Paul Thomas Anderson’s Radiohead: “Daydreaming” Music Video (2016)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson has long been tangentially connected to the avant-garde rock group Radiohead via guitarist Jonny Greenwood, so it was only a matter of time until he collaborated with the band directly.  In 2016, he did just that, releasing a video for “DAYDREAMING”, a track called off their ninth album– the first since their 2011 release “The King Of Limbs”.  

The piece features Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke walking through various locations and environments, stitched together as if it were one cohesive labyrinth.  Anderson makes a repeated visual motif out of doors, stairs, and other transitional architectural structures, imbuing them via the magic of editing with the power to effortlessly transport Yorke across space and time.  Captured in cool, neutral tones with what appears to be a mix of conventional celluloid film and digital acquisition,  “DAYDREAMING” bears Anderson’s cinematic stamp much more explicitly than his recent videos for Joanna Newsom.  Though broken up into a series of vignettes, the video’s editing essentially structures itself as a handful of extended tracking shots, a camera movement technique Anderson staked out for himself as an artistic signature in early works like BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) and MAGNOLIA (1999).  Whereas he almost exclusively used the Steadicam to achieve these types of shots before, here Anderson also uses handheld camerawork, giving himself a wider berth for spontaneous inspiration.  His camera consistently pushes or pulls us along the Z axis, beckoning us toward or repulsing us away from a singular point of convergence.  Meanwhile, a shallow depth of field works to obscure that distance, lathering the video in a coat of mystery.  

“DAYDREAMING” also alludes to some of Anderson’s core artistic conceits, namely the iconography of California and the compositional values of portraiture.  While the various spaces that Yorke stumbles through are meant to be taken as generic, geographically-speaking, they nevertheless remain characteristic of the Californian landscape: sunny beaches, crowded laundromats, grungy industrial spaces, and sleepy bungalows.  Anderson also finds a few opportunities to dwell on Yorke’s face as he stands still, framing his weathered visage inside of a tight portrait.  

The video operates primarily on dream logic, and this dreamlike quality– of being removed from an objective, sober reality– generates a feeling of consistency with Anderson’s other output from this period.  “DAYDREAMING” speaks to Anderson’s recent exploration of alternative distribution techniques, in that he unleashed the video on an unsuspecting populace; there was little to no advance notice that there was even going to be a new Radiohead album, let alone a stunning video from Anderson to accompany it.  As a band, Radiohead has shown a preternatural ability to harness the power of the Internet to find innovative distribution avenues.  If his recent efforts are any indication, Anderson is quickly mastering these same skills for himself.

RADIOHEAD: “DAYDREAMING” is currently available via the YouTube embed above.