EXCLUSIVE: Music Video Pioneer Michel Gondry on Lady Gaga: 'I'm Not Interested'
Michel Gondry has made some of the most indelible music videos of all time for some of the biggest acts of the last two decades, including Radiohead, Björk, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Beck and even Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones. So when Movieline caught up with him today to discuss his forthcoming documentary Thorn in the Heart, it seemed a great opportunity to feel him out on the new vanguard of the form: Lady Gaga, whose epic "Telephone" video has swept popular culture with a fury, frenzy and inspiration not seen since the glory days of which Gondry himself was a part. His response -- which swept through genre monoliths from Michael Jackson to Madonna to Marilyn Manson -- was unexpected to say the least.
"I'm not interested," he said. "To me it's like a form of Marilyn Manson. It's hard for me to talk about it; I've seen a couple of videos of hers, and not for very long. I stop watching them each time because I don't think there's melodies. I'm sorry to be negative. Like I'm not a big fan of Madonna. I respect her very much, but unfortunately the videos didn't help the music in the long run. Well, I guess it helped it to survive to the point where the video was irrelevant. So music has to find its own way, which is good for the music. It becomes smaller and more alive and it's not as crazy, except for some R&B. To me, it's just talking about the surface. I compare it to Marilyn Manson. The music to me is very expected. I don't think there's anything in the tone or the melody that makes me say, 'Oh, there's something going on.'
"And I like commercial music," Gondry continued. "Michael Jackson will always be my favorite pop musician; he was for years and years until his death, which was horrible to me. So I like pop culture. But to me, even if it's popular, there is a quality in the music you have to be able to appreciate. And I don't see it. Her melodies are very conventional. I remember when my friend and I would argue about Killing Joke. I remember him saying, 'It's so great!' But I said, 'It's so conventional! How can you find anything original? It's just surface!' I don't know, maybe the comparison is ridiculous. But the melody was very, very flat. That's probably why they are famous. But maybe it's considered high art just because of the way she dresses?"
That raised the question of the decline of the music video overall, the foundational art form that MTV has essential banished from network.
"But you know, in 1999 or 2000, MTV and VH1 did the 100 Best Videos of All Time -- two different selections -- and I had zero videos in either of them," Gondry said. "So when people tell me I'm the 'MTV Generation,' I just say, 'No.' I never won any MTV [Video Music Awards]. Oh, except for one for a video I did for Massive Attack, actually, and I lost it. My producer was furious. He wanted to put it in his office. But I loved videos. I remember watching videos very late at night -- Michael Jackson videos. The first rap videos were amazing: Run-DMC, Tone Loc, all of that was just amazing. The Beastie Boys videos were always great. But then it became very stereotyped. There was this confusion. Also: The MTV Video Awards were never about the video, but about the song. Most of the time it was just to glorify people for the wrong reason."
Got it -- and there's more where that came from. Look for it here at Movieline as Thorn in the Heart's April 2 release date approaches.