I know about a billion people are going to blog about the Lady Gaga Vs Beyoncé video, but I just have to blog about it, this video has a place in my heart. It’s not that I am a huge Lady Gaga or Beyoncé fan, in fact, I am not really a huge fan of this song, but the video is fucking amazing and for so many reasons.
Let’s start with the fact that Jonas Åkerlund directed it. He is one of the craziest music video directors of all time. Just search for him on YouTube and see what insane shit you find. I have been waiting for the Director’s Label Åkerlund DVD since the moment I heard about the Palm Picures series. Now I am almost glad they haven’t released it yet so Telephone can be on it.
More importantly, I am a big Exploitation geek. Exploitation Cinema for the point of this conversation is characterized by cheap very specific genre pictures made in primarily the 1960’s and 70’s that “exploited” things such as sex, violence, race, popular trends etc. Some of the more popular genre’s are Blaxploitation, Grindhouse Horror, Spaghetti Westerns, and Sexploitation films. But the genre’s get much more specific with things like biker movies, drug trip films, and one of my favorites, Women In Prison.
There are an insane number of Women In Prison films starting with 99 Women in 1969 and continuing through out the 70’s. The highlights of the genre are the Jack Hill films starring Pam Grier - The Big Doll House & The Big Bird Cage. (Jack Hill also directed the Greir films Cofee & Foxy Brown. Quentin Tarantino took the name for his film Jackie Brown from Jack Hill and Foxy Brown.) And this Lady Gaga video is purely Women In Prison. All it’s missing a shower scene and an escape scene. All the aesthetic elements are there. On top of that it borrows from other exploitation films. The key theme of revenge is very important to many of the female led action exploitation films of the ‘70’s and the wardrobe while very Gaga, has clear influences from biker films, cheesy sci-fi films and Jack Hill’s legendary Switchblade Sisters.
Clearly you noticed the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill. This video is an homage to Quentin Tarantino’s homages. It takes elements of these exploitation films that Tarantino loves to steal from and recontextualizes them so it looks like Akerlund is stealing from QT. I mentioned that QT loves Jack Hill so much that he named a movie after him, but he also distributed Switchblade Sisters as part of his failed distribution company, Rolling Thunder Pictures. The references to some of my favorite movies, directors and genre’s makes this video in my mind an instant classic even if I could care less about the song. It’s just that good.
I do need to wrap this up quickly because I am ranting but there are two other small things in the video I should mention. One is the line that I am sure will be talked about on all the blogs - “I told you she doesn’t have a dick.” Lady Gaga quite literally shows her critics her womanhood by taking off her pants and revealing once and for all that she doesn’t have a dick. (Unless of course they used CGI…) Finally confronting these stupid rumors in a video like this takes some balls, which clearly she doesn’t have.
And lastly, my boys from Semi Precious Weapons make a cameo playing exquisite corpses. At least Cole and Justin do. I didn’t notice Dan or Steve. I am continuously proud of those guys. You know you have made it when you have been killed off in a major pop video.
Anyway, sorry for the rant but it is 3am and I have been getting ready to leave town for three weeks all day today. I think might be losing my mind a little bit. I am headed to SXSW and then to Winter Music in Miami where almost exactly 2 years ago I photographed a barely known pop singer’s birthday party. Oh right, that was Lady Gaga.