Radiohead and Paul Thomas Anderson: Bringing Art-Bromance to the World
    • FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2016

    • Posted by: Ben Feit



    There is a marked difference between Radiohead's new music video for "Present Tense" (off their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool) and Paul Thomas Anderson's landmark film There Will Be Blood. The former was released yesterday, the latter almost nine years ago; the former runs five and a half minutes, the latter two and a half hours (good luck not falling asleep). But at their cores the two works share the creative forces of Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Paul Thomas Anderson. This audio-visual love story was born with the Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood in 2007, and continued on to create the soundscapes of The Master (2012) and Inherent Vice (2014). I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I understood half of what was going on in either of those later films, but shit, they were still really cool. I also won't be telling you I'm not creeped out by Greenwood's brooding, skeletal appearance - but hey, that's why he's writing scores and not acting.

    For some perspective, Rolling Stone credited the score of There Will Be Blood as "a sonic explosion that reinvented what film music could be" in a 2010 list of the decade's (2000s) best films. PTA is one of the most enigmatic and visionary directors of our time. Choosing Jonny Greenwood three times in a row to score highly anticipated films with budgets upwards of $20 million might say a little something about the mutual respect between these artists. I mean, the guy doesn't even cast his wife (SNL legend Maya Rudolph) in any of his films.

    In 2015, PTA continued the art-bromance by documenting the making of Junun, a collaborative album by Greenwood and Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur with the Indian ensemble the Rajasthan Express. The documentary, also called Junun, was a beautiful and pure examination of the creative process behind the album. Then came A Moon Shaped Pool, released back in May of this year. PTA directed the visually stunning, surreal video for "Daydreaming," which follows an unfazed Thom Yorke through a labyrinth of arbitrary everyday settings. He walks through homes, offices, warehouses, stores, and forests, simply opening doors that transport him from each one to the next. Finally, crawling into a cave on a snow-covered mountainside and laying down next to a fire, Yorke falls asleep as night falls. Anderson helped the band distribute film of the music video to theaters and encouraged screenings, like any considerate father would do for his lovechild with Radiohead.

    Now, just yesterday, PTA and Radiohead brought us the minimalist counterpart to the elaborate surrealism of "Daydreaming." The intimate video features Yorke and Greenwood playing guitar with a vintage CR78 drum machine - nothing else. Greenwood, forever avoiding eye contact, studies his guitar and the curtain of his dark hair from the inside. Meanwhile, if you haven't seen Thom Yorke in a while like me, you're wondering when he stopped looking like the cast of Trainspotting and turned into a middle-aged yoga teacher. But who cares once they start playing - it's immersive, like sitting in the room with the two of them, lost in Yorke's disgustingly good voice. The video begins and ends with white noise and Greenwood toggling the power of the CR78. The simplicity is incredibly satisfying.

    Radiohead and PTA have created a truly impressive catalogue of collaborations. While the band and the director are powerhouses on their own, their work together has elevated their most impressive, characteristic qualities. No, I'm not talking about casting Mark Wahlberg as a porn star (Boogie Nights) or making stalkers sound romantic ("Creep"). Not those impressive feats; I'm talking about the art of making great fucking film scores and music videos. Together, they have created some of the most interesting works of our time in blending their crafts. "Perfect Sense" is the latest installation, and perhaps the simplest, but the beauty of collaboration has not faded one bit. We can only hope for more from this visionary artistic bond.
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