Janelle Monae: Avant-Garde Film Geek ("Tightrope" Video)
There's one thing extra special about this video though. Aside from the smooth dancing, awesome energy, and undeniably catchy song, the video features a Maya Deren reference. (Puttin' my film history cap on...) See those hooded people with the mirrors for faces? That's from the mind of the renowned avant-garde filmmaker herself. And unmistakably so. The faceless, cloaked people appear in Deren's experimental short, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). See the original image at about 3:18 in this video:
Though made in the early 40s with very simple filmmaking techniques, this image alone effectively disturbs me every time I see it, and haunts me after.
As a fan of Maya Deren and her works, the reference came as a gleeful, nerdy surprise. Did someone really just pay homage to what some consider the "grandmother of avant-garde" in their music video?! I decided to do a Google search to see if my finding was novel. (It wasn't, most unfortunately.) But I was pleased to find that a few other people took note of this.
Janelle and/or this music video director have earned extra points in my book for this. (Not that anyone's reading my book, but still). For anyone who's a fan of - or at least familiar with - Maya Deren, this little homage blows all the rest of them out of the water in its total unexpectedness. I hate to use the word "obscure," but Deren is too often neglected outside of a film history class (assuming the curriculum covers avant-garde). As this guy says on MuuMuse, "Lady Gaga, eat your obscure cultural reference loving heart out."
He's right. I'll take a nod to Deren over heavy-handed Tarantino references any day.