s ability to end anything that seems like it’s going on for too long with an awkward dance party. Check out “My Own Way” (I’ve always wondered why they went with dancing), “New Moon on Monday”, and even “Election Day”. I’m sure there are others that I’m not currently remembering. Maybe we should all just keep dancing?
So, I forgot to talk about Night Boat before moving on to videos from Rio, so next time it’s all about zombies, Duran Duran, and how I actually heard them speak for the first time!!