The premiere of a new Lady Gaga music video is always a cause celebre for entertainment lovers of any sort, but earlier today Gaga gave us a truly theatrical - and totally, wildly, adorably surreal - early Christmas treat of epic proportions in the form of the short film "Marry The Night". Part TOMMY, part David Lynch-ian fever dream, part throwback music video, with the rest unmistakably, unquestionably and undoubtedly all Gaga. Directed by Gaga herself, the "Marry The Night" music video puts into question the term itself - much like Kanye West's exquisite mini-movie musical treatment of eight of his songs from his Grammy-nominated opus MY BEATIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY in the form of the "Runaway" short film/music video from late last year - and, now, once again, Gaga has redefined not only the genre she is working in, but the entire music and theatre and film games themselves - or are they all the same, really? Or, can they be - somehow? Daring, edgy, avant garde and more bizarre than anything you are likely to see at any multiplex this weekend - let alone on sweet, safe Broadway - the "Marry The Night" film is nothing short of Gaga firing on all axels - in this case, literally - and setting the stage afire with her fierce, determined conviction to following her own oh-so-idiosyncratic vision through to its ultimate - and oft-ugly; and, just as often, gorgeous - end. Actually, ends are what this video is about in many ways - from asses to heavenly hosannas; or, even, the bowels of Hell. This isn't your mama's music video - or Madonna's, either (a trait which has been ascribed to videos of Gaga past) - but what it is is the most over-the-top theatrical and unabashedly excessive - and best - music-related film of the year. Just don't call it a music video.
Master British director Ken Russell - who helmed many grand, garish opuses like THE DEVILS, WOMEN IN LOVE, MAHLER, SAVAGE MESSIAH and TOMMY; to name only five of his credits - passed away earlier this week, and, while Gaga could not have been aware of his passing in making this music video, his presence seems to be imbued in so very much of it as to make one want to call it a blatant homage. From the elaborately painted and gilt-laden cathedral frescoes to the slow, static camera pan-outs revealing encroaching chaos whilst in the purgatory-esque mental hospital at the video's start, all the way through to the intentionally tawdry and lewd depictions of celebrity at its most ghoulish and self-consumed, the "Marry The Night" film manages to pack so very much of the celestial-meets-bestial nature at the core of so many of Russell's many masterpieces into it. Hell, there's even some late-80s streetwalkers and tough-talking gals to rank with Kathleen Turner's China Blue from CRIMES OF PASSION or Theresa Russell's eponymous WHORE, to name two more Russell influences on the Gaga-helmed stunner - a true video masterpiece in its own right. Oh, yeah, speaking of Hell - there's that, too. But, only in the end - with yet another one of those impossible to de-ingrain images that Gaga has been conjuring up in her videos for years now ("Poker Face", "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" having some of the most memorable mise en scenes up to "Marry The Night"). Plus, the hospital scenes are straight out of TOMMY - from the eerie, oddly alluring nurses and strange, metallic medical apparatus all the way through to the depiction of the inmates themselves (look no further than the frenzied and unforgettable finale of Russell's THE MUSIC LOVERS and Glenda Jackson's feverish, fatalistic embrace of sex and death; or, for those matters (sex and death and insane asylums, that is), Vanessa Redgrave's mad 17th century nun opposite Oliver Reed's priest in the highly controversial and still-banned THE DEVILS). And, the inspirations taken from and winks given to the great button-pushing and genre-bending directors of recent film history certainly doesn't end with the Ken Russell adoration, either. Gaga has been taking notes from the innovative, pioneering greats and it's really starting to show - and she can clearly cobble together her vast influences into a fully-satisfying entertainment experience that is totally hers and mind-blowingly original while doing so - "Marry The Night" is nothing if not unique.
While Ken Russell was the king of excess and grandiose, in-your-face over-the-top-ery, other directors seem to have had an effect on Gaga as an artist, as well, insofar as the "Marry The Night" film is concerned - foremost being David Lynch. Sure, there may be a Kubrick nod in the opening 3-minute gurney shot; or, a David Cronenberg sample evocative of his most controversial film, the NC-17-rated CRASH; there's even some Truffaut and Godard and Antonioni thrown in for good measure halfway through - but, the presence of master surrealist and artist David Lynch and the indescribably strange and off-kilter tone of his films and paintings can be felt, seen and heard in several places throughout Gaga's "Marry The Night" video - particularly in the final frames, which I shall eschew spoiling completely here. Lynch's TWIN PEAKS is a hipster hallmark and his influence on the entire new generation of artists and performers is more pronounced than many critics would have imagined. Yet, lest we forget: Lynch's ERASERHEAD was Stanley Kubrick's favorite film, after all. All of them are felt here - but the guiding hand and central force is the one and only Gaga.
Yes, it's self-indulgent. Yes, it is overlong. Yes, it goes too far. Yes, there is far too much packed into far too short of a running time, but you cannot help but applaud her for trying something new and bringing the worlds of music, film and theatre even closer together than ever thought possible. It's a music video. It's a film. It's a movie musical. It's everything that Lady Gaga attempts to present all the time - from her outlandish costumes and uber-odd stage performances all the way through to her Liza Minnelli-esque commitment to showmanship and Andy Warhol-esque devotion to art, fashion and style. It's musical theatre put through a blender and mixed freely with French new wave cinema, British exploitation films, 80s rap videos, Cronenberg car thrillers and MULHOLLAND DRIVE-like sad, surreal movie star nightmare biopics. Dance class to the ballet barre to the gate of Hell itself; shameless nudity and violence in bathtubs to 12-foot long red latex wedding gowns suspended in space - yes, it's a whole lot packed into 13 minutes. Yet, as always with Lady Gaga, too much is never enough and each new venture shows her growing as an artist and as a voice for those of us who don't see lines between mediums and believe art is art and should be taken as such.
You can watch the complete "Marry The Night" long-form music video/film in HD below.
As a special bonus, check out Lady Gaga's performance of "Marry The Night" from the GRAMMY AWARDS NOMINATIONS LIVE earlier this week.
Also, see Gaga and Sugarland take on BORN THIS WAY's "You & I" at the same event.
Finally, if you were not lucky enough to see Gaga's surprisingly sensational and ultra-camp Thanksgiving special - like "Marry The Night", directed by Lady Gaga herself - from late last week, you may do so now! Her rendition of "White Christmas" - complete with a newly-penned second verse - is a jolly holiday enjoyment, as is her duet with the iconic Tony Bennett on a classic certainly familiar to the Broadway babies among us.
With a slew of new Grammy nominations for her superlative BORN THIS WAY album, as well as today's premiere of this game-changing musical film, "Marry The Night", Lady Gaga is clearly at the top of the creative heap insofar as originality, generated excitement and sheer entertainment value is concerned. So, all bow down to the Morphine Queen - and please hold on to your Cheerios.