Monday, 29 April 2013

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors: Lana Del Rey at the Paris Olympia

Onto a stage flanked by elaborate candelabra and an imposing statue of a lion, all the trappings of that peculiar LA gothic of The Black Dahlia and Sunset Boulevard, she enters. Sauntering on past the tattered stars and stripes which hangs limp over the guitarist's Marshall stack amplifier, she is dressed equal parts prom queen and runaway bride. She could be Duchamp's mechanical bride – or more pertinently McLuhan's mechanical bride; aloof form the maelstrom, channeling the swirl of hypermedia.

The stage is a film set, but within this soundstage vast screens are embedded, portals into other film sets, somehow more real – or at least with more pronounced reality effects – than the reality before our eyes. And the films are not confined to the cinema-size screens within the screen-like world of the stage. They cannot be contained, spilling out onto every available surface, patinating the vast corinthian columns on either side. We see images of Elvis, Jackie O, old Coke ads, super8 footage of people taking super8 footage. It is a nostalgia for nostalgia itself. Endless self-reference.

Off-stage the screens multiply further. A thousand hands proffer smart phones which she plays up to in the way pop stars once played to the roving cameras on Top of the Pops. Within this strange mystic gulf between screens which project out of the audience and screens upon which are projected, that her performance plays out. Only within the frames-within-frames of this splintered panopticon does Lana Del Rey exist.

Part of what is fascinating about her is that the music is so clearly the least important element of this spectacle. It is not that it is bad – in many ways it is quite good – but it is irrelevant. Or at most, it plays a supporting role. The music is the soundtrack to the show, reversing the usual hierarchies of live performance. At one point, she leaves the stage and an actual film plays on the screen, taking her place. Like Max Steiner's syrupy scores of old, her string section play on in accompaniment to this short feature, equal parts Terrence Malick and Levis ad, about a girl who runs away from home to hang with the bikers, breathlessly narrated by the breathless voice of the singer herself, star of the mini-movie. Nobody, of course, believes that this is true autobiography, but it is a myth that she is allowed to participate in.

For a long time, the marketing of a singers has required narrative, but rarely has it been so self-consciously fictionalised. Even her body is fictionalised, as has been relentlessly publicised. Like Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo, the audience are invited not so much a glimpse into the private feelings and fantasies of the star but rather an opportunity to leap through the screen and into the fictive space of the movie. Even better – with camera phones, instagram, hipstamatic; to direct the movie, edit it to their whims. “Dancing in the dark in the pale moonlight … telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare.”

[all images pilfered from social networks via google image search]