A Short History of the Long Take

OK Go – “Here It Goes Again” (2006)


Loathed by their then-label and viewed by millions who might otherwise have had little time for the band, “the one with the treadmills” is a strong contender for Patient Zero of one current strain of viral video. While the routine performed is entertaining enough, that’s not the real, or “realist,” point: the absence of camera edits is not only a real-time bona fide, but a measure of the off-screen planning and rehearsal time required to make it come off. (The clip would have garnered far less notice if any of the band members looked like trained, rather than trainable, dancers.) After this and “the one with the machines,” OK Go now have little choice but to keep topping themselves: Their follow-up, already shot but not yet released, will time-compress eighteen hours of uninterrupted footage to pop-song length.

Feist – “1, 2, 3, 4” (2007)


Many dance-based rock videos gesture sheepishly toward the Hollywood musical number. Here, director Michael Gondry embraces the form’s older, squarer cousin with unusual warmth. The geometric overhead shots were Busby Berkeley’s signature in the 1930s, but the seamless integration of choreography and fluid single-camera movement derive from later masters of MGM’s soundstages, notably Stanley Donen and Vicente Minelli. The routine’s diva-plus-chorus format is utterly conventional, but Gondry refreshes it with small but significant touches: the contrast between Feist’s sequins and the ensemble’s plainer attire, and the interplay between more and less synchronized movements, are finely calibrated to the precise degrees of glamour and theatricality that accrue to the singer’s Starbucks-rotation/Apple-advertisement order of quasi-stardom.

Interpol – “The Heinrich Maneuver” (2007)


This technically ambitious clip incorporates independently filmed elements, played back at variable speeds and even backwards, into the Wavelength-in-reverse dolly-out format, here applied more continuously than in “Bastards of Young.” The intent seems to be show time passing differently for distinct individuals in the same space, but, like singer Paul Banks’ lyrics, its private grammar is nearly unparseable, even on repeated playings. The visual effect is genuinely unsettling – too bad it serves a moralizing vignette (vanity kills, ladies!) capped by a revenge-fantasy shock ending that was played for laughs in Mean Girls three years earlier.

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