Mylène Farmer: Music Videos IV

Synopsis: n/a

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Mylène Farmer: Music Videos IV 6.75

eyelights: the quality of the video productions.
eyesores: the songs.

After the disappointment of ‘Innamoramento‘, I became more of a passive Mylène Farmer fan; I was no longer picking up anything I could find – including the remix maxi singles, which didn’t inspire me at all due to their source material.

So when Farmer released ‘Les Mots’, her first actual singles collection (‘Dance Remixes’ was just a remix compilation), in 2001, I paid it very little mind – despite the inclusion of the single version of the non-album gem “Que mon cœur lâche”.

In fact, it was years before I even got the CD single for its title track, one of three new songs on the set.

Mind you, a friend of mine had made me aware of the existence of the limited edition, 3CD long box version of the collection when he bought it strictly for its sexy artwork. Naturally, my collection required one as well and I eventually got it.

Many, many years later.

I also got her next album, 2005’s ‘Avant que l’ombre…’, based on the cover and the fact that a limited edition set was available locally. I listened to it, but I wasn’t especially fond of it: it felt interminable, and the songs didn’t stand out.

And thus my love of Mylène Farmer completely waned.

Naturally, I didn’t get to see the videos surrounding that period, aside for “Fuck Them all”.

But the ‘Music Videos IV’ DVD satisfied my curiosity.

(nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)

1. Les Mots: The lead single from the eponymous compilation, “Les Mots” is a duet with Seal, with her singing in French and him in English. It’s an okay ballad, but it feels generic. I find it boring, punchless: it’s mostly atmospheric synths with a mild beat, overlayed with the duo’s vocals. Frankly, it’s beyond me that this was considered single material at all.

It was a massive hit anyway.

In the video, Farmer is on a raft in a small storm, sporting long, disheveled hair; she looks quite sexy. The raft is surrounded by gray/brown skies and water. Seal is eventually revealed to us and we discover that she’s reminiscing about him, of being in his arms. And of his drowning. There are close-up inserts of him singing. It’s a beautiful, though erratic, video. 5.0/8.0

2. C’est une belle journée: The second single from ‘Les Mots’ is a more upbeat number backed by piano and acoustic guitars. It’s kind of fun on its own, with its pleasant, uplifting chorus. It’s an okay song, but the vocals are soft and the music is nothing exceptional; it’s a basic pop song. Still, it’s an improvement over her then-recent fare.

The video is a cartoon based on of her own simplistic, hand-drawn doodles. It finds her likeness lying in bed, woken by a flying mutton bouncing through the window. Then she takes a bath, sits on the fridge, swinging her legs while the sheep freezes inside. A little girl shows up, hanging upside down in the window and Mylène goes out to play with her. The girl flies off with a balloon and does cartwheels while the sheep hop. Mylène is caught in tornado with the sheep and then goes to bed. It’s a cute video, nothing more, but it’s appropriate for the song. It ends with “À suivre…” (“To be continued…”) but there never was a follow-up. 6.5/6.5

3. Pardonne-moi: The third single from ‘Les Mots’, “Pardonne-moi” is a moderately-paced dance number driven thick beats and strings. It has a nice opening piano hook and a catchy vocal, but it lacks punch; it feels a bit soft and much of the music is standard fare. It didn’t do especially well, though it briefly hit the top 10.

The video is in black and white. It features a close-up of her singing at the screen in multiple close-ups in front of a black background. There are inserts of her as a nun and others of her and her super long mane moving in smoke and wind. There are also inserts of a turbaned man riding a horse. Eventually, the close-ups find her in billows of smoke and her eyes go white – while the nun’s eyes go fully black. I don’t really know what it means, and it is rudimentary, but it’s pretty. 6.0/7.5

4. Fuck Them All: The lead single from ‘Avant que l’ombre…’, this number has a heavy, punchy beat and pianos flirting in the background. Musically, it’s much more interesting than much of Farmer’s fare at the time, but the title is stupid and the lyrics are sometimes cringe-worthy – particularly the English ones. It feels as though she’s trying to be edgy – trying too hard. Too bad. It sold okay, but not especially well – by her standards.

The accompanying video (Based on “Les épouvantails”, by Martial Leiter) is nice, stylish. It finds her with super long hair, wearing a long black coat and riding a black horse through the forest in winter. She goes to a decrepit factory, dismounts and walks through it until she finds a cage hanging from the ceiling, empty. She sees a short, spiky haired version of herself in the cage. She throws something, breaking a glass wall and walks through it. Now outside, in the snow, she finds the frozen cadaver of the short-haired version of herself. She plunges her hand through her and pulls out a sabre. Then she walks out through the woods, goes out and finds black cloth-covered scarecrows with white heads. She attacks them and, as she “hits” them, she releases the spiky-haired prisoner from her cage. Now alone, with everything gone, she disappears in dust. The video suggests that the woman Mylène portrays has returned to avenge herself from these shadowy scarecrow figures – who have been the death of her. Not sure. Still cool, though. 6.5/7.75

5. Q.I.: A song about intellectual vs sexual attraction, this mid-tempo dance number has some interesting wordplay, but it’s kind of corny. As for the music, it’s okay, but generic. Frankly, it feels as though she and Boutonnat aren’t really trying anymore at this point. Perhaps they fell into the trap of offering a product, something people would expect from Farmer and lost their creative edge in the process. Anyway, this didn’t do especially well.

Set in a ‘Blade Runner‘-like metropolis, we find Farmer on a large display on the side of a building. A long-haired, bearded man walks up to it, longingly. We flashback to a seduction scene between them, see them dancing together behind glass, making out next to large bookcases, find him dancing for her with his shirt open, and see them lovemaking on a bed. What’s sort cool and creepy at once is that, as they caress, their hands go under each other’s skin, stretching it. Anyway, aside for the setting, there’s not much else to it. It ends abruptly with him dancing and her putting out her hand in a “stop” gesture on the large display. It’s pretty, but that’s about it. 6.75/7.5

6. Redonne-moi: The third single from ‘Avant que l’aube…’ was hand-picked by Farmer, who wanted this song released. A simple, contemplative number, with atmospheric synth and voice, it’s okay, but not a natural single. It failed miserably, which was a major a disappointment in tandem with the album’s sinking sales.

This video is simple but moody. Shot in the Ateliers du Louvre, it finds Farmer in a white blouse and beige skirt walking into a dusty, shadowy, gothic mansion. There are nice statues and furniture but most are dustcloth-covered. There are inserts of her singing. A black cat saunters in. She’s melancholic, reminiscing, unveiling a statue of herself – next to which she spends the rest of the video. There are also inserts of someone chiseling and then dropping their tools. I’m not quite sure what that was supposed to mean but, on the whole, it’s a lovely video. 6.75/7.5

7. L’amour n’est rien…: Though it has a mildly catchy chorus, this is a pretty simple pop song. But at least there’s a bit more going on beyond its heavy beats, with guitars and synths filling the song in nicely. It wasn’t a huge seller or radio hit, but apparently it was the most popular song in Russia in 2006. Go figure.

This video doesn’t get more rudimentary: It begins with Farmer from behind, sporting short, spiky hair. She puts on lipstick and turns to face the camera. As she sings, she strips off her golden jacket. Then she removes her white top, revealing her bra. Then she takes off her skirt and dances in her underwear, having fun. Finally, she feigns removing her panties, but eventually peels them (and her bra) off. It ends with her covering her naked self. Most of the video consists of quick cuts, many of which are fuzzy. You’d think that watching Farmer strip would be enticing, but it left me cold. And, to me, it felt like a desperate attempt to reclaim or retain her sexy image. 6.75/5.5

8. Peut-être toi: This final single from ‘Avant que l’aube…’ is a simplistic high-energy dance number with characterless vocals. It’s catchy, but it’s dull compared to Farmer’s more elaborate material. And its background vocals (“Shut up! Shut the fuck up!”) are totally beneath her. Of course, after “Fuck Them all”, maybe this was par for the course. Apparently, fans were expecting this to be the second single, but it was released much later, which might explain its chart failure; perhaps it was too little, too late by then.

This clip’s unexpected: done in a Japanese animation-style, it finds her anime likeness being rescued from a cell, where she was chained against the wall. She and her rescuer run off through a grungy hallway but are intercepted by robots. There are inserts of her just walking towards the camera with a city and oversized moon in the background. Then we watch as she attacks the robots with a sword, and runs to the edge of a skyscraper. She falls and lands in water, which is filled with ruins. The man comes for her and they find their way out of the city, into a deserted world outside – but they’re impaled by a giant arrow just as they hug one another. The animation isn’t superb, but it’s a decent little short for what it is. Sadly, it doesn’t match the song one bit. 6.0/7.0

The collection runs a total of 35 minutes but the DVD is bulked up by 22-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the “Fuck Them All” video, backed by various remixes and featuring brief interview snippets with the director.

It’s not particularly insightful but, on the whole, it’s a good collection. Fans who like this period of Mylène Farmer’s career couldn’t ask for more: it’s all here and in chronological order. Even non-fans might find something of value here.

I wasn’t especially taken with it because the music wasn’t anything noteworthy, but the videos are nice. The fact is that I prefer Farmer’s earlier videos, which were more filmic – which is why I quite enjoyed “Fuck Them All”, despite the song.

After ‘Innamoramento’ and ‘Avant que l’ombre’, I lost interest in Mylène Farmer’s current output. When she released ‘Monkey Me’ seven years later, I’d completely overlooked two albums – but I bought it because it was released on blu-ray audio.

It was AMAZING – her best in nearly two decades.

So I went back in time, discovered that 2008’s ‘Point de Suture’ was actually pretty good and 2010’s ‘Bleu noir’, which she made without her usual compadré, Laurent Boutonnat, was also fairly decent – at least in bits. I’d totally missed out.

I’m back on board. Though I quickly tired of 2015’s ‘Interstellaires’, I’ll no doubt be paying attention when Farmer releases her next album. For a while I’d lost faith. But, in the meantime, she’d proven herself again. My faith is restored.

When her next video collection comes out, I’ll get that too.

Stay tuned.

Date of viewing: November 18, 2017

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