The typical MTV video is a barrage of quick cuts and off-kilter camera anglesdesigned to disorient channel surfers with itchy zapper fingers into lingering
a little longer.
The video for Lucas' "Lucas With the Lid Off," directed by Michel Gondry
(Björk's "Human Behaviour"), takes a different tack. It has plenty of striking
images and strange angles but not a single cut. "I wanted to play with the
idea of editing physically," says Gondry, 41. "Instead of shooting a room from
several angles, we built several rooms and moved the camera." In one
continuous shot that lasts the duration of the fourminute video, we see the
backs of sets, lighting stands and even crew members milling about In front
of each tableau are numbered wooden frames that mark the "real" frames of
the video, the shots that would be cut together if it were edited. "The idea was
to see all the rubbish around the set and in between see the good angle," Gondry
explains. Shot with a Steadycam in black and white on a Paris set, the video
for the 23-year-old rapper is a disorienting roller-coaster ride where the viewer
is never sure which way is up. A staircase seems normal at one moment, then
the camera turns, and we see it's really horizontal. Legs that seem to be lying
on a bed horizontally turn out to be hanging vertically off a 90-degree bend.
Because there are no cuts and Lucas pops up throughout the video, he had to
run from set to set, staying one step ahead of the hyperventilating cameraman.
One mistake would mean starting all over again from the beginning. At one point,
Lucas crashed into a bed frame and cut his knee but finished the take, wiping blood
away as he ran. It took 18 takes in a full day of shooting to get one that had no mistakes. "It was basically an exercise in stamina," Lucas says.
Like the song, an infectious (albeit somewhat precious) mix of modern rap and ragga with jazz samples, the video includes modern elements, and projected in the background are snippets from what seem like jazz-era films, which were actually shot by Gondry in London and sped up to make them look old. The recurrent image of a piano being toted about is an hommage to Fats Waller, who used to travel around to friends' apartments and play at rent parties.
"My dad knew Benny Goodman, and there are samples of him in the song,"says Lucas, whose father, an American of Russian-Jewish extraction, founded Pottery Barn and wrote lyrics for such Tin Pan Alley hits as the Mills Brothers'"You Never Miss the Water (Till the Well Runs Dry)."
Lucas, who was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, but now lives in London,grew up in Europe and New York and says his music "reflects all the different cultures I grew up with."
Gondry started out by making videos for the band he drummed for in art school, Oui Oui. "We had some friends who liked us but not that much," he says. He grew up in a small town outside Paris, where the first film he ever saw was Stowaway in the Sky by Albert Lamorisse (The Red Balloon). Lamorisse pioneered the use of helicopter shots and actually died when his
helicopter crashed during a shoot.
Gondry also pushes state-of-the-art technology to the limit, though not quite to the point of dying for his art. "I think this was probably the most difficult video I have ever done,
" he says. "In fact, it was really a nightmare."