Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chasing trains

It has long been my observation that there's something about seeing a place one frequents in a TV show (or movie) that, for those of us not in "the industry," seems to give one an unintentional sense of (for lack of a better term) tiny validation. Obviously those visual media exert a tremendous influence over our society, for better or for worse; given that even the least popular show on a basic cable channel (even that briefly aired John McEnroe talk show) gets seen by more people than most of us will even know, seeing a familiar location on the screen allows one to feel, perhaps for just a second, like one's non-descript little existence has been enhanced by the larger world seeing it. I know I've never been able to see a place I know well and refrain from mentioning to anyone within earshot how that's somewhere I go all the time.

While it's probably kind of pathetic to feel validated in even the slightest way over the remote connection to a creative work with which one had no involvement by the mere virtue of familiarity with the location for the shoot, surely that is exacerbated if the location is for a mere music video.

I'm not sure I feel this validation on a conscious level, but I do find myself compelled to tell you all about the latest instance of this I've discovered that applies to my non-descript little existence (because, at present, no one is around).

The Northern Irish (is that how to identify being from Northern Ireland?) band Snow Patrol's latest single, "Chasing Cars" (click to view a streamable copy) has a version of the video that was clearly shot in Los Angeles.

I found a longer version that does not have L.A. footage (again, click to view a streamable copy), and where singer Gary Lightbody has longer hair than in the one I see airing on TV (the one linked in the paragraph above), and where mostly he gets rained on while singing. I suspect they decided to give the singer a haircut and shoot one in make one more appealing to an American audience (perhaps the longer one is for Europe--maybe this blog would know, as it laments how the longer one is trying to make the band seem like Coldplay).

And what is more appealing to Americans than… subways?

Yes, in the video they shot a sequence in the downtown L.A. station of the Blue Line, the second-busiest light rail system in the country (really), and on one of its trains. The Blue Line, as some of you know, is how I've been commuting to work for the last seven years.

The thing is, that train line travels above ground for most of its 22-mile length, and only goes underground for about a half-mile (between the Staples Center and the skyscrapers of the "New Downtown" district), and hence is not actually a subway; there is another line, the Red Line, that is entirely underground (in fact, that one connects with the Blue Line at the station where they shot this) that they could have used—and, in fact, the cars on the Red Line are roomier, which would seem to be better for filming. Eh, what do I know about filming? That probably cost extra. (Presumably they shot this late at night, when the trains weren't running, but clearly they had to get someone to operate the train to come in. It all adds up, I'm sure.) I digress.

Most people wouldn't know the difference between Blue Line and Red Line trains, nor that it is only ostensibly a subway in the shot. They just see the train doors close, the train pull away from the platform (see poor screen capture below):
Then, switching to an interior shot, the camera slowing move up the aisle...
Until it hovers directly over the singer, who lies flat on the floor in the open area by the door, singing the lyrics.
(The chorus is: "If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me, and just forget the world?" Hence, the video is filled with shots of him lying on the ground and singing.)

Hence, most people wouldn't necessarily have the same visceral reaction that I do, because they haven't been on those trains twice a day, five days a week, for seven years. My reaction, after Hey, it's the Blue Line, is Egad, does he have any idea what has been on that floor? I'm not sure there are chemicals in existence that could get that filth clean enough that I would lie on it for any amount of money.

(Watching the sequence immediately after the train, I see him lying in what looks to be the hills of Elysian Park—not far from Dodger Stadium—but there they put a blanket beneath him. The hills, and the other spots he lies—the street, the top of the escalator—are ones I'd practically eat off of before lying on that train floor.)

Ignorance is bliss—well, really it's blissful—especially when one's personal experience doesn't ruin the artistic intent.

If only I lived somewhere that showed the longer version of the video, where I recognize none of the shooting locations... I would miss out on both the pathetic validation and the associated specific revulsion. Both of which I could live without.

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