Welcome back to The Great Music Videos, where Julia Rhodes and I (William Bibbiani!) present some of the best music videos around for your scrutinizing pleasure. Last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival they hosted a panel called “Edgar Wright Saves the World,” in which J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, ‘Alias’) interviewed Edgar Wright (the brilliant director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) about his life, career and various films. While extended clips from ‘Spaced’ and his features were presented – including early shorts from his high school years – they also played some of his less appreciated work, namely (as you might have guessed by the title of this posting) the music videos. One of them truly qualifies as one of the greats, and here it is now:
“BLUE SONG” BY MINT ROYALE
Mint Royale released this single and music video in 2003, around the time Edgar Wright was preparing to direct his breakthrough hit Shaun of the Dead. The music video for the officially tubthumping track cleverly mixes Hitchcockian suspense with an extremely dry wit. Noel Fielding of ‘The Mighty Boosh’ plays a getaway driver waiting for a major heist – pulled by such other great comedians as Julian Barratt, also of ‘The Mighty Boosh’, and Nick Frost and Michael Smiley, both of Wright’s own ‘Spaced.’ Fielding doesn’t have a watch… “Not that I read too good,” his defense… and asks for the exact amount of time he’ll be expected to wait for the heist to be completed. After some debate, the thieves settle on two minutes and fifty four seconds. Fielding selects a track of that exact length – “Blue Song” by Mint Royale – and the suspense begins.
Fielding rocks out mightily to the head-bobbing number, repeatedly getting himself noticed for his exuberance, placing the heist in jeopardy and forcing Fielding to think quickly to cover his actions. As a dangerous crime is perpetrated just a few hundred feet away, Fielding’s playful dancing and lip-synching provides as many genuine chuckles as nervous ones. “Blue Song” isn’t just a catchy ditty, it’s also a ticking clock, one that Fielding is annoyed to discover at the end of the video went off a little too soon.
The obvious joke is that, like Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, this is a heist story that never shows the actual heist. But the underlying premise of using a song as a timing mechanism is particularly clever, taking a gag that went over like a lead balloon in Hudson Hawk (in which Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello timed their crimes to pop songs as well) and completely naiiling it. Watching people commit a crime while singing ironically may be surreal for a moment but the cuteness of the act, which would intrinsically feel like a musical number, would quickly contradict the suspense at hand (again, as in Hudson Hawk). By focusing on the getaway driver, a loveable goof who may be jeopardizing the mission with his playfulness, Wright not only boosts the comedy but also the tension. And of course the delightful Fielding is an invaluable tool in Wright’s arsenal, a believable buffoon with impeccable hand-dancing skills.
A sharp bit of low-budget storytelling, a catchy song and a very loveable performance all make “Blue Song” by Mint Royale one of the great music videos… by no less than one of the great directors.