Duranalysis: Arcadia’s Goodbye is Forever

Sometimes it’s all about Nick.

My apologies in advance to Simon, who is doomed to get a little shortchanged in the praise department this time around. I’d feel worse about that, but I’ve already given him plenty of tongue baths -- strictly in the metaphorical sense, alas -- in earlier reviews. Simon does a fine job here, but really, Arcadia’s video for “Goodbye is Forever” belongs to the lovely and strange Mr. Rhodes.

The original plan was to give this one a pass and wrap up this whole Duranalysis business this week with “Girls on Film.” Because the Duran Duran universe is a never-ending rabbit hole and because time is finite, I’d intended to stick to the videos produced in their Golden Age (1981-1985) and, with the exception of Arcadia’s “The Flame,” which is far too much fun to ignore, skip over all the later albums and side projects. Then someone suggested I tackle this one, which turned out to be a great idea. There's nothing quite like a whopping dose of pure, uncut, pharmaceutical-grade Nick.

Nick, as I’ve mentioned before, is magical.

“Goodbye is Forever” was directed by Marcelo Anciano, who also wrote the treatments and made the storyboards for the earlier videos Duran Duran shot with Russell Mulcahy. While Roger plays drums on the track, he doesn’t appear in the video. And unlike “The Flame,” there’s no surprise John Taylor cameo. It’s just Simon and Nick, nothing more. In this case, that’s enough.

The video opens on an enigmatic title card, which adds a stylish touch. Whatever your opinion of Arcadia, it’s hard to deny they put out some graceful, polished videos.

Nick and Simon sleep in ornate, high-backed chairs, which are mounted upon rollers on a long track and adorned with suns and crescent moons. Nick wakes and looks around, perplexed. He glances at his watch, which runs backwards.

Oh, man, I love Nick’s whole Arcadia look, with the dark suit and the gobs of eyeliner and all that crazy, gorgeous, jet-black, Jo-Polniaczek-in-later-seasons-of-Facts-of-Life hair. He’s mesmerizing in this video, hyper-alert and dazzling and delightfully weird. All the traumatic memories of his awful “Planet Earth” hair have been expunged from my brain.

In the chair behind Nick, Simon is still fast asleep. A white feather, held by white-gloved mechanical hands extending from the back of his chair, tickles his nose until he wakes.

Simon, blessedly, has finally ditched his unfortunate “Wild Boys”-era mullet in favor of a close-cropped, freshly-brunette ‘do, paired with a tasteful hoop earring. It’s a good look for him -- streamlined and unfussy -- but he’s blown out of the water by the full-tilt glamour and glory of Nick. Nick doesn’t often grab the spotlight from Simon, but when he does, it’s hard to wrestle it away from him.

The chairs lurch forward, wheeling along the track. Nick and Simon look startled, though not especially concerned, at finding themselves suddenly in motion. They glide up an incline toward an archway, then enter into a dark chamber filled with floating timepieces, calendar pages, and heavenly bodies.

Next, the chairs rise up into the air, suspended on chains. The boys float in front of a chaotic, crazy, colorful backdrop of clockwork and tangled pipes.

What does it all mean? You’ve got me. If there’s more to this video than maybe a hazy theme of Time, it’s gone completely over my head. Doesn’t really matter -- the charm of this video rests largely with the gorgeous production design, not with the plot. Between the vintage clock gears and the puffs of steam and the floating celestial objects, there’s almost a cool Victorian/steampunk vibe to it.

Simon, always ready to add a fun random element to any situation, launches himself out of his chair. With the aid of some sketchy special effects, he plummets to the ground.

He lands on an inflated mat lining the bottom of a makeshift wire cage. Nick follows his example and flops on the mat beside him. They both seem absurdly pleased with their current predicament. You’re in a cage, boys. I don’t know that you should look happy about it.

Durans-in-gratuitous-bondage alert! Simon is now tied to the hands of a clock rotating above a gigantic dial, while above him, Nick is bound to a swinging pendulum. It’s not quite in the same realm of kink as that scene in “Wild Boys” where John writhes helplessly while strapped down across the hood of a car, but I appreciate the spirit behind it nonetheless.

Nick seems delighted about this unexpected foray into bondage. In fact, Nick seems downright chipper throughout the whole video, which is a refreshing change of pace; I adore Nick at all times, but he tends to default toward pouting and glowering whenever he’s on camera. There’s a brief behind-the-scenes segment on the making of this video, in which both Nick and Simon appear to be having themselves a fine old time during filming. At one point, director Anciano stands beside Nick and, while the camera rolls, gives him instructions: “You’re having fun! You’re having fun!” In response, Nick flashes his lovely and too-rare grin. This makes me wonder: In all the fifteen or so videos Duran Duran made prior to this, did no one think to simply tell Nick to smile?

Then the boys fall through the air some more (special effects: still dubious) before finding themselves back in their chairs. The white-gloved mechanical hands pop up again for the express purpose of totally wrecking Nick’s meticulous makeup job. Aw, don’t mess with Nick’s face! It’s pretty!

(Full points to Nick for always being the first to joke about his makeup, by the way. There’s a good article about him in the June 1985 issue of Spin in which, upon showing up for an interview with smudged eyeliner, he quips, “Although I’m vain enough to wear it, I’m not vain enough to carry it around with me to touch it up,” which is sort of awesome. The same article, which features some great photos of Nick with crazy black-and-blonde hair, also compares him, aptly, to an expensive kitten. “Expensive kitten” replaces “magical pixie” as my new favorite two-word description of him.)

Still in their chairs, Simon and Nick roll through another entryway into a chamber filled with languid, glamorous women dressed in satin evening gowns. Nick and Simon stare at the women in baffled wonder. Visibly bored, the women can’t be bothered to spare them a glance. Just a couple of gorgeous Durans in magically rolling chairs. Yawn.

The track next leads them in front of the face of a gigantic cuckoo clock (alternate theory: the clock is normal-sized, and Simon and Nick are just really, really tiny), which strikes twelve just as they pass it. Somebody involved with this video had an unhealthy fascination with clocks.

A quick roll through a gauze-draped fairytale garden with softly-falling snow and urns of flowers, and then their chairs come to a halt in front of a brick wall. When Simon and Nick rise from their chairs, the wall dissolves away, revealing the outer world.

The boys gaze wistfully behind them, then stroll off into the sunset together, which is dreamy and poignant and even sort of romantic. Then Simon succumbs to an inexplicable urge to end the video on a jaunty note. He hops into the air and clicks his heels together. Fade to black.

A lovely video, strange and melancholy yet oddly good-natured. Good stuff.

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details-later said…
The full-on Nick Rhodes unleashed!

Why wouldn't you give a Duranalysis for this video? So much is going on, and to read you break it down, and be forever baffled by the ways of the expensive kitten never stops being funny!

I do remember that "vain" quote of Nick's, and it's one of the best celeb quotes ever in my book. (And uh, I think I had that Spin issue in print back in the day, and it sat along with my pile of teen mags with Duran in it.)
Morgan Richter said…
Nick is especially kittenish in this video, what with the wide-eyed way he keeps glancing around at everything. There's something so delightfully odd about him. This video's director, Marcelo Anciano, has an interesting quote about Nick in Steve Malins's unauthorized biography of the band ("Duran Duran Notorious"), in regard to Nick giving up drugs relatively early on in their fame (circa 1982 or so, after his heart problems in Montserrat): "In the early years Nick was the creative artist who wouldn't talk to anyone, who would come up with genius ideas out of the blue once every few days and you'd go, 'Fucking hell, where did that come from? Oh, Nick, hi!' It was only when he sobered up that he became a proper person, at least whenever I was around. Before that it was like, 'Nick, hello, anyone there?' That's what he encouraged. He wanted to create this sense that he was this artistic alien who had fallen among men." Or, more succinctly, here's a quote from photographer Denis O'Regan: "The thing with Nick, it was difficult to tell whether he was on drugs or not."

Point being, I think it's probably better for society as a whole that, after some early experimentation, Nick never got much into drugs. He's plenty strange enough as it is, and bless him for it.
DKoren said…
Yay! I'm so glad you did opt to do this one! It was really fun, as always, reading your comments. You know, I may be a Roger girl, but there is nothing in the world like a Nick grin. When he cracks one of those uninhibited grins, the world turns into a better place. A Nick grin just makes me grin in return. It makes me happy no matter what mood I'm in. Maybe because they are rare, but I think it's simply because he grins so well! He has the best smile.

And you are so right, Nick owns this video, and Simon just can't compete.

And what is it with Simon tied to things that spin anyway??
Morgan Richter said…
When he cracks one of those uninhibited grins, the world turns into a better place.

Oh, yes. Nick has a gorgeous smile, and he doles it out so infrequently (he does smirk quite a bit, which is not at all the same thing) that it's almost always worth noting whenever it appears.

Nick owns this video, and Simon just can't compete.

It's true, and I'm still not entirely sure why that is. They get equal amounts of screen time, and Simon is in his usual fine form... but Nick grabs my attention in this one, start to finish. I just enjoy watching him.

And what is it with Simon tied to things that spin anyway??

Heh. It seems to be his trademark...
Cheryl Kraynak said…
Spot-on analysis! Always loved this song, but the video just makes it more lovable. I don't like the part where the hands smudge poor Nick's makeup--he looks positively tragic. And what I like about the end (besides Simon's heel click) is that the tree makes me think of the "Notorious" video. It's like an accidental foreshadowing.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
P.S. - "Jo Polniaczek hair" -HA HA! Too right!
Morgan Richter said…
I don't like the part where the hands smudge poor Nick's makeup--he looks positively tragic

Heh. But I love his disgruntled, wounded expression with his wrecked makeup. Want to really mess with Nick? Destroy his makeup, that'll do it.

"Jo Polniaczek hair"

The Facts of Life girls all started to get huge, glorious Duran Duran hair in those later seasons. Nick's Arcadia hairstyle always makes me think of Nancy McKeon.
Quiana said…
Thank you so MUCH for this!!!!! I LOVE Duran Duran so much I want to name one of my kids Duran! A little much I know lol. Nickypoo is perfect isn't he?! Is it bad that this video is the base for my Simon/Nick shipping?
Morgan Richter said…
Quiana -- I'm not sure it's possible to watch this video (or any of the Arcadia videos, really) and not ship Simon/Nick. Nick looks flat-out gorgeous with his Arcadia hair and makeup. I think it might be my favorite of his many looks, though it's awfully tough to decide.

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