Watch a Lou Reed and Metallica Video Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 5 2011 9:11 AM

Darren Aronofsky Directs Lou Reed (or Is It William S. Burroughs?) and Metallica

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Lou Reed in the music video for 'The View'.

On Saturday morning, IFC premiered the music video for “The View,” the much-maligned lead single from Lulu, the unlikely new album by Lou Reed and Metallica based on songs Reed wrote for a production of “the Lulu plays” by the turn-of-the-20th-century German playwright Frank Wedekind. (The Lulu plays also formed the basis for G.W. Pabst’s famous 1929 film Pandora’s  Box.)

The video adds yet another heavy hitter to this already loaded collaboration: Darren Aronofsky, the auteur behind Black Swan, The Wrestler, and Requiem for a Dream. “The first time I heard ‘The View’ I was stunned,” Aronofsky told IFC. “It was a marriage that on the surface made no sense, but the fusion changed the way I thought about both artists and morphed into something completely fresh and new.”

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While some of his contemporaries—most famously, perhaps, David Fincher and Spike Jonze—cut their directorial teeth with music videos, this appears to be only the second such effort from Aronofsky. (His first, so far as I can tell, was for a composition that his frequent collaborator Clint Mansell wrote for Aronofsky’s debut feature, π). And, as music videos go, it’s fairly routine: blurry, high-contrast, black-and-white footage of the band rocking out in a rehearsal space of some kind.

The video does employ a distinctive multiple-exposure sort of effect that, when used on closeups of Reed—his eyes closed, his face deeply creased—makes the 69-year-old rock star look about two decades older than he is. (It helps—or hurts, depending on your point of view—that Aronofsky frequently catches Reed rubbing his eyes and looking rather pained.) As he chants his poetry over Metallica’s thunderous riffing, I couldn’t help but think of William S. Burroughs, who did several of his own noisy collaborations with rock bands.

One difference: There was always an undercurrent of dark humor with Burroughs, and humor seems notably absent in the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration. One atypically positive review (in the Financial Times) even refers to the duo as “two of rock’s most formidably humorless acts.” But, lest we forget, Reed has proved plenty capable of levity in the past. Here’s hoping he finds that feel for irony once again.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.