Music Video Relapse: "The Denial Twist" by The White Stripes (2005)

Posted by Adam Fairholm on June 25, 2013 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post

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Out of all the weird show business friendships, I feel like the one between Conan O'Brien and Jack White is near the top for me. It's not that Conan isn't cool enough to hang with Jack White, it's that Jack and Conan both cultivate such different public personalities - Jack White is the somewhat inaccessible odd artist, and Conan is the approachable and likable comedian who is on TV every night. But as it turns out, they are good friends going back to the late 1990s.

The White Stripes were the unofficial landmark occassion band for Conan O'Brien for a while, playing his last show on Late Night in 2009, and his first show on his TBS show, as well as many regular performances (They were his musical guest for a week straight in 2003, promoting Elephant). There's a link between the White Stripes and Conan that seems to be very unique, and the culmination of that link came in 2005, with the Michel Gondry-directed video for "The Denial Twist", which is the video we're watching today.

The video itself is a showcase for various visual tricks such as forced perspective, visual distortion, and the Ames room. It features a narrative about the White Stripes performing on Conan's Late Night show and then leaving the studio and going back home - all while objects and people shift in their size and perspective. At the end we get a look at the entire set without the distortion, an interesting and rare "behind the scenes" look that's part of the actual video. In the end the White Stripes and Gondry want to let you in on the tricks - the video even features Jack White thanking Conan for being in the video, in the video.

Out of many unique elements in this video, I find the tie in with a show like Late Night particularly notable. Nightly talk shows are produced daily and then maybe not ever seen again while music videos are like music itself - made with the idea that people will be re-consuming it for years to come. So it's interesting to have Late Night enshrined like this in a music video format, as well as having two long-time White Stripes associates (Gondry and O'Brien) coming together, adding their own pieces.

The simple fact that the video takes place within a world that many people know so well - though only through the lens of camera - adds a surreal aspect when that lens starts to warp into a fun house version. It's maybe the highest level of distortion in a video that is made up of distorted elements - taking a visual picture Gondry knows we have in our minds and bending it. Our mental image is further warped by letting us see sides we never see on TV, like the seemingly mundane practice of getting in an elevator to go home after performing on a show. Now that Late Night is no more but this video lives on, maybe this version of it will eventually be the one we remember.

Have you not had enough Jack White/Conan O'Brien friendship? Take a look at this 75 minute converation between the two where they talk about all sorts of things.


conan obrien, michel gondry, the white stripes

Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.



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