Since Michel begins with only a song, that’s where I’ll start.
“Sugar Water” reminds me of a dream. it’s a slow drift down a city boulevard, where simple things happen to you, but they seem strange. a black cat crosses your path. it seems like that should mean something?
Yuka’s atmospherics and Miho’s vaguely-definable lyrics. In between the la-la-las and the angelic singing, Miho talks to your ear. “I’m riding on a camel that has big eyes / The buildings are changing into coconut trees / Little by little.”
Perhaps this is part of the inspiration for one of Michel Gondry’s most fantastic and memorable videos.
As Michel notes on his DVD, the song made him think of a palindrome, so he came up with the idea of a visual palindrome told in one take on two sides of the screen. The left side is forwards, the right side backwards. The story begins with both Yuka (left) and Miho (right) getting out of bed. They take showers of water and sugar, dry off, put on their clothes, and head outside of their apartments. As you hear “black cat” in the song, a black cat travels magically from one side of the screen, through a hole in the wall, and into the other, like some bit from Alice in Wonderland. Then the plot thickens as Miho sends Yuka a note from the other side of the screen.
They head outside: Yuka into her car, Miho with her helmet. Yuka slams on her brakes, and hits something off-screen. Surprised, she exits the vehicle and approaches Miho laying on the sidewalk. Before you know it, there’s Miho’s ransom note on both sides of the screen.
Unbelievably, with the same footage merely reversed, the story continues. Miho suddenly recites the lyrics as Yuka drives her car backwards. Again they reach their apartments and exchange the note. Again the black cat crosses their paths. Again they take their “sugar, water showers,” put on their nightgowns, and fall asleep in the same dream they woke up in.
Given the elaborate detail required in a single take, recovery took two hours. Glass and flower pots had to be mended, and Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda had to be cleaned and dried. In the end, it took around 10 nervous takes to get it right.
Like I said, one of the man’s best. Later this split-screen, single-take concept would be used in Semisonic’s “Closing Time” (dir. Chris Applebaum) and Destiny’s Child’s “Emotions” (d. Francis Lawrence). –Director-file.com
Pioneering director Michel Gondry’s remarkable creative energy and ability to innovate have resulted in some of the most visually stunning music videos in the history of the medium, and his wild imagination and organic, childlike imagery raised the bar of what one could achieve in the short format. In particular, his technique of placing numerous cameras around a subject and combining the images to form a visually astonishing sweeping effect has become so popular that it has since gone on to achieve timeless notoriety in such films as the The Matrix. With a family background that consists of a number of inventors and technological innovators, Gondry, not surprisingly, is seen as a bottomless wealth of imaginative innovation.
Michel Gondry is a native of Versailles who was raised in a freethinking family that encouraged and supported his creative endeavors; his parents harbored a deep love of pop music and the works of Duke Ellington, in particular. Gondry’s grandfather Constant… read more