Ever since I made that post deconstructing NIN’s Closer video, I decided that I had to get my hands on Mark Romanek’s Director Series DVD (I already had Chris Cunningham‘s and Michel Gondry‘s). After finally getting around to it, I gotta say, I’m impressed with the guy’s knowledge of art and photography, it’s like he eats encyclopedias for breakfast and spits them out through his music videos.
Another one of his visually striking music videos was for Madonna’s Bedtime Story. The video is reported to be one of the most expensive ever (the most expensive actually being Mark Romanek’s video for Michael and Janet Jackson’s Scream), and the inspiration for it actually came from Mark’s first encounter with Madonna. At the time, she was redecorating her flat and was living in a hotel and the only thing she took with her from her house to the hotel was a piece of surrealist art (he didn’t mention which, only that it was purple). Unaware that she was a savvy art collector, he was quite impressed and decided to do a video inspired by female surrealist pieces should opportunity arise (their first collaboration was actually for Rain).
Just like “Closer”, “Bedtime story” is a pastiche of influences, and upon looking for it on google, I discovered Freaky Show Business had actually made a really thorough analysis already. Fortunately for me it’s in my mother tongue, so I’ll make an overview of all the artists whose work Mark used.
It’s funny that Spanish Mexican Remedios Varo, influenced this piece of work, considering her work was influenced by the likes of Goya, El Greco, Picasso, and Braque. A great resource with all of her works can be found here.
Curiously enough, British born Leonora and Remedios Varo were great friends, and along with Frida Kahlo, all lived in Mexico. A sign that there must have been something surreally artsy in the Mexican air (and non swine flu related!)
The giantess, 1950
One of my faves, that video bit of the eyes in the mouth, mouth in the eyes (that btw for some reason always gave me goosebumps), may have been influenced by a painting of hers, 1949’s “Diego y yo”. Director Romanek mentioned that to make this particular bit of the video, a special software had to be developed, and it took a few days to complete the effect, something that today would probably take (as he himself mentions), about a half an hour.
Other non female surrealist mentions on the video include:
Conceptual artist Holzer is known for projecting short sentences (formally called “truisms”, some are common myths while others are just phrases on random subjects in the form of slogan) in public spaces.
Sayat Nova (The color of pomegranates)
This 1968 surrealist movie by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov approaches the language of the soul, of dreams and of the unconscience, and some of the images were directly lifted from it for the video (see below).
Grandson of none other than Sigmund Freud, his 1991 painting “Naked man, back view” can clearly be seen in the beginning of the video.
The whirling dance or Sufi whirling associated with Dervishes (Muslim mystics), is the practice of the Mevlevi Order in Turkey. This practice, though not intended as entertainment, has become a tourist attraction in Turkey and is a physical method used to try to reach religious ecstasy.
Another piece of trivia related to this track, is that its lyrics were written by Bjork as a favor to then Madonna producer Nellee Hopper, but Bjork wasn’t very pleased with the end result and re appropriated the lyrics for one of her b-sides “Sweet Intuition”.