I once had dreams of becoming a beautiful poet
I can't remember the last time a full length movie affected me as much as Lana Del Rey's sweeping, ten-minute "Ride" video clip. The indie-pop goddess is now so far ahead of the game when it comes to combining music with a visual element that she's almost created her own genre. This is the kind of ARTPOP Lady Gaga has spent her entire career trying to achieve but just doesn't have the emotional depth to pull off. I thought Lana was verging on self-parody in her "Summertime Sadness" video but she's taken the next step in her perennially gloomy evolution by escaping the sepia-tinged beauty of her mid-20th century comfort zone. The doomed beauty queen loses her crown - and gown - in "Ride", moving through the seedy heart of America on the back of Harley.
I was always an unusual girl
There's so much greatness on display in Anthony Mandler's mini-masterpiece that I'm almost scared to deconstruct it and find a flaw. So in broad strokes, the clip begins with Lana swinging on a tyre against a quintessentially American backdrop of harsh red rocks and watery blue sky. She is no longer the face of elegant repression. The Queen of sadcore sheds her perfectly-coiffed hair and sophisticated outfits in favour of a home perm and denim skirt. It looks like a scene from Easy Rider and, as the video progresses, it soon becomes apparent that the similarities are not a coincidence. Lana's latest incarnation could be a character from that Dennis Hopper classic. She is the ultimate biker bitch, singing and screwing her way across the United States on the back of a motorbike. You know you're in for something special when the narration begins with: "I was in the winter of my life and the men I met along the road were my only summer."
I was born to be the other woman
Broken dreams and lost hope are two of Lana's favourite subject matters but she's never captured them more beautifully on film. We're taken on a tour of truck stops, dive bars and seedy motels. Our doomed protagonist talks us through her life - failed singing career, prostitution and perennial loneliness being some of the highlights - before, somewhat surprisingly given the diva's penchant for doom, finding freedom and unexpected salvation on the back of a motorbike. At least that's my interpretation. Technically, "Ride" is a triumph. The woman formerly known as Lizzy Grant embodies the character superbly - probably because it's just a slightly darker mutation of the Lana Del Rey persona she dreamed up prior to recording Born To Die. She is so defiant and committed to the role because so much of herself went into creating it.
I believe in the person I want to become
And then there's Anthony Mandler's exquisite direction. Every scene is a work of art. How can you make being fucked from behind on a pinball machine by a disgusting, old man so heartbreakingly beautiful? Or the moment where the biker carefully brushes her hair so touching? My favourite scene is probably where Lana points a gun to her head while wearing an Indian headdress. The camera is hand held and the shot is framed slightly off-centre. It would have been temping to shoot the soon-to-be iconic moment square-on but that would have been a little too perfect. Anthony understands that Lana is a study in frayed beauty and bottled turmoil. I thought the pair's "National Anthem" video would be hard to top but this easily surpasses it.
The "Paradise Edition" of Born To Die is released on November 14. I already ordered the boxset!