Filmmakers to Watch: Noel Paul & the Work of That Go

Noel Paul may only be directing music videos and commercials right now, but he’s got a cinematic style and unique artistry to his work that will serve him for a long time. One half of the filmmaking team known as That Go, Paul and Stefan Moore have made some of the more interesting music video art in the past few years. Some of them (more recently) are even short films, which is nice to see the progressive expansion of their film body moving in that direction. I’m not trying to say I know that Paul or That Go has any intentions of making a feature film one day, but I’m simply saying I know that he could make a pretty damn decent one if he wanted. One of the signs of a good, blossoming filmmaker is the consistency in their work, the progression in their work and the common themes and imagery in their work. Noel Paul has displayed these qualities and I, for one, will be keeping an eye on him for future projects. Here’s a select retrospective of his video work with some of my thoughts and comments (in a sort of chronological order).

Back in 2009, one of Paul and Moore’s early music videos, “Jerk It” for Thunderheist, started them off with a bang, winning a Grand Jury Prize at SXSW. Co-directed by Moore, it’s main attraction is the obvious slyness of the imagery coupled with the song and song title, and it all works very well and is fun to watch. Paul would carry at least one of the themes from this video forward, and that’s the theme of the female muse in a studio setting where there’s no telling what may happen to her. Though most of his later work appears a little on the darker side than this one, there’s still a strain of eerie-ness to “Jerk It” which is hard to shake off after a viewing.

The video “Carry the Deed” for Angel Deradoorian shows Paul maturing in his use of the female form in a studio setting. There’s also a couple of types of imagery (the beach setting, the fairly creepy digital pupils, and the stroboscopic and 360-degree profile shots) which will crop back up in future work as you’ll see below. Paul also has a unique ability that almost feels as if he’s blending fashion photography with cinema that I also think is very well honed. You could easily picture him creating a commercial for some Alexander MacQueen women’s fragrance or something one day.

Their videos for the band Röyksopp, “Senior” and “The Drug” are really one in the same. “Senior” is basically a short film and “The Drug” appears to be a sort of shorter re-edit of the former. Moving this time from the studio to a dilapidated industrial-side somewhere in Detroit, Moore and Paul expand on some of their themes while also weaving in a Fish Tank-via-Gomorrah-esque group of young girls and a “Come to Daddy”-via-28 Days Later barrage of sparseness and creepiness. Shown below here is the “short film” version for the track “Senior.”

Paul’s video for The Dø’s “Slippery Slope” expands on the style of videos like “Carry the Deed”. “Slippery Slope” has an oddly M.I.A. kind of feel to it, and the video combines classic Japanese style horror imagery and taiko drumming and the usual female form in a color splashed studio setting.

That Go’s video for Alex Winston’s “Sister Wife” features Mark Romanek “Criminal”-era spotlighting and even more creepy imagery than their previous videos. This one is chock full with shadow lovers, angry ghosts (or just a indoor tornado maybe) and alternate reality puking cats. An homage to the Japanese horror classic House, maybe?

Noel Paul’s video for Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is maybe the most narrative work to date for Paul. I won’t give away the faint plot line or sort of surprise ending, but I will say that it’s a great use of both his skills with stark and dark imagery, atmospheres and the singular female form in distress.

Paul’s first video for Bat for Lashes, “Laura,” is fabulous. It’s simple in concept and tone, not too over the top and actually feels like it has a lot of story behind it. The storyline may not feel completely original, but it is most certainly inspired and connected to the lyrics of the song in a unique way. It’s a great match up of words and imagery.

Paul’s video for Thousands’ “At the Edges” is again simple in concept and tone, but effective. It utilizes the digital pupil theme Paul seems to like playing with (there’s definitely a thing with eyes in most of their work). The best part about it though, is how dark it is (both visually and thematically), and how vintagely processed the film is (originally shot on Super 8).

Paul’s second video for Bat for Lashes, “All Your Gold,” is again nearly flawless. The combination of music and imagery is pitch perfect and simple, artistic use of the iridescent neoprene bodysuit Natasha Khan wears is a unique and great touch. If you watch it long enough, it’s almost like she’s liquid gold.

And finally, there’s Paul’s third video for Bat for Lashes, “A Wall.” A little more narrative than the other two Bat for Lashes videos, it’s still strong and a great example of the cinematic style and creative use and blending of fashion, photography, music, film and art for which Noel Paul and That Go should be recognized.

Bat For Lashes "Two Suns" Video Collection

The sophomore album Two Suns by Bat For Lashes may be my favorite disc so far this year (save the debut Dead Weather LP), and as consistently good as Natasha Khan’s songs are, so are her promotional videos.

First, there’s “Daniel.” Where Khan, dolled up in a Footloose-y sweat suit appears trapped in dreamscape like something out of a Samuel Bayer video circa mid-nineties David Bowie. Creepy mimes with black balloons tied to their bodies like alien appendages chase Khan around her desolate world and in her station wagon until she can unite with her titular Karate Kid companion Daniel.

Then there’s “Pearl’s Dream” where Khan is seen literally performing for herself in some ambient-lit and smoky planetarium designed like a child’s shoebox-solar-system, but with wolves. Oh, and she’s dressed like Cher circa late-eighties. Interestingly, her doppelganger is blonde, and stellarly sussed out at the climax. While this video is my least favorite of the three so far, it’s worth the view because the song is so captivating.

Finally, there’s the latest video for “Sleep Alone.” This is another one of those amazing tracks on the album that you’ll continue to hear the melody for after the song has ended, and the video’s not too shabby either. This time we follow Khan as she spends her sleepless night trying in vain to build a man to keep her company in bed. No surprise, she’s building him out of little twinkly lights and bits of scraps that just seem, well… very Bat For Lashes. Take a look:

Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Bat For Lashes until now, take a listen to the debut LP as well, Fur and Gold from 2006. It’s pretty impressive, and “Two Suns” really just builds on its eclectic This Mortal Coil-via-early-Goldfrapp type song quality. In fact, if you have both albums, play Fur and Gold all the way through and then immediately follow it up with Two Suns. Once you hear the opening track “Glass” build to it’s early percussion-laced crescendo, you’ll be hooked.

Bat For Lashes is getting ready to play some dates across the US:

7th August 2009 – Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
9th August 2009 – Lollapalooza
12th August 2009 – Webster Hall, New York
13th August 2009 – Boston Paradise Rock Club
15th August 2009 – 9:30 Club, Washington DC
17th August 2009 – The Loft @ Center Stage, Atlanta
19th August 2009 – The Parish, Austin
20th August 2009 – The Loft, Dallas
22nd August 2009 – Bluebird Theatre, Denver
25th August 2009 – Venue, Vancouver *Venue Change*
26th August 2009 – Neumo’s, Seattle
27th August 2009 – Wonder Ballroom, Portland
29th August 2009 – Outside Lands Festival
31st August 2009 – The Music Box Theatre @ Fonda, LA