Mylène Farmer: Music Videos III 7.0
eyelights: the quality of the video productions.
eyesores: the songs.
After ‘Anamorphosée’, I couldn’t get enough of Mylène Farmer; for me, the album is a standout of the mid-’90s, perhaps the best pop album of its time. So, naturally, I couldn’t wait until she released her follow-up effort.
I took four years. Four. Long. Years.
The result was ‘Innamoramento’.
Released in 1999, I was initially taken aback by the album’s artwork: with its picture of a long-haired Farmer in a white summer dress, propped above a cage, mired between sky and sea; it suggested a more new agey perspective.
The album sucked.
Don’t get me wrong: it was okay pop. But it lacked the heft of its predecessor: Farmer was singing in this weak, timid voice here, the music was thin and the lyrics were corny. To me, it was by far the worst album that she’d released.
I gave it many spins, but just couldn’t get into it.
I shelved it.
Still, ‘Innamoramento’ was a big hit, selling nearly as many copies as ‘Anamorphosée’ and its singles did quite well on the radio and on music video channels. Naturally, I didn’t have the opportunity of seeing the videos at the time.
The ‘Music Videos III’ collection was released on VHS in 2000 and brings together all of the clips from the ‘Innamoramento’ era, along with a short “making of” of the “L’âme-stram-gram” video. It was later re-released on DVD.
(nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)
1. L’âme-stram-gram: The first single from ‘Innamoramento’ finds Farmer playing with words to create a song full of sexual double entendres. It’s a bit corny, though it’s also crafty. The music is a fairly standard dance number, aside for some “strings” swirling in the background.
Set in China, the video finds Farmer dressed in a purple robe, running out in the countryside with her twin. As they go past and through some yellow and purple drapes to pan flutes and synths, horseback soldiers arrive en masse, swarming the area, tearing it all apart.
The twins spew out long snake-like CGI tongues at each other, creating magical swirls of energy that fell some of the soldiers. Unfortunately, one of the two is captured and imprisoned. The other, wounded, tries to find her, and struggles to make her way to the palace.
She dies on the palace steps and her white-robed spirit continues her journey, finds her twin and incapacitates her captors. This time, when they touch tongues, explosions rock the place, killing many men. They fly off into the night, reunited, spinning in the air together.
They’re separated at dawn: the purple twin runs on a castle rampart as the white one is pulled away in the sky. The purple twin chooses to commit suicide by jumping off a tower, thereby joining her sister. It’s a non-sequitur video, but it’s a nice production and it’s exciting. So points for that. 6.5/7.75
2. Je te rends ton amour: Farmer’s favourite track from the album, this one’s driven by a plodding bass line. It’s a mid-tempo piece which kicks it up for its catchy chorus. Like its predecessor, it’s a thin number, but mostly due to the vocals; there’s more going on musically and the lyrics have more depth.
Shot in widescreen, and seemingly set in the 18th century, this one finds Farmer walking out of a stone tunnel, looking a bit stunned. She goes to an old stone mansion or an abbey (there’s lots of Christian iconography), kneels at a window, over a large book and removes a ring, leaving it there on the book.
She then seems to go to a confessional, as she sings through a wood lattice, and blood leaks from her wrists. There’s a creepy visage on other side, and a clawed hand reaches for her. Statues and chairs topple over. There’s some sort of suggested lovemaking with the creepy “evil monk”, during which blood pools around her.
After he leaves, she walks out in the middle of the room, kneels and lies in the blood. It’s a visually-impressive video, very shadowy, moody, if cryptic. Is it supposed to suggest that she’s turning her back on Christianity? In any event, it was rather controversial in France and was censured upon its release. 6.75/8.0
3. Souviens-toi du jour: Another dance number, “Souviens-toi du jour” is (lyrically) Farmer’s tribute to Holocaust victims. Her vocals are especially thin, the music isn’t anything special, but multiple vocalists back her to heighten the chorus, giving it a lift.
This video is more generic than the previous ones. It finds Farmer standing up from a crouched position, wearing a white dress covered in shreds, like icicles. She’s in a cabin, and sings while various obvious objects (chair, desk, clock, …etc.) light up and burn. She’s either sitting on a couch, at the dinner table, spread eagle on a footrest or walking about sexily. There are a tons of cuts, no story and lots and lots of fire. It’s slightly edgy, but the song’s too thin to support it. 6.75/7.0
4. Optimistique-moi: The fourth single from the album speaks of parent-child relationships and some say that it makes subtle references to incest. I never picked up on that. If anything, I always found the chorus awkward due to the choppiness of “optimistique”.
Set in a circus, the video begins with closed red curtains. Then a circus barker comes out, announces their act. We find Farmer on a tightwire in a white dress, with her hair all spidery, looking down at other circus acts (elephants, clowns, midgets, lions, …etc.).
She comes down and balances on a large ball with a monkey on her shoulder. A knife thrower bursts her balloon as she’s walking towards a young magician. The latter wraps a robe around her shoulders, puts her inside a red box. Then he shoves swords through it.
When he opens the box, she’s no longer there: she’s now on the road, in the back of a truck, free, as the others look for her around the circus. It’s a pretty, artsy video, but it doesn’t really seem to go with the song and it doesn’t tell its story that well. 6.25/7.25
5. Innamoramento: The original album version is probably the most interesting song of the lot due to a superb romantic vocal melody over layered instrumentation, but this live version features weak singing by Farmer; she has no power, is a bit timid in her delivery. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. Sadly, it was the weakest-selling single of the lot. Then again, it’s not really single material.
This video’s a mix of live footage (and audio) of Farmer performing the song in concert and her in a forest. For the live portion, she has her hair up, shaggy-spidery-like and wears a cream, bejeweled, transparent dress. For the forest portion, she’s in a white summer dress with her hair down. The forest part has the colours dialed up, so that the blue of the water and the green of the leaves are unnatural. It has lots of close ups of her face, in slomo, and her lying in the grass or propped up against a tree. It’s a very average video. 7.0/6.0
For me, ‘Music Videos III’ continues the unfortunate slide down into generica that Farmer fell into from “Que mon cœur lâche” onward; from that point, she no longer exclusively collaborated with Laurent Boutonnat on her music videos.
Don’t get me wrong: they’re mostly interesting but they’re far less cinematic than they once were. Not to say that all of Boutonnat’s videos were exceptional, but there was a cohesion between them that one no longer finds at this point in her career.
The 18-minute “making of” video, “Les 5 jours de Pékin”, is slightly more involved than the one on the previous collection. At least there are interview bits with the director, where we hear about the production and Farmer’s work ethic.
The DVD version, which comes with ‘Music Videos II‘ includes “MF Confidential”, an 11-minute look at the making of ‘Anamorphosée’ in Los Angeles. It’s pretty rudimentary, not especially insightful. We do get an eyeful of Farmer, though.
The DVD also comes with some bonus clips from her ‘Live à Bercy’ home video release, including performances of “Ainsi soit-je”, “La poupée qui fait non” and “Rêver”. Given her static stage presence and weak vocals, it’s not engaging.
Still, as a package, ‘Music Videos III’ is decent. Fans of ‘Innamoramento’ and/or its clips are sure to appreciate seeing them all collected together. And the “making of” footage adds to the collection’s overall value, even if it’s brief.
Personally, since I don’t much like the songs, and find the videos less captivating, more generic, than her earlier ones, it’s probably not a set that I’ll return to especially often – perhaps only if I use the DVD’s “Play All” option.
Maybe. We’ll see.
Date of viewing: November 10, 2017