Duranalysis: “Out of My Mind”

Just in time for Halloween, here’s an incomprehensible ghost story, featuring Simon, Nick, and Warren.

“Out of My Mind” is a single off of Duran Duran’s 1997 Medazzaland album. The album, despite being quite good, was a commercial failure; outside of the core Duran fandom, “Out of My Mind” is mostly known for being featured on the soundtrack for the 1997 Val Kilmer film The Saint. The video, which was directed by Dean Karr, is similarly obscure. If you’ve seen it, you probably remember it as the one in which Nick Rhodes makes out with a demonic tattooed bald lady while his head melts.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re probably thinking one of two things right now, just based on that description:

1. Holy crap! That sounds awesome. I must see this!
2. Holy crap! That sounds awful. I must see this!

Regardless of which camp you fall into, brace for disappointment. The video features some amazing imagery (I repeat: Nick Rhodes makes out with a demonic tattooed bald lady while his head melts), but it’s a bit of a mess, for reasons pertaining entirely to style, not content. In some ways, I get it: Some of the video is set in the past, so the film is processed to give it an old-timey flickering zoetrope effect. Also, this is a ghost story—or multiple ghost stories, really—and thus giving the images an amorphous, hard-to-decipher quality makes perfect sense. But there’s a clear line between “surreal, dreamlike quality” and “junked up beyond comprehension”, and “Out of My Mind” drifts over to the wrong side of that line. It’s overloaded with stylistic tricks: Shots drift in and out of focus, or are overexposed, or desaturated, or tinted, or speeded up, or slowed down, or reversed, or filled with visual noise.

It’s all a deliberate artistic choice, and there was clearly an audience for it in 1997; one year earlier, Karr used these same techniques on Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” video to widespread acclaim. However, it’s a style that hasn’t held up well. Not everything in a music video needs to be (or even should be) coherent and cohesive, but it’d sure be nice if the style would move out of the way of the substance long enough to give viewers a decent picture of what’s going on.

Nick, Simon, and Warren hang out on an ornate balcony in a gorgeous castle in Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic, looking pale and moody and glamorous. And blurry. Always blurry. Fair warning: From here on out, everyone and everything is going to be blurry, all the time, because no clean copies of this video exist online. I took screenshots from four different uploaded versions, searching for the highest-quality one, but even still, the final result looks muddy.

In the castle’s library, ghostly eighteenth-century versions of the Durans loll about in breeches and frock coats and buckled shoes and fancy hats. The very best part of this video might be the outfits: We see multiple versions of each Duran—past and present, ghost and human—and every last bleeding one is dressed to kill.

Nick’s wardrobe, no surprise, is especially fabulous. He spends this video looking cold and malevolent while draped in frilly shirts and shimmering satin suits. He’s still working his coppery-orangey “Electric Barbarella” hair, and he’s looking extra pretty and glamorous, like he’s singlehandedly trying to fill the beauty void left in the band by John’s departure.

This whole full-tilt Wuthering Heights getup works well for Simon, too. Love the frilly cravat and cuffs. It happens every damn time: Get Simon and Nick away from the rest of their original bandmates, and all of a sudden they start dressing like they’re attending a Goth masquerade ball at a Belle Époque whorehouse. (See also: Arcadia).

A pair of courtesans in fancy powdered wigs, corsets, and knee boots (and, notably, no pants or skirts) flounce around a ballroom, frolicking sexily with each other, until they’re joined by Nick and Warren. Warren’s wearing a bicorne, while Nick pairs a stovepipe hat with a weird beaded veil across his eyes and nose. If this shot is tickling some memory cells, it’s probably because Nick and Warren recycled stills from this shoot to publicize Bored With Prozac and the Internet?, their 2013 album from their long-simmering electronic side project, TV Mania, the origins of which predate this video.

This woman is wearing an elaborate headdress with “Chranice” written on it, which is the Czech word for “shin guards”. Make of that what you will.

Oh, hey, Simon. How’s it going?

Yeah, that’s Simon, buried under a mountain of prosthetic makeup, playing a decrepit, scraggly-haired old man in tattered rags, staggering under the weight of his heavy bundle of sticks. He’ll make recurring appearances throughout the video. At times, he’s shot in sedate black-and-white; at other times, he’s shot in overexposed, frenetic color. At a guess, I’d say the black-and-white version is Old Man Simon in flashback as a corporeal being, whereas the color version is Old Man Simon’s tormented ghost, which is haunting the castle.

We get plenty of black-and-white shots of Simon looking agonized while wearing striped pajamas. Striped pajamas have very specific, very sad, very horrible historical connotations; I’m going to assume Simon’s outfit isn’t an allusion to any of that, because surely Duran Duran wouldn’t be tasteless enough to shoehorn a Holocaust reference into a glitzy, stylish music video about ghosts. Here’s a kinder interpretation: Parts of this video—the black-and-white footage in particular—seem to be inspired by German Expressionism, and Simon’s look here could be viewed as an homage to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Love the wig, Nick.

Yep. Nick’s in full eighteenth-century female drag, painted and bewigged and corseted and skirted and looking like a trillion bucks (are those spoons sticking out of his wig? Fantastic). He romps about on a rooftop, raising his skirts and flashing his legs and scaring the pigeons.

Want a clearer shot of Nick’s sartorial splendor? Tough luck—you won’t find one anywhere in the video. Luckily, there’s a gorgeous still of Nick in his full glorious ensemble on the director’s professional website.

Warren lies on a tile floor, surrounded by dozens of cats. At least they’re mostly cats, though I also see a hawk, and at least one duck. It’s tough to tell if the cats are alive, which would help me work through my emotional reaction to this shot. Warren surrounded by dozens of cats? That’s adorable! Warren surrounded by dozens of dead cats? That’s… awful and creepy. The cats aren’t moving, even though some are standing upright, and… well, cats tend to move around a lot, so I think I’m going to amend that first sentence thusly: “Warren lies on a tile floor, surrounded by dozens of dead and taxidermied cats.”

It’s awful and creepy.

This is becoming an unexpectedly grueling video to analyze, just because there’s so much going on. If I’d been smarter about this, I think I would’ve scrapped any attempt at analysis and just thrown together a bunch of zany gifs of Nick being all glamorously weird and unfathomable.

A black-clad woman with formidable eyelashes sidles up to Warren and whispers to him. Black viscous goop starts leaking from his ear. Seriously, this video has some brilliantly unsettling images.

Speaking of unsettling images: Nick, resplendent in lime green satin, opens up a trunk, from which emerges a scantily-clad bald woman with runes and tendrils tattooed all over her face and scalp. Oh, god, Nick, I think I’m learning more about your personal life than I ever needed to know.

The bald woman, who is clearly a demonic being of some sort, writhes in front of a mantelpiece festooned with long devil horns. Nick’s entire face and head start to melt away, like a dripping candle. Upon catching sight of himself in a mirror, Nick drops to the floor in (understandable) horror. Being a plucky sort, he recovers from the shock pretty quickly: Next time we see him, he’s kissing her passionately.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the one and only time we ever see Nick make out with anyone in a Duran Duran video, right? It’s, uh, a whole lot less sexy than I’d ever imagined it’d be.

With his fun and games over, Nick returns the woman to the trunk. The shot is carefully cropped, so we never see whether he still has a head.

That’s the video. While I don't love the execution, I give it full points for effort—there’s some outstanding nightmare fodder in that. I'll be sending you my therapy bill, Duran Duran.

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Kate Crisp said…
I know what you mean about this video. I WANT to love it, because there are so many appealing elements, but at the end of the day you feel a little ripped off because it's all so blurred & fleeting. I had watched it a few times ages ago and then came across a reference to Nick snogging scene which I hadn't noticed. This naturally sent me scurrying back for a closer inspection....meh.

Interestingly, I DID read somewhere that the bald girl was someone who just happened to be on set and they asked if anyone would be prepared to shave their head and be in the video as Nicks snog object. Think I would have been bald in a millisecond, despite the yick factor of the melting head...
Great analysis as always! Kate
Morgan Richter said…
Kate -- That's fabulous! I would happily shave my head to make out with Nick, even with his head melting off. Yeah, it's a frustrating video, because I feel like I have to work too hard to see too little: fantastic images, but they're almost indecipherable.

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