Steve McQueen is perhaps one of the most vital directors of the last decade – his three greatest successes coming in the form of Hunger, Shame, and, most recently, 12 Years a Slave. His films are melancholic, beautifully crafted pieces of art, laced with pathos and urgent political implication – mostly in Hunger (with its examination of the Irish Hunger Strikes) and 12 Years A Slave (the 2012 Best Picture Winner at the Oscars). The odder of the three is probably Shame – more of a desensitised character study of a sex addict in New York.
All films are united by McQueen’s penchant for beautifully crafted camera work, check out examples from Shame or Hunger to see why. He brings that same craft to his Burberry advert, each shot placed with perfection, framing his subjects within the confines of their hotel rooms, before slipping into handheld for the more sensuous naked shots.
All this considered, something seems almost vacuous and transient about the 3 minute video. The protagonist couple are trapped by their apartment surroundings – doorways, corridors, mirrors confining them. They only finding escape when naked together. The two are surrounded by materialism – bowties, lipsticks, mirrors, and, fundamentally, clothes. The liberation comes in the form of primal nakedness – clothing almost acting instead as an apology for having to conform to social norms.
Given his need for more intrinsic truths in cinema, this was a strange choice for McQueen. Any film he produces is undoubtedly fantastic, but this feels like a strange choice for such a director. His versatility is nevertheless astounding – especially the use of shorter lens for the outdoor shots, before bringing things tight and claustrophobic indoors. It’s both recognisably McQueen, yet always open to innovation and creative flexibility. Check it out here:
Runner up for the week: Clemence Poesy provides the latest for the VS Magazine