Mixing genres: fashion film and music video

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CANADA / Tame Impala

CANADA’s clip for the psychedelic rock band Tame Impala recently won the best music video award at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival 2016 (discover all winners). Now this might seem confusing – why would a fashion film festival hand out awards to music videos? There exist already a large variety of music video awards, such as the one in Berlin who equally awarded The Less I Know The Better with a second place. So what is the difference between a music video and a fashion film, and how are both related to each other?

Indeed, CANADA’s clip seems to take the best of two worlds: an harmoniously stylish ensemble that perfectly resonates the adventurous sexual journey of two fashionable youngsters in an exciting up-beat tempo. Both the overall “fashionable look” of the video and the music dictating its rhythm are fundamental to the organization of the fantasy-like play out of narrative. This indicates a remarkable development in the music video genre. When previously the music video would mainly be a support to the actual music, a way to visually illustrate its auditorial feel, today it seems to really be evolving in more cinematic terms. This means that the video/film is taking up a much more independent role from music, resulting in an artistic work that can be appreciated and enjoyed apart from whether we like the song or not. In other words, the music simply becomes part of a greater whole in which cinematography, fashion and narrative come together. And with all these different elements being in constant play with each other, the music video becomes a lot more interesting – also in these various fields.

As a result, these relatively young genres are increasingly blurring, developing with and through each other. This is very much characteristic of the fashion film as a genre. Marketa Uhlirova, fashion history and theory researcher and co-founder of the Fashion in Film Festival, has therefore described “fashion film” as “…an umbrella term or uber-genre that accomodates, and breaks down the boundaries of, a great variety of existing genres.” However, she argues, there is something that holds them all together, namely what she calls “the fashion film effect,” which she quite abstractly describes as ‘a unique, emotionally charged layering of two materials, namely the sartorial and the cinematic.’ What this definition is in fact saying is that the fashion film is always about interplay and interaction – that is of the versatility that is the craft of fashion, and the cinematic surface that shows off different colors, textures and shapes as in a moving painting, implicitly or explicitly giving birth to narration.

As a genre, psychedelic rock is probably the ideal starting point for creating a fashion film that speaks to the imagination. But in all, it is truly fascinating how CANADA has managed to create a work that offers the listener/spectator a truly inspirational and enriching interpretation of the song’s lyrics. It is because the video goes beyond lyrics and the overall musical feel and rhythm, thereby offering a new experience, that it is capable of intersecting the fashion film genre — all by adding a new kind of sophistication to teenage high school fashion and culture.

Uhlirova, Marketa. “The Fashion Film Effect.” Fashion Media. Ed. Djurdja Bartlett, Shaun Cole, and Agnès Rocamora. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. 118–129.


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