After a brief, exclusive sojourn on Tidal (something that still happens in 2018, apparently) the music video for LCD Soundsystem’s new single (another thing that still happens in 2018, apparently!) is now available to watch on YouTube. Whether you love or could leave LCD Soundsystem is almost irrelevant here, though, because the song, “oh baby,” has mostly become a backdrop for other stars. Namely, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, Sissy Spacek, and David Strathairn.
Johnson uses the song’s nearly six-minute length to tell a simple story about complex things. Love is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of them — but so is teleportation. Also, there’s a chicken (named Garlic). If projects like this are all we get from Johnson until his new Star Wars trilogy hits theaters, I’ll be thrilled.
The whole first act is a flurry of Spacek and Strathairn sketching out equations, manhandling notebooks, and shooting each other looks that say more than most dialogue usually does. In fact, as much as I personally love Johnson’s famous lightning-fast scripts, it’s his often overlooked ability to show instead of tell that draws me to his movies; that’s maybe why the music video format seems to suit him so well here.
Johnson’s just as good (maybe better) at showing than telling
He doesn’t skimp on verve, though. Johnson — who said on Twitter that he edited the video on his home computer, in what he says may be his first top-to-bottom edit since Brick — makes lots of quick, short jumps that help convey the excitement that must be coursing through our main characters as they edge closer to solving a seemingly impossible problem together.
Act two sees the characters swap the math for machinery, and Spacek and Strathairn start building a device in a garage. (Honestly, the whole video has a very Primer vibe, though it will definitely leave you with fewer headaches.) Act three... well, just watch and find out.
There’s a fourth star in this video, too: Johnson’s longtime partner behind the camera, cinematographer Steve Yedlin. A Hollywood veteran and the director of photography for all of Johnson’s major releases, he characteristically captures some gorgeous scenes, including some of the most beautiful shots of pencils and paper that you’ll probably ever see. Really, though, it’s the way he and Johnson choreograph the camera’s movement at pivotal moments that help sell the emotional arc of the video.
The single comes off of 2017’s American Dream, the first LCD Soundsystem album since James Murphy retired the band with a week-long run of shows at New York City’s Terminal 5 and a final farewell headliner at Madison Square Garden in 2011 (followed by a documentary about the whole thing). Whatever the reason for the exit and subsequent turnaround, it resulted in this sweet little short film. Like Johnson’s video for “oh baby” shows, life is full of unintended consequences.