Director Paul Beck, who animated Richard Linklater’s acclaimed films “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly,” has created the most subversive music video you’re likely to see this year. Using the driving salvo of The Calm Blue Sea’s “Literal,” as his soundtrack Beck pairs air strike footage and battlefield video featuring combatants with freakish cartoon heads and sunny 70’s film clips where all the people’s faces are blotted out. “Literal’s” juxtaposition manages to bridge the distance one normally feels from watching video game-like strike footage to lift the veil on the fog of war in a wholly menacing way.
“As I was making the video, listening to the music, I wanted images in the video to challenge the viewer by asking, ‘Are we living the good life?'” Beck asks. “‘Are we living the nightmare?’ ‘What character are we?’ ‘What tabloid-media-mash up comforts us through the long night?'”
Now that we’ve had time to digest the anniversary of 9/11, it seems an appropriate time to consider some of the questions which Beck poses. “I wanted the viewer feeling familiar with the images yet distant,” he says. “Under the guise of the non-blinking eye we go about our lives in our comfortable fog of reality. The video is meant to leave the viewer with the feeling of a visual wave washing the soul, then the emptiness that follows a parade.” What is a parade, or an anniversary, but a moment of distraction that leaves you just where you were before, unless you use it as an opportunity to reflect? “Rock and roll,” Beck concludes, which is good enough for me.