Manhatta

I think this is the best music video I’ve made, though the YouTube masses have decided that my video of The Blood of the Poet wins.  I like ’em both.  Some guy on YouTube working for The Cinematic Orchestra actually filed a copyright claim against my video… The Cinematic Orchestra actually thought they owned the rights to the original film Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand from 1921.  I let them know that just because your band calls its tepid album “Manhatta,” that doesn’t mean you have the exclusive rights to anything from the 1920s.  Copyright nazi’s can bite my celluloid behind.


There are three songs on this video, each from a different album by The Books, (in order: Lemon of Pink, “Take Time;” Thought for Food, “Thankyoubranch;” and Lost and Safe “smells like content“)  a subtle and profound band that makes aleatoric music .  (By the by, The Books made their own music video for this song which is also amazing).  Some of the lines in their music aligned particularly well with the video, particularly the opening lines in which we hear a man explaining in Italian:

Tutto è santo! Tutto è santo! Tutto è santo! Non c’è niente di naturale nella natura, ragazzo mio.Tentilo bene in mente. (All is sacred! All is sacred! All is sacred! There is nothing natural in nature, my lad. Keep that well in mind)

These lines fit in nicely with the 1920’s NYC skyline and the poetry of Walt Whitman.  This is followed a little later by the voices of a group of women gossiping about sex. They laugh and one woman explains “Ce n’est pas la longueur qui fait la puissance;” in English, “It is not the length that makes the strength!”  There is a pause as the video switches over to images of tremendous phallic skyscrapers and we hear the women burst our laughing again.  The rest of the lyrics are in English.

The entire movie, a gorgeous tribute to New York City, is interspersed with quotes from Walt Whitman’s ecstatic poetry about the city, specifically: “City of Ships;” “Mannahatta;” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry;” “A Broadway Pageant;” and “Song of the Broad-Axe.” All of these poems are worth reading.  There is something so wonderful about this film: its joyous celebration of the modern New York, its fixation on the gridded, vertiginous perspectives of the whole and the chaotic movement of the masses, the bigness and smallness of everything, the abstraction of photography into the movement of film, the momentariness of every scene compounded with the eternal monumentality of the city (and film), the idea that everything we see is completely unique to its time, yet the striking realization that what we see in the film is almost exactly what you might see today, the newness of these perspectives.


I made this film to say goodbye to New York City when I set off for graduate school.  But I’ll be back.  And you’ll still be there waiting for me, NYC, city of paradox, then and now, to be as always, shifting eternally into something new, that which you already were.  This one’s for you.

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