Here’s a downbeat video to send your spirit soaring: Rag and Bone’s upscale-urban menswear line showcases its edge with an inspired pairing of ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov and Memphis jooker Lil Buck:
Gets the blood pumping, doesn’t it? Lil Buck’s famed rubberiness, previously spotlighted in a Gap ad and other videos that have gone viral, gets a welcome jolt of danger in this surreal short film, directed by Georgie Greville of Legs Media. Baryshnikov adds gravitas and cool, laced with something a little threatening. A quick scene of a chess game cleverly alludes to Baryshnikov’s Russian roots, but even that is noirish, and erupts in a flash of feeling. While it’s all a bit Berlin-black-turtleneck-nihilist, the palpable humanity in the film saves it from looking affected. Particularly the small touches of humor: the flicker of a smile on Baryshnikov’s wonderfully expressive face, the sad-clown slump. No performing artist can inject more drama in the subtlest, smallest gesture than Baryshnikov.
The music is by Canadian breakcore composer Venetian Snares, and yes, that’s jazz great Billie Holiday you hear sampled in the song, titled “Ongyilkos Vasarnap.” It’s apparently Hungarian for “suicidal Sunday,” which you knew anyway from the intriguingly depressive feel of it, with those aching strings and raw downbeats.
What works here are all the elements of tension, which give the ad its dynamic punch. There’s the dark, heavy music and the nimble photo editing. The older guy–Baryshnikov is in his 60s–and the young millennial. They play off each other brilliantly: one an urbane, seen-it-all European, the other a hip American kid. They’re like the brandy you savor vs. Red Bull with a shot of Jaegermeister.
I love how the jump cuts add rhythm and emotion, and unify the two very different dancers. The images flash between the noble and the grotesque, as a Renaissance artist might put it–the polished and the rough, elegant and comic, masque and antimasque. Then as now, we’re fascinated by these contrasts, these irreconcilable parts of our essential humanness. It satisfies something innate to see opposites in play.
I especially admire the explosive hip-hop montage that shows Baryshnikov rising from his chair like he’s bursting into flame. It brings to mind a dark, stark dance with chairs and lots of edge called “Minus 16,” created by Ohad Naharin of the Israeli company Batsheva:
A Rag & Bone spokesperson told us the film was a way to present the 2015 collection in lieu of a traditional runway show. A smart choice, brought about with a smart team of collaborators, from dancers to designers and the film’s direction. Greville’s other work for Legs Media often has a dance sensibility, as seen in films for Lexus and this one for Target. More, please.