Saturday, 24 November 2012

Great Music Videos: St. Vincent, "Actor Out Of Work"

Great Music Videos is an ongoing feature in which I plan to write about music videos I feel are particularly accomplished examples of an underappreciated art form.


I think it’s safe to say that Annie Clark - who records under the moniker St. Vincent - has one of the most captivating faces in all of indie music. Call it objectification, but there’s something distinctive about her facial features – she’s undeniably beautiful, but she often has a sense of unnaturalness about her. Much of the success of “Actor Out of Work” lies in this (perhaps unlikely) attraction.

In the video, Clark seems to act as a sort of therapist to an endless line of ‘clients’, although the anonymous and harshly-lit setting would suggest that she’s not so much comforting each person as she is reminding them of every fear and inadequacy they’ve ever felt. (Look at how Clark sings “I think I love you, I think I’m mad” at 1:40 for an excellent example.)

What's special about the video is how the cinematography makes it clear that Clark isn’t just addressing each ‘patient’, she’s also speaking to us. Most music videos feature the artist or artist singing to the viewer, but how many actively make an effort to reach out beyond the screen?

This emotional resonance is, in the end, undercut by the video’s surprise ending. While it could be argued that the video ends too abruptly for the twist to have its full effect, in reality, we knew the conclusion was coming all along. The video is filled with images of artifice, including the makeup one woman applies and the boombox turned on in the first few seconds, but despite these hints, I still feel startled on some level by the ending whenever I watch the video.

That “Actor Out of Work” does all of this in two-and-a-half minutes is, quite frankly, awe-inspiring. It may be too much to call it a masterpiece, but directors Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey deserve all the praise they can get.

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