Duranalysis: Girls on Film

Duran Duran traditionally conclude their concerts with an encore performance of their 1981 hit “Girls on Film,” so it seems only fitting to wrap up this whole Duranalysis nonsense with an examination of that video. I’ll be analyzing the uncensored Night Version, which is the porny version with all the bare breasts and whatnot, so if you’re reading this at work or in a public space, maybe you should plan accordingly.

Still here? Let’s do this:

The video for “Girls on Film” was directed by Godley & Creme, who would later direct the boys in “A View To a Kill.” It kicks off with a montage of workers rigging lights and building the set, which consists of a platform stage for the band and something that looks like a boxing ring with a long catwalk leading up to it.

This guy is probably just spray-painting the ring, but I prefer to think he’s dousing it with Lysol. Given all the unhygienic behavior that will soon take place here, disinfecting everything in sight seems like a necessary precaution.

There’s also a montage of the band primping before their performance. If, like me, you don’t have much interest in nude women yet have a fondness for watching pretty boys fuss with their hair, this will probably be your favorite part of the video. I admire the in-your-face way this video establishes Duran Duran’s credo: They like naked girls, they like sleaze, they like wearing makeup, they like looking beautiful and glamorous, and if you have a problem with any of that, they’re not going to lose sleep over it.

First up with the primping is the awesome and hilarious performance-art exhibit known as Nick Rhodes. Nick looks fantastic here, with two-tone hair (fiery red in front, jet black in back) and flawless makeup. After looking so painfully young and awkward in the videos for “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories,” he’s finally grown into his glamorous and flamboyant magical-pixie persona.

This video marks the final appearance of the platinum locks Andy sported in “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories.” After this, Andy will officially stop giving a crap about his hair.

And here we have John, in the process of getting his beautiful, beautiful face touched up. This is pretty much the textbook definition of gilding a lily.

There is no shot of shy, enigmatic Roger primping, which comes as no surprise. Roger probably does his fair share of primping. Just not when there’s a camera pointed at him.

Headbands! The iconic Duran Duran headbands make a triumphant debut in this video! Simon wears his trademark white one, while Nick sports a leopard-print one during the performance scenes. So help me, I love those headbands. Fashion-wise, this video is a huge leap forward for the boys. They’ve finally ditched those huge, frilly poet shirts, the ones that made John look like a runway model and made everyone else look stumpy and sad, in favor of a more tailored, high-fashion image. This video brought the band into the public eye in large part because of the over-the-top sexual content, but even without it, audiences would have taken note of the boys. They’re too glamorous and gorgeous to ignore.

The bulk of the video consists of a series of sleazy vignettes, which take place in the boxing ring while the band performs on the stage in the background. Sleazy Vignette #1: Two women in black teddies, their hair in rollers, slink down the runway amidst a flurry of flashbulbs from an unseen audience. They enter the ring and approach a long horizontal pole, which is covered in shaving cream. The women straddle the pole on either end, then slither their way through the shaving cream until they meet in the center. It’s more tasteful than it sounds.

Ha ha, no. No, it’s not. It’s every bit as tacky as you’d imagine. A referee hands the women pillows, which they use to vigorously whack each other while still straddling the pole. This sorely taxes the structural integrity of their flimsy teddies. They kiss beneath a shower of feathers from the destroyed pillows, then saunter back off down the runway.

Backstage, the women celebrate in the traditional manner, i.e. by pouring champagne over their breasts. Great merciful Zeus, is that a bottle of Veuve Clicquot? Veuve Clicquot is my bubbly of choice for super-fancy occasions. In the hilariously decadent and excessive world of Duran Duran, it’s the stuff best suited for dumping over the chests of scantily-clad women.

Sleazy Vignette #2: A cute girl in a mawashi -- that’s the combination belt/loincloth that sumo wrestlers wear -- paired with a transparent mesh shirt and a samurai-style topknot squares off against a sumo wrestler in the ring. Even though he’s easily twice her size, she applies a judo hold and flips him onto his back. She gives a formal bow and retreats.

Is “stylishly tacky” too much of an oxymoron? Because that’s the best way to describe this video: stylishly tacky. It’s all very early-1980s, with the sleekness and aggressive sexuality of a Patrick Nagel painting mixed with a healthy dollop of camp.

Sleazy Vignette #3: A woman in a sexy white nurse costume, complete with white stockings and a garter belt, enters the ring and approaches a towel-draped man, who lies on a massage table. She gives him a thorough massage, which seems to involve an abundance of baby oil.

Once finished, she strolls off, leaving the man sprawled across the table, limbs dangling over the sides, evidently dead. These women are not only sleazy, they’re dangerous.

Sleazy Vignette #4: A blonde in a white cowboy hat and skimpy cowgirl duds takes a ride on the back of a muscular black man, who gallops around the ring while wearing a horse mask and a skimpy thong. At the conclusion of her ride, she scrubs him down and leads him offstage by his harness. Yeah, this isn’t offensive much. Nosirree, no cringe-worthy racial stereotypes here.

Let’s move on quickly and pretend this didn’t happen.

Sleazy Vignette #5: A sexy lady in high heels and a one-piece bathing suit tumbles into in a kiddie pool and appears to drown. A lifeguard in mirrored sunglasses comes to her rescue with a judicious application of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As soon as she’s successfully revived, it turns into a full-on makeout session, which culminates with the lifeguard lying dead in the pool while the lady strolls off in triumph.

There are two prevalent themes running through this video:
1. Women have breasts.
2. Women are dangerous.

In reinforcement of Theme #1, we now see a shot of the backstage area, where a naked woman -- probably the sexy lady from the kiddie pool, though it’s hard to recognize her without her bathing suit -- runs an ice cube over one perky nipple. Totally understandable. Luring a hapless lifeguard to his doom can raise a girl’s core body temperature to dangerous levels.

Sleazy Vignette #6: Everybody loves mud wrestling!

Yeah, so these two nice young ladies (one topless, one in a bodysuit) grope each other in the mud for a while, then someone sprays down the victor with a hose while she sashays off the stage.

So that’s the naughty version. Because the Duran Duran boys are never satisfied until they’ve re-cut and re-released each video multiple times, there’s also a sanitized-for-MTV version, in which all the nudity has been replaced with some ridiculous footage of well-heeled people dancing around the boxing ring under the watchful glare of a burly masked man. In addition, there’s a slightly different version of the original video, which concludes with the boys standing behind the mud wrestlers while holding a sign reading, “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING TO SELL RECORDS.”

Bingo! Points for honesty. This shot was probably scrapped from the original video for being a little too on-the-nose: Yes, making a naughty video was a shameless (and successful!) ploy to drum up controversy and thus spark interest in the band -- all involved parties have been pretty open about that -- but it was maybe smarter not to cheerfully trumpet that fact within the video itself.

Or the shot could have been removed due to how crappy that sign looks. Look at it -- it’s horrible. Did the boys make it themselves? Based on how pleased they all look, I’m inclined to think Godley and Creme handed the boys a roll of butcher paper and a box of Magic Markers and set them at it, just to keep them out from underfoot while the grownups were setting things up.

And with that, I have now reviewed all of Duran Duran’s videos from 1981 through 1985 (with the notable exception of “The Chauffeur,” which does have a sleek and elegant video, but the boys don’t appear anywhere in it. No Durans, no Duranalysis. That’s the rule). To commemorate this occasion, here’s a montage of Nick’s awesome video hairstyles, in loose chronological order:

Wow. Yeah, that pretty much looks like a whole bunch of entirely different people, doesn’t it?

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s Roger:

Hmm. Not exactly a shocking amount of variety here. Well, he sported some vaguely blondish highlights in “Union of the Snake,” right? Roger is a man who values consistency.

Here’s the ludicrously pretty John Taylor:

Yep. Just a whole lot of nice hair and great bone structure going on.

Apart from some slight variations in shade and length, Simon’s hair changes surprisingly little from video to video. Still, his wide range of facial expressions more than compensates for his lack of tonsorial creativity. Simon is, as always, a one-man party.

Andy’s hair is a linear progression from fussy to indifferent to awful. Or, if you prefer, from “This whole bleached look isn’t really my thing, but I guess it’ll keep Nick happy,” to “Come to think of it, I don’t give a rat’s ass whether Nick is happy with my hair,” to “Nick will hate it; therefore I love it.”

Or at least that’s exactly how it’s going to play out in the histrionic and highly libelous screenplay for the made-for-basic-cable Duran Duran biopic that I’m currently writing in my brain (working title: Dance Into the Fire: The Duran Duran Story), an idea which has been festering ever since I read Andy’s account in his memoir of that time he and Nick hurled pork pies at each other during an especially acrimonious tiff. The screenplay would burst at the seams with glitter and champagne and scuffles and hair gel. It’d be deeply superficial and baffling and ludicrous, and yet would somehow consist of pure awesomeness. Just like Duran Duran themselves.


Ingrid Richter said…
Hooray! Another fine review! Sad to see the Duranalysis reviews come to an end.

I seem to recall a couple of rumors floating around about the Girls on Film video: 1) Simon was actually the lifeguard! and 2) the sleazy vignettes were individual fantasies of each of the Duran Duran members.

Care to weigh in on these? Rumors started around the time when Mikey from the Life cereal commercials ate pop rocks & drank pop and died, so, you know, grain of salt...
Morgan Richter said…
Simon's definitely not the lifeguard, though I've heard that rumor too (I think it's even mentioned as a debunked rumor in the Wikipedia entry for the song). As to the vignettes being individual fantasies of the boys, I suppose it could be, though they're all pretty adamant these days that this video was not their idea in any way and that it was entirely the brainchild of their managers. So probably not, though it makes for a good story.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
All this time I thought that lifeguard *was* Simon, but after looking at it again, it's definitely *not* Simon's nose or lips on that guy. Hmf!

Great job on the Duranalyses, if not all the time you took to make the photo collages of each member's hairdos in this final post.

I enjoyed your perfectly articulated witty observations!
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, Cheryl! It was fun doing these reviews...

It would have made perfect sense for Simon and the others to appear in this video in other roles other than just performing as the band. I'm not sure why they didn't -- Simon would have made an excellent lifeguard...
DKoren said…
Thanks for the delightful reads -- and the naturally resulting re-watches that must accompany the Duranalyses! The whole series is awesome. And wow - thanks for putting the time-lapse hair pics together. My sister had asked me to do something like that for us to survey to pick our favorite look for each... and you nicely provided that before I could do it! And the comment regarding Andy's hair had me laughing out loud. And I'd get tv again, just to watch your special! :-D
Morgan Richter said…
Aw, glad you enjoyed these reviews, DKoren! Frankly, I think the world needs a big, cheesy made-for-television film about Duran Duran. It's necessary.
Dan said…
Duran Duran was in this video?

details-later said…
Awesome, Morgan!

This whole series was glorious, Morgan. I think you were especially hilarious channeling the inner thoughts of Nick and Andy, the yin and yang of Duran. The "Nick will hate it, therefore I will love it" line wins the gold medal. I laugh every time I recall it, and it won't get old. Not for a long time!

In a way, Andy's inner thoughts on his hair seems to have turned out into a masterstroke of the Pixie/Kitten's ways in the end, don't you think?? You are so right on the Power of the Pixie!

Guess no thoughts are occurring in John's pretty, pretty head!

I particularly and request your take on the inner dialogue of Simon, John and Roger! (Or are you saving it for Dance Into The Fire? :)
Morgan Richter said…
Duran Duran was in this video?

Heh. Dan, I had a sneaking suspicion you'd take more of a keen interest in this video than in any of Duran Duran's other masterpieces. Just a crazy guess...

In a way, Andy's inner thoughts on his hair seems to have turned out into a masterstroke of the Pixie/Kitten's ways in the end, don't you think??

Oh, certainly. I'm sure Nick managed to spread his magical-pixie influence to every single aspect of Duran, up to and including Andy's hair. If he can make Andy feel defensive and neurotic about his appearance, then his work is done. For such a wee little thing, Nick is an awesome force of nature.

Guess no thoughts are occurring in John's pretty, pretty head!

Ah, beautiful John. Back in the day, John usually seemed so unfocused and dreamy and... well, maybe kind of dumb, like there just wasn't that much going on beneath that pretty, pretty surface. And now that he's cleaned himself up/sobered up and has gained a little perspective, he seems sharp and witty and self-deprecating and fun. It's a huge difference. I vastly prefer John 2.0. More fun at dinner parties, just for starters.
Morgan Richter said…
(Gah! Sorry, Ingrid, I forgot to respond to your comment with the link to the cute McSweeney's article on '80s bands, and now I see you've deleted it! I'm sorry! I got sidetracked! It was an inadvertent snub, I promise!)
willow23 said…
As I only stumbled upon your blog through the Duranalysis I must admit that I am sad that they've come to an end. But then all good things must come to an end. Well done on the final video. The end hair comparisons were a stroke of genius! ;0)
Morgan Richter said…
Sorry fo the delay in replying, willow - I'm on vacation, no computer, typing on my sister's phone. So glad you enjoyed the duranalysis! They were fun to write.. Kinda sorry I reached the end.
victor said…
Morgan, please can you tell me the girl(model) who fights with the sumo wrestler ? How do I find it ?
Morgan Richter said…
Victor, your best chance of finding that out might be to ask the band members directly through their official website -- it's one of the best ways to find information about the models who've appeared in their videos. Email questions to askkaty@duranduran.com, and Katy, who works with Duran Duran, will pass them along to the band members, and some of their answers will be posted on their site. Here's the link: http://www.duranduran.com/wordpress/new-site-ask-katy/ I hope that helps.
synthesia said…
Okay, confession time.

I obsessively and lovingly read every installment of the Duranalysis series when I first got into Duran Duran a year and a half ago at the ripe old age of fifteen. I will admit I fell out of love with Duran Duran around October 2016 and started getting into other, far different music and kind of getting annoyed with them. Which was a huge bummer, because life is dull without louche partyboys and expensive kittens (oh, Nick).

Last night I found myself really really missing the Durans for some reason, so the first thing I did was look this whole thing up and here it is!! The first thing I ever read that you'd written was this review and the second was the one of Rio (by the way, I got Nick and John mixed up perpetually when I first got into the band. I figured out John was the tall one by the time I saw the Is There Something video). I just wanted to say in a really long-winded fashion thank you so much for these reviews and for making me laugh, even when I didn't particularly want to laugh.

So: Thank you!! So much!! All the love!!
Morgan Richter said…
Aw, thank you so much, synthesia! Life is so much better when it's filled with beautiful partyboys and expensive kittens, isn't it? (Oh, yeah, I got Nick and John confused for pretty much all of 1984. It happens!)

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