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

Following his surprise music video, “DAYDREAMING” for Radiohead’s surprise 2016 album, A Moon Shaped Pool, director Paul Thomas Anderson dropped yet another collaboration with the iconic art-rock outfit out of the warm, blue September sky.  In delivering his second video for the album, Anderson has proved himself a cinematic soul-mate to the avant-garde musical character of Radiohead’s new album.    

The piece, for the track “PRESENT TENSE”, dramatically scales back any stylistic pyrotechnics in favor of a subdued, intimate performance video.  Sitting against a bare-bones backdrop in warm amber light so dim it could almost be candlelight, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood perform the track through its entirety with their voices, their acoustic guitars, and even a Roland CR78 drum machine.  Anderson alternates his camera between two separate setups, framing the two bandmates in static medium shots before punching in for a few shallow-focus closeups that further demonstrate Anderson’s fascination with the visual language of portraits.  Yorke and Greenwood give themselves entirely to their performances, achieving a heightened state of mind that calls to mind the similar expressions of artistic rapture evidenced in Anderson’s 2015 music documentary JUNUN.  

From “BURN THE WITCH” to Anderson’s own “DAYDREAMING”, the music videos that have accompanied the release of A Moon Shaped Pool have been nothing less than creatively-arresting works of art.  “PRESENT TENSE” is a much more subdued effort in that sense, but it nevertheless resonates with the conceptual clarity and restrained profundity that has become a hallmark of Anderson’s mature aesthetic.  

RADIOHEAD: “PRESENT TENSE” is currently available via the Youtube embed above.