taking video literal

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White Wedding: Literal Video Version – watch more funny videos

This literal video version of White Wedding by Billy Idol made me laugh out loud. I guess you had to be there in the eighties, when some of your friends were Gothic, some of your friends were New Wave and some of your friends were Straight Edge, and you had a little brother tapping his feet in black leather pants, to really appreciate this wry comment on eighties pop culture.

via boing boing

On a more serious note, this video illustrates well how words and images work best together in juxtaposition. I am just reading Perry Nodelman, Words about Pictures. The Narrative Art of Childrens Picture Books, and here is a quote which fits perfectly: 

“In a discussion of the semiology of film, Christian Metz suggests that films demand from their viewer knowledge of at least five different systems of signification, most of which can also befound in slightly different ways in picture books: culturebound patterns of visual and auditory perception (such as knowing how to understand a perspectve drawing), recognition of the objects shown on screen (labeling), knowledge of their cultural significance (such as knowing that blackclothes stand for mourning), narrative structures (types of stories and how they usually work out) and purely cinematic means of implying significance, such as music and montage.

Metz suggests that each complete film “relying on all these codes, plays them one against the other, eventually arriving at its own individual system, its ultimate (or first?) principle of unification and intelligibility”. In other words, filmmakers make the use of differencees between various means of communication in the knowledge that each medium they bring into play will finally merely be part of the whole along with all the others; consequently, they deberately (or sometimes, given the varying narrative capabilities of different media, inevitably) make each incomplete so that it can indeed be part of a whole and so that the meaning will be communicated by the whole and not any specific part of the whole.

What the clothing and gesture do not reveal to us, the music or the narrative structure might; and what the clothing and music communicate separately is different from what they communicate together. So each medium that filmmakers use always communicates different information, and all of them express their fullest meaning in terms of the ironies inherent in their differencees from each other. Irony occurs in literature when we know something more and different from what we are being told.” (222-3)

Music videos play with visual codes and popular narratives adressing the viewers’s contextual, (sub) cultural knowledge and in contrasting, juxtaposing, contradicting and amplifying music and lyrics add to the overall meaning. In the case of this Billy Idol video spoof, the irony lies in the breaking of these film making and music video conventions, which we all know so well. The lyrics are a literal translation of what is seen, merely labeling the objects and actions on the screen (candelabra! black leather pants!) and the cinematic means of implying significance (letting in the fog, blowing up stuff, going outside) but ignoring their cultural significance. Taking language conventions literal is stand up comedy stuff, here it is applied to film. The new lyrics attempt to undermine the “subversive” interplay of original lyrics (about white weddings) and video narrative  drawing on a different kind of cultural knowledge by calling it what it plainly is in the eyes of a contemporary viewer – a goth wedding, an eighties pop video. 

billy-idol22

One Response to “taking video literal”

  1. andrew Says:

    hi sigrid,

    can you email me? i like your blog and have some questions…

    email is on my website.

    thanks,
    andrew

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