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Bjork’s ‘Stunning’ Retro-Tech ‘Crystalline’

Bjork, the great plastic-ice queen of art pop, has been preparing a whole album of music with apps for electronic devices, due for release in September. As a music lover with a deepening attachment to his iPad, I’m looking forward to playing with it, since noodling around with the stuff is the point of interactive entertainment. To stir up early interest in the album, Bjork has released a new music video made in collaboration with her longtime director, the gifted, if erratic Michel Gondry. Titled “Crystalline,” the song is a retro-futurist assemblage of droning riffs and lyrical images sort of vaguely about the mystical power of crystals. I can only take the spacey simple-mindedness of the song as a gag, a parody of adolescent pretentiousness. If so, it’s not much of a joke. The video is a collage of early MTV tropes—mysterious thingies on the moon, crystals straight out of the Superman movies, and Bjork trapped in a dome like Dale Bozzio in Missing Persons. Spin magazine, on whose website I first saw the video, calls it “stunning,” the perfect word. Its effect is to stun—to stop feeling, not to stir it. It’s a chilly piece of technical gimmickry only nominally interesting for the period quality of the gimmicks. I’m holding out hope that the app album to follow is more fun to play with that the “Crystalline” video is to play.

In the meantime, the old-style stop-motion animation in “Crystalline” has led me to think again about Ladislas Starevicz, the Russian-Polish filmmaker of the early twentieth century who did wonderfully strange animation with puppets made, sometimes, with dead animals. Apart from sharing one technology, stop motion, the films of Starevicz (sometimes Starevich, among other spellings) have nothing in common with the work of Bjork and Gondry. Made frame by frame with puppets, wire, and stuffed creatures, Starevicz films such as The Mascot are oddly, impossibly human.