David Fincher’s Five Finest Music Videos: From Madonna to Aerosmith

fincher videos madonna

A whole gen­er­a­tion of film­mak­ers who came to promi­nence in the late 90s and ear­ly 00s got their start in music videos. Spike Jonze, for instance, went from mak­ing the Beast­ie Boys’ best video, “Sab­o­tage,” to mak­ing Being John Malkovich, the great­est film ever about being John Malkovich. Simon West has the dubi­ous dis­tinc­tion of mak­ing Rick Astley’s “Nev­er Gonna Give You Up,” mak­ing him the hand­maid­en to that loath­some of inter­net meme’s, rick­rolling. He then went on to make the over­stuffed spec­ta­cle Con Air, mak­ing him the hand­maid­en of Nico­las Cage’s dread­ful action career. And Michael Bay, Mr. Death-Of-Cin­e­ma him­self, made slick videos for the Divinyls before branch­ing off into explo­sion porn with the Trans­form­ers fran­chise.

Yet the most cel­e­brat­ed film­mak­er to come out of music videos is David Finch­er. Even before he made his green-tint­ed feel-bad mas­ter­pieces like Zodi­ac and The Social Net­work, he already made a deep impact on Amer­i­can pop­u­lar con­scious­ness – espe­cial­ly if you were watch­ing a lot of MTV dur­ing the wan­ing days of the Cold War. Here are five of his most famous and fine­ly-craft­ed vids.

Vogue,” Madon­na (1990)

Shot in gor­geous black and white, Finch­er makes Madon­na look like a Hol­ly­wood icon of yore while spin­ning one daz­zling image after anoth­er of well-appoint­ed, and remark­ably lim­ber, men vogu­ing. The video was report­ed­ly shot at a break­neck pace, just 16 hours, to accom­mo­date Madonna’s tour sched­ule.

Straight Up,” Paula Abdul (1989)

Finch­er cap­tures Paula Abdul’s sass and her con­sid­er­able danc­ing prowess in this stark, graph­ic video that is almost com­plete­ly devoid of grey.

Free­dom! ’90,” George Michael (1990)

George Michael refused to par­tic­i­pate in the shoot for this video. So Finch­er did what I wish I could do — call up a bunch of super­mod­els includ­ing Nao­mi Camp­bell, Lin­da Evan­ge­lista and Cindy Craw­ford and get them to help out. The result feels like a Victoria’s Secret cat­a­logue come to life.

Janie’s Got a Gun,” Aero­smith (1989)

The song might be catchy but the lyrics are about mur­der and child abuse. Finch­er shoots Aerosmith’s like­ly are­na rock anthem as a crime sto­ry, com­plete with lush col­ors and moody, expres­sion­is­tic depic­tions of the deeds. The video proved to be great train­ing for his sub­se­quent films.

Express Your­self,” Madon­na (1989)

Madonna’s “Express Your­self” was the most expen­sive music video made up to that point, cost­ing $5 mil­lion. A riff off the Ger­man Expres­sion­ist mas­ter­piece, Metrop­o­lis, this work fea­tures far more corsets, naked men and crotch grabs than Fritz Lang’s film. Madon­na had a great deal of say over the final prod­uct. “I over­saw every­thing — the build­ing of the sets, every­one’s cos­tumes, I had meet­ings with make-up and hair and the cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er, every­body,” she told Rolling Stone mag­a­zine. “Cast­ing, find­ing the right cat — just every aspect.” The suc­cess of this video land­ed Finch­er his first fea­ture film, the trou­bled Alien3.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Film­mak­ing Craft of David Finch­er Demys­ti­fied in Two Video Essays

David Lynch’s Music Videos: Nine Inch Nails, Moby, Chris Isaak & More

Jim Jarmusch’s Anti-MTV Music Videos for Talk­ing Heads, Neil Young, Tom Waits & Big Audio Dyna­mite

Michel Gondry’s Finest Music Videos for Björk, Radio­head & More: The Last of the Music Video Gods

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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