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Romain Gavras - Directing The Damage

Words:

Edd Norval
February 3, 2021

The best way to understand an artist is through their art. Nothing is different about the French filmmaker Romain Gavras, whose unique videos are captivating marvels in amongst a cluttered sphere of work.

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Music videos - long past their heady epitome of the MTV-era - are now digital clips that we may or may not see. Our consumption of music has changed to being more passive, particularly with the proliferation of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It’s no longer a big deal, hardly an occasion, when a new video drops. Instead of spending the time watching music videos, we listen to songs and occasionally look at the album artwork.


For a music video in this era - to be seen in to be talked about. Considering that the demographic that watches music videos are far more condensed now than a decade or two prior, coupled with the fact that these videos have a relatively short time (averaging around 4-minutes) to capture the attention of the audience, it is an increasingly difficult medium to succeed in.


Few have managed in the last few years, considering the uphill battle they must fight. Thinking back, there are a few that stand out at all. Good news then if you’re Romain Gavras as most of them come from you. Bad news for the majority of others.

Reaching prominence through the delightfully cast and choreographed ‘Gosh’ video for Jamie xx or Kanye West’s ‘No Church in The Wild’, whose depiction of internal unrest far superseded the recent outbreaks of violence in the US. 


Gavras’ works are largely remembered for their kinetic nature, a physical and aggressive visual lexicon dominates his scripting and techniques, slowed-down to capture the raging sinew of his protagonists, particularly prevalent in his controversial outings for MIA and Justice with ‘Born Free’ and ‘Stress’, respectively.


Shot with the sort of shaky hands that make us feel a part of the action, his often riotous productions have gained the director the reputation of an enfant terrible, creating visionary works that provoke powerful reactions, usually through the hard-hitting and unflinching imagery involved.

Working in commercial films - having released The World Is Yours in 2018 - the French director also works in advertising, creating a memorable depiction of the Playstation 4 last year, highlighting the console’s ability to raise the pulse of its players, an atmospheric tribute to an iconic machine.


Gavras has a raw ambition, something that transcends his music videos. This is brought to light in his works across the board. His flavour is distinctly European, peppered with the energetic La Haine bubbling beneath the surface as well as the sensibility of arthouse cinema - of which his native land has a rich history. 


Having made many memorable outings, the director now faces the challenge of embodying his high-tempo music videos into something longer and more substantial. It can be done, with Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast and Under The Skin being hits well-beyond his own iconic music videos. It’s a transition that takes time, something that the meticulous Gavras doesn’t sound afraid of, but rather embraces. 

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