What I have called the MTV influence on editing is principally associated with that phenomenon of the past 20 years, the music video. Initially viewed as a vehicle to sell records, those 3-30 minute videos have captured a young audience looking for quick, evocative visual stimuli presented as a background for the aural presentation of a single song or series of songs.
Although this style of film was further popularized by films such as Flashdance (1983), the form has its roots in more experimental filmmaking and certainly in the success of the short form, the television commercial. The MTV style is today principally associated with television although its influence has superseded television. By sidestepping the traditional set of narrative goals which include a linear narrative and a focus on plot and character, the MTV style has instead replaced it with a multilayered approach. There may be a story. There may be a single character. But the likelihood is that place, feeling, or mood will be the primary layer of the music video. It is also likely that the traditional sense of time and place with the conventions that are used to reference film time to real time will be replaced by a far less direct correlation. In fact, many music videos attempt to establish their own reference points between reality and film time. This may mean great leaps in time and place and it is the vividness of the resulting imagery that provides the new correlation. In the world of the music video, real place is far less important. In fact, they are not as important as references to other media and other forms, to the landscapes of science fiction, and to the horror film. And with regards to time, time in the music video is any time. With time and place obliterated, the film and video makers are free to roam in the world of their imagined media meditation. And their audience, young and rebellious, is free to feel the simulation of their freedom and to celebrate their rejection of tradition, from our perspective, the rejection of the tradition of narrative.
Because the MTV style sidesteps traditional narrative, it is of interest to us. How does the form coalesce to capture its audience? By focussing on the most aggressive stylist of our day, Oliver Stone, we will try to understand how the MTV style can be used and why it has such a powerful grip on the public imagination.
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