To add color or not: That is the question
Over the weekend, I saw the music video for Grand Ole Party’s new single “Look Out Young Son,” and was mesmerized by its haunting black-and-white images of what appears to be an old Western speakeasy full of ghostly white children and vagabonds:
Yesterday I went online to find the video so I could watch it again, and lo and behold, I found another version that turned out to be the director’s cut. This version was in big, bold color, with saturated golds and reds throughout. It also had a new intro, a little girl who skips up to an old-time Kinetoscope and peeks in to watch the show. Well, it just so happens the director, Manny Marquez, is my neighbor, so I immediately got in touch with him to get the full story behind the competing versions. Here is what he had to say:
“‘Look Out Young Son’ is basically a blues song. To me, it’s as if Kristin, the singer of Grand Ole Party, was a female Robert Johnson at the Crossroads making that deal with the Devil. The camera we were using — circa 1860’s style, and with a 140-year-old lens — was only capable of creating black-and-white images in its day, and had done that with photographs since the Civil War. By using an HD camera to shoot the image off the camera’s back plate, we were capturing what a photographer would have seen on the plate if Grand Ole Party had walked into the photo studio in 1865. Literally, a 19th-century HD image! Then we went beyond the chemical limitations of that camera, and focused on the optical ones, and that is what resulted in our color version.
“The band decided they wanted the final version to be in black-and-white. They were fans of 1920’s German films, and wanted that kind of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari vibe. What we had done in color is entirely unique photographically, and in black-and-white, it was back where we started, in the 1800’s. I realized I needed to stop focusing on the original idea and make it work for everyone, so this is what we did: We had seen some portraits a former professor had done for a movie that were printed on silver paper, and even though the images were black-and-white, they seemed elevated somehow. We decided to transfer that idea to video. In the end, the band’s official release of the video isn’t black and white to me, it’s black and silver!”
PopWatchers, does it matter to you if there is an artist’s cut and a director’s cut for a video or movie? Do you prefer old black-and-white films over color? Or is good art just good art, and let’s leave it at that?