Thursday, July 06, 2006

Caught On Tape: Smashing Pumpkins - 'Tonight Tonight'

Once, in college, I took a course in the History of Photography. Because of a particular resonance with me, I chose to write the largest of my research papers on the beginnings of the motion picture, as it emerged from still photography.

Early works from photographers such as Eadweard Muybridge in the mid to late 1800's found that when multiple photographs of a movement were taken in succession over a short span of time, and then placed next to one another, the human eye could form a connection between them to show the way in which things move. Due to earlier research on the eye's ability to retain information for 1/10 of a second, devices such as the zoetrope had already been finding success depicting illustrated 'motion.' Once the exposure time of photography became short enough to freeze-frame a moving object, the concept of creating motion pictures began to flourish. As technology continued to expand, and the capability of motion pictures increased, filmmakers began to emerge. At first, these short films stuck to showing everyday occurrences, but as the possibilities expanded, so did the ideas.

Now, I realize up until now this seems to have little reference to my headline. Film obviously had a long way to go before the more current age of computer technology and music videos. But it was the work of a French stage owner, named Georges Melies, that directly affected the following music video by The Smashing Pumpkins.

Melies saw an opportunity to use film for narrative entertainment - to bring the stage to film. While many did not share his sentiments, he made his attempt. Through an accident involving some film getting caught during recording, he realized the ability to manipulate the medium. With his prior experience in magic, he began hand coloring frames, editing frames through slow and fast motion, and even superimposing figures. These 'trick films' caught the world by surprise. His 1902 film, Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), is still regarded as one of the earliest and most important works in narrative film history.

Fast forward more than 90 years into the future to 1996, when The Smashing Pumpkins won 7 Mtv Video Music Awards for their single, 'Tonight, Tonight.' The music video pays homage to Melies' legendary work, adopting many of the original's scenes directly. The creativity used in transforming the classic into a newer medium makes this arguably one of the top music videos ever made. The ship shown at the end of the video is even named the S.S. Melies, to honor the pioneering filmmaker.

Click here to view Melies' original Le Voyage dans la Lune(1902)!

No comments: