MUSIC: Video Dose: Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

In honor of the Winter Olympics currently going down in Vancouver, this week’s Video Dose features Canadian native sons (and daughter) Arcade Fire. Admittedly, Arcade Fire is from Montreal, which is a long way from Vancouver. Still, they’re one of the most talented and successful bands in their genre to emerge recently from the Great White North.

Deciding which Arcade Fire video would be most appropriate for this Video Dose was no easy task. For me, it came down to the respective videos for “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),” both from the band’s debut album Funeral. (The band doesn’t have a lot of videos, but I did consider highlighting something more recent and/or fan-produced.) Ultimately, however, I decided to go with the latter choice for two reasons: it’s animated, which seemed appropriate given this year’s nomination of an animated film for Best Picture, and it’s really snowy, which fit well with the Olympics theme (and is slightly ironic in light of the shortage of snow in Vancouver right now).

It’s probably worth mentioning that despite a personal love of animation generally, I’ve frequently been disappointed by animated music videos. They often seem to miss fact that a good video is neither a short film nor a filmed concert, but rather a blending of narrative and performance. In other words, I don’t necessarily want to see a three-minute cartoon set to cool music, I want to watch a genuine music video.

In some ways, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” suffers from that common problem but, for what it’s worth, the editing is more responsive to the music than many other animated videos. The CGI visuals also tie in surprisingly well with some of the band’s other videos. Together, these factors mitigate potential detachment between sound and imagery, and the result is a video that doesn’t feel lacking, even if the band itself never shows up onscreen. MTV also apparently liked the video, as it nominated “Neighborhood 3 (Power Out)” for video of the year in 2006.

Besides standing a head above other animated videos and jiving well with today’s headlines, “Neighborhood #3″ is just visually striking. It was team-directed by Plates Animation and represents a world that is historic, dystopian, and sleekly modern. Though somewhat less rooted in silent film aesthetics than “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” the warped cityscape is still highly evocative of early German expressionist filmmaking. Brilliantly, however, the computer animation also lends it a contemporary, phantasmagoric quality reminiscent of anime. It’s Murnau meets Miyazaki — and with that combination it can’t go wrong.

Jim Dalrymple is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.

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