Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, Nick Frost, Michael Smiley
Watch Blue Song online: YouTube
Every Sunday, we review a short film available on VOD. We call it Short Film Sunday.
“How long?” “Two, three minutes max.” That’s the conversation that takes place between a getaway driver and his passengers in an unassuming short film from 2003, as they prepare to rob a bank. Of course, he needs to know the exact window they’ll be gone for – not so he can be ready to hit the accelerator, but so he knows what track to put on while he waits. Because why count time with a watch like a boring, normal person, when you can measure existence by music?
That, in many ways, is the unspoken philosophy behind director Edgar Wright’s work, and if you’re already thinking of his latest movie, there’s a good reason: this music video is the film that grew up to become Baby Driver.
Wright cut his teeth on music videos and he has always had a knack for choosing and using music to supremely stylish effect, from Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now soundtracking the percussive pummelling of a zombie in Shaun of the Dead to Scott Pilgrim’s video game-inflected jukebox score, blending diegetic and non-diegetic effects, gigs and sound effects with dizzying imagination. Even in Spaced, Michael Smiley’s Tyres interrupted the Channel 4 sitcom with improvised mini-jams comprising of kettles, toasters and other everyday sounds.
It’s only natural, then, that after Spaced, Wright should return to that arena while working on Shaun. Times had changed, though, as the rise of online streaming (not the legal kind) meant that budgets were dropping, forcing him to get creative with cut corners and cheap workarounds. For Blue Song, he hired his mates, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, while reuniting with Michael Smiley and Nick Frost from Spaced. But while that kept the casting cash low, the real secret was his innovative premise: a driver who does everything according to what’s playing in his ear.
“Can you be more specific?” asks Fielding’s driver, as the others exit the vehicle. Dressed in identical black raincoats and glasses (with decidedly non-professional white sneakers to give the game away), they couldn’t contrast more with the man at the wheel, a guy wearing a jacket with fur collars almost as big as his hair. As soon as they’re out of sight, he springs into action, bopping his head, banging on the car door and striking poses all over the front seat. Fielding’s a perfect fit for such a daft set-up, unafraid to look like a wally, as he lip-syncs to Mint Royale’s catchy blues techno over a decade before lip-syncing would become a thing.
The editing, something that is inherent to Wright’s distinctive style, is whip-smart, making sure that Noel is constantly moving in time with the music – on Baby Driver, Wright would often make sure people had earphones in, so they could coordinate their movements with the song chosen to be in the finish product. In 2003, it might be a CD player sitting on the car’s dashboard, rather than an MP3 or an iPod, but that attention to detail is still evident: look to Wright’s Bugsy Malone-style After Hours video for the Bluetones made the year before, for a demonstration of how naturally he can get actors to groove to a beat (Shaun of the Dead choreographer Litza Bixler also deserves credit). The camera swoops and cuts, meanwhile, are just as precise, with everything from the windscreen wipers to a brief splurt of bird poo all landing in time with the group’s drums.
The result is more comedic than Baby Driver, as Fielding hits his horn by accident and races through a range of fake signs to justify his presence in the car park (even the sorting of those is in step). That talent would soon see him and Barratt’s The Mighty Boosh become a cult hit, while Smiley and Frost’s profiles have similarly (and deservedly) taken off – something predicted correctly by Wright, when the record label argued against him using relatively unknown actors. Fast forward to 2017, and the director’s instincts have been proven once again, as his short film is turned into the opening scene for Baby Driver.
Of course, it was always intended that way: it speaks to Wright’s vision and imagination that this music video borrowed the idea from the future feature movie in his head, rather than the other way round.
“Seven years ago, at the Los Angeles Film Festival, J.J. Abrams was doing a sort of career talk with me, and he specifically wanted to show the Mint Royale video,” Wright told EW in a recent interview. “Whilst we were showing it to the audience, J.J. leaned over to me and whispered, ‘You know, I think this would make a great movie.’ And I whispered back, ‘I am way ahead of you!'”
Lifting from his own back catalogue to craft an album of greatest hits? It’s hard to think of a better Baby Driver B-side than this gem – a reminder of what you can do can do with just a car and a CD, and how much joy the simple mixing of music and images can bring. Sometimes, all you need is one killer track.
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