The First Video That Meant Something To Me: Phoenix’s “Funky Squaredance, Pts. 1–3”
by “David Shapiro”
Part of a series for the new Awl Music app.
The summer I turned 17, I interned at a company that represented music video and commercial directors and my assignments involved watching music videos and commercials. I think I watched a lot of videos that looked beautiful, and even a few that told great stories, but I don’t remember any of those now, I guess because there’s an abundance of music videos that look beautiful or tell great stories.
“Funky Squaredance, Pts. 1–3,” which Roman Coppola made in 2000, isn’t beautiful, and it’s not exactly a story. But it’s the best. It’s an elaborate joke about the music video form, an education on the director’s personal life, and then finally, in a way, a totally conventional music video: just a collection of things that the director thinks are sweet. I’m afraid this undersells it though.
It’s a piece of casual, free-form writing. How could any writer not think this video is the greatest? Coppola hijacked this Phoenix song and made a supremely clever, irreverent, juvenile, nominally informative process-based presentation. It seems like it could be an expression of Coppola’s interest in being something beside a music -ideo director — maybe a lyricist? A stand-up comic? A writer? I don’t know.
Anyway, Coppola’s bio on the Moonrise Kingdom website (he co-wrote the movie with Wes Anderson) calls it “stream-of-consciousness” but that term has a lame connotation right now for some reason so I think it’d be best if you didn’t consider the video in that light when you watch it. Also, the video is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art now, and Frankie is married to Flea. I could go on for a while but I’m gonna finish this introduction because I think the less time you spend reading it, the more time you might have left over to watch the video. Okay, watch it now please.
David “Shapiro” lives in New York City and has a Tumblr.