The music video, or at least the art and appeal of a video, have been eradicated by MTV’s insistence on showing us the skewed reality of the “Real World” and the “Jersey Shore” over music. It’s depressing that what made the network so famous has been phased out in favor of human grotesqueness amplified by our fervor for tabloid fodder. That’s all right I guess, if anything MTV’s lack of soul and self-worth leads to a higher level of creativity at the disposal of many bands. From viral marketing to playing impromptu shows, bands exploit a varying degree of marketing opportunities to make up for a lack of rotation on a station such as MTV. No band has demonstrated this as much as Arcade Fire. With their impromptu shows and eclectic nature, Arcade Fire has gone from an independent band to an award winning group trending on the mainstream.
The diverse and talented group is fearless in their endeavors, which is demonstrated in their recent cross promotional effort: Scenes from the Suburbs, a short film directed by Spike Jonze. Scenes from the Suburbs can be halfheartedly categorized as a short film simply because there’s no other way to categorize it. It’s too long to be concretely called a short film, but it’s too short to be considered a feature-length film (it clocks in at nearly 29 minutes). Nonetheless, Scenes… is a piece of filmmaking that compliments Arcade Fire’s terrific album “The Suburbs”. For those who are expecting every song to make their film debut, you’ll be slightly disappointed. Instead, the music merely resides in the film as a thematic placeholder or to heighten the mood. They’re discrete, but influential.
The world that the music helps construct is one that isn’t too far from our own reality. It distinctively takes place in a suburb that one would find in the good ole US of A, but there is one slight alteration to the country’s landscape. Said alteration is that each suburb acts as its own sovereign nation. With sovereignty comes the right to dictate rules to all inhabitants, but there also comes the notion of exclusivity. Outside the fact that each suburb is safeguarding itself from neighboring burbs, Scenes…tells the quick tale of two friends and the dissolution of their bond over a summer of immediate changes. Our short journey follows the plight of Winter, a long-haired and free loving youth, and his relationship with our narrator, an unnamed teen that is starting to feel his youth fading away.
These unbreakable best friends begin to crumble when Winter becomes more interested in his girlfriend and his over protective brother returns home to lay claim to his family’s throne. The death of the friendship becomes all too clear when Winter, who once donned an impressive set of dirty, golden locks, has his hair trimmed to a level that would impress corporate America. Given the time frame, one would assume that the relationship between our two friends would be undercooked. It isn’t which is due to director Spike Jonze and his inherent understanding of youth. As demonstrated in the underrated Where the Wild Things Are, Jonze has a knack for developing the fragmented mind of the young in a matter of moments. Through the simple pleasures of riding of a bike to a desolate stare at a raucous party, Jonze gives us an invasive look at our protagonists’ diminishing relationship with maximum utilization.
Of course there are some issues with Scenes… The acting for the most part is on point, but at times the dialogue gets away from the unproven and unknown teen actors. Even more so, had the film been warranted more time, its sci-fi premise would’ve been more potent amidst the declining health of a friendship. In any event, Scenes…is a terrific film, no matter how we categorize it. Featuring fantastic images and impending doom lurking out of the cookie cutter houses, Scenes… is a film that beautifully captures the death of youth.