Sound And Vision: Marco Brambilla
In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we take a look at Kanye West's Power, directed by Marco Brambilla.
Marco Brambilla is a curious director, in that he has made features, video installations and a music video, but that his major splashes in each area are quite distinct from each other.
His sole hit as a film director, Demolition Man, is often remembered for its idiosyncrasies, but is also a fairly by the numbers Stallone sci-fi action vehicle. Even if the iffy politics hint at a larger satirical slant, its commentary is quite muddled. In any case, it is somewhat of a cult classic, precisely because its rougher edges hint at an auteur with a vision.
Brambilla wouldn't find that vision in Hollywood as his follow up visions either died before take-off or failed miserably commercially or critically, like in the case of Excess Baggage. He found big success as a video artist instead. Pieces like the Megaplex-series, Anthropocene and Heaven's Gate are very distinctive, using video collage techniques using both pre-existing video and newly shot images to build giant Hieronymus Bosch-like tableaux vivants. They are slightly kitschy, yet stunning.
The video art of Brambilla caught the eye of Kanye West, who sought him out for a small teaser video for his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-track Power. The visual Brambilla comes up with topples over the edge of kitsch and falls flat on its face. Yes, it is an eye popping power fantasy where Kanye is a Greek God between a lot of sexualized nymph-like women. It is also gaudy, like a cheap mural pastiche of Greek mythology come to life.
It is a piece where Bambrilla, given a big budget and free reign, doubles down on his worst tendencies. Unlike Demolition Man it isn't muddled in what it tries to convey. It is exactly what it wants to be. But like Demolition Man it's also an overrated power fantasy. Bambrilla is a brilliant video artist, but as a film or music video director he never reached those heights.