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Paul Thomas Anderson’s short ‘Valentine’

The director’s music video for the pop group Haim is brilliantly understated

‘Valentine’ which features the sibling pop group Haim is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
‘Valentine’ which features the sibling pop group Haim is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. (‘Valentine’ which features the sibling pop group Haim is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.)

“Are we rolling? Sorry, I was waiting for Action."

So begins the 14-minute music video/short film Valentine, featuring the sibling pop group Haim and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s understandable that one of the Haim sisters (Este, Danielle, Alana) is looking for a formal cue for action at the start—this video is, after all, being directed by perhaps the greatest American film-maker of his generation.

Valentine is the opposite of a high-concept video; Anderson simply shoots the band recording Right Now, Something To Tell You and Nothing’s Wrong in the studio. Yet, it’s executed with the sort of unobtrusive mastery that could make a neophyte weep.

Just as he matched the jittery hand-held camera to the raw sound of Junun, his 2015 music documentary with Jonny Greenwood, Anderson now finds the appropriate visual metaphor for a band recording live. Almost the whole of Right Now is shot in an unbroken take that goes on for over 4 minutes, snaking around the studio as the Haim sisters play various instruments while simultaneously singing lead or back-up (it’s thrilling to watch Alana and Este put down guitar and bass and launch into the drums at the end). In Something To Tell You, a similar shot goes on for almost two-and-a-half minutes. The uptempo Nothing’s Wrong is more conventionally shot, with short glimpses of each band member. Throughout, the studio glints with a hard blue light that seems intuitively right for Haim’s Fleetwood Mac-like pop-rock sound.

Paul Thomas Anderson.
Paul Thomas Anderson.

Anderson has been directing music videos intermittently since 1997. In 2016, he collaborated on three lovely bare-bones videos with Radiohead. The year before that, he directed two videos for Joanna Newsom and made Junun, essentially an hour-long music video shot in Rajasthan. He has also collaborated with Fiona Apple (experimenting with slow-motion in Across The Universe), Jon Brion (Here We Go, using out-takes from his film Punch-Drunk Love) and Michael Penn (Try, a complicated single take).

Ad films, shorts, videos: These are useful ways for directors to try out new techniques between film projects. Some start with music videos, and have continued to dabble in the form: Spike Jonze (R.E.M.’s Crush With Eyeliner, Beastie Boys’ Sabotage), Michel Gondry (The White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl), David Fincher (Madonna’s Express Yourself). Gondry and Jonze could conceivably vie for the title of greatest video-turned-feature director. Even they would be hard-pressed, though, to come up with something as effortlessly striking as Valentine.

Valentine can be seen on YouTube.

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