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To emerge alongside his new solo album Anima, Thom Yorke has released this short film for Netflix, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; they are playfully calling it a “one-reeler” in homage to the silent movie era. But of course, nothing could be more digital and 21st century than this: a sleek piece of luxury content, designed to synergise with another piece of content, streaming on your tablets and smartphones. This elaborate dystopian moodscape, which is without dialogue, is a cross between a pop video and an expensively upholstered film school graduation project – or indeed an ad for cologne: “Anima, by Chanel”.
Yorke himself acts and even dances the lead role; and as executive producer and musical star, it is a prerogative he can exercise in parallel with not giving up the day job. The choreography is by Damien Jalet, who worked on Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, and the piece showcases three new songs: Not the News, Traffic and Dawn Chorus.
Yorke first appears on a grim early-morning subway train, in utilitarian overalls, a uniform he shares with all the other passengers. Exhausted and depressed, they are all nodding off as they are carried to some grisly destination. Factory? Euthanasia? The train and station appear to be in the London underground with the familiar livery removed to make it look like an identikit futurist train. Later the passengers will show up in a dreamlike Paris and Prague.
Everyone’s head lurches and nods uneasily and this is wittily converted into an angular and convulsive dance routine. Then Yorke notices a woman seated opposite, played by the Italian actor Dajana Roncione; they catch each other’s eye. Is there a spark? They all get off but this woman leaves her bag behind. Thom grabs it and rushes to catch up with her, encountering all sorts of impediments, although Yorke and Anderson, frankly, don’t really have any other particularly ingenious ideas about how this situation is to be developed.
Yorke’s character finds himself adrift in a swirling, juddering, thumping mass of dancers’ bodies, often on a huge, stylised surface that is on a slope, but photographed to look level, so Yorke is leaning Keaton-ishly forwards or backwards, as if facing a heavy wind, or implacable gravitational force, preventing him from getting where he wants to go. The odds are stacked against this everyman.
There is something arrestingly Orwellian about this encounter. At first, I was reminded of Julia covertly pressing her love note into Winston’s hands in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Yet it appears to promise a more directly human and dramatic interrelation than proves to be the case. What we get is a boldly staged but directionless series of tableaux taking us to some capital cities that are not photographed in any very unusual way.
The best of this is Yorke’s music, which is fierce and propulsive. But, as a visual spectacle, there is a strong “so-what?” factor.
Source: The Guardian
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