In this the third part of our ongoing 433-part series, Better Know a Director, we'll do a once-over on the work of Jonathan Glazer. The Fightin' Glazer. Undoubtedly, you've seen some of his work before. Sexy Beast was a pretty big deal, although Birth, rightfully, was less of one. He's also directed a bunch of music videos, including Jamiroquai's once ubiquitous "Virtual Insanity." But as I discovered at a not-that-recent Resfest, watching his work in isolation doesn't do the man justice. Themes emerge. Patterns develop. More than other directors who've cut their teeth on adverts and music videos, he's a storyteller—enamored with visual trickery, yes, but more interested in a piece's emotional impact. Not until the last few years, for instance, have Spike Jonze's music videos, brilliant as they are, elicited more of a response than "Whoa, cool." (To his credit, Jonze's "Weapon of Choice" deals more elegantly with the psychic difficulties of aging than any other video ever.) Glazer, on the other hand, has always gone for the deep stuff. His videos are four-minute meditations on death ("Street Spirit"), the dangers of vengeance ("Karma Police") and dystopia ("The Universal"). And if there's a music video more uncomfortable to watch than Nick Cave's "Into My Arms," I'm not too keen on seeing it. Here they all are, back-to-back:
It's even more difficult to pack a wallop within the confines of an advertisement. For one, an ad is shorter. Also, you're tasked with selling something. But Glazer glides easily into high art in this medium, too. Watch these three Guinness commercials and try to figure out how he does it (or disagree with me if you don't think he pulls it off at all). I'll share my guesses with you first: 1) Each commercial, though only a minute long, has a very clear narrative arc—beginning, middle, end. Lots of commercials don't, or if they do, they seem hastily scraped together and meaningless. These are rich stories he's telling, the kind you'd expect a Irishman to tell you after five Guinnesses, which, come to think of it, is the product he's shilling. Funny how that works out. 2) He uses animals and mob scenes to set mood. The horses in the surfer video, the screaming dogs in the dreamer one, the crowd in the last—these images aren't evocative of anything in the specific, but they stick. They seem primal somehow, almost ancient. Again, perfect notes to hit if you're selling a famous and famously old beer. Art and commerce, baby. Glazer knows the alchemy.
More Glazer after the jump.
Anyway, there's much more of his work to check out. His Palm Director's Series DVD is a great place to start. But since I can't buy you all a copy, I'll end with his latest advertisement. It was filmed last summer and is for the Sony Bravia. It's not his best work (because it doesn't tell a story!), but it's cool lookin'...