Saturday, November 14, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #77: The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes

Which White Stripes/Michel Gondry collaboration is the best?  There is no wrong answer of course.  "Fell in Love With a Girl" probably holds the most cultural significance, while "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" seems ahead of its time, considering that Gondry's trademark projection got much more recognition when he repeated it for an equally enjoyable Paul McCartney video five years later.  "The Denial Twist" has a compelling concept but the manipulation gets distracting on repeat viewings.  That said, it's hard to find fault or boredom with a single frame of "The Hardest Button to Button."

Much of the fun in watching Gondry's work is the "How did he do that?" factor.  But there really is no "How did he do that?" factor is this video.  He leaves his camera and perspective manipulations at home.  There are no tricks for multiplying the drum kits/amps/mic stands.  They simply added more of them.  So instead of asking "How did he do that?" you find yourself thinking, "This must have taken FOREVER."  And indeed it did:  Three 16-hour days to shoot thousands of setups, many of which would last fractions of a second in the final product.  It culminates with a perfect visual depiction of the rhythm and riffs that form the basis of The White Stripes.  At this point of technological growth, it seems almost bizarre to see something like this shot on real backgrounds when it could have been shot in one day on green screen.  But the setting here provides an extra layer of fascination, watching the shadows adjust, watching spots where Meg hides in the background, or noticing the military precision with which Jack has a consistent walk down stairs.  The panorama under the tunnel at the climax still seems dizzying after hundreds of views.  Toss in a quick cameo from Beck and his box, and it's another example of how Gondry can take a relatively simple (if overly ambitious) initial idea, but have the dedication to execute that concept without shortcuts, knowing that every element of the grind shows up on screen in the final product.

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