Heartache By Popular Demand – By Out Magazine

Reclaiming Madonna’s most mature music video message

Beginning with a reverse striptease, Madonna’s Take a Bow enhances her usual sexual-romantic provocation. This video is all about the aftermath of a great passion. I dive into it now in response to readers’ demand after my earlier Madonna video overview. Take a Bow is the most mature of all Madonna’s videos, a major affair.

Real life torero Emilio Munoz performs as one of Madonna’s most memorable music video co-stars. (Dark-eyed, hawk-nosed Muñoz must have made quite an impression considering the bullfighting imagery repeated in Madonna’s recent Living for Love video.) Madonna pines for Muñoz’s uncommitted stud image — in person, in bed, in the corrida, and on TV. Director Michael Haussman’s cool imagery, spiked with red lipstick and blood, contrast physical remembrance (sex) with psychological delicacy (a filigreed bodice) and emotional violence (break-up, loneliness).

Take a Bow premiered in 1994, back in the days when music videos insisted that viewers notice details (such as Muñoz twirling his pink cape like a bedsheet or shifting his hip to the right, a sexual feint to tease/confuse his bovine opponent). Today, pop editing is crude, fast, incoherent. Media-makers tailor their work to ADHD dysfunction but Madonna still believed in coherence and (unlike Lady Gaga) symbolic meanings that can be interpreted.

Superior to Alan Parker’s film of Evita (1996) which was largely scuttled by Madonna’s total miscasting, Take a Bow shows Madonna in an ideal creative partnership. She’s aided by Babyface’s lovely melody, written within her vocal range so that her pleading has never been as affecting; it suits the high-tech, soft-core visual montage. Haussman uses Madonna’s typical porno teasing but adds a melancholic undercurrent. A viewer can easily believe that Haussman and Babyface, imagist and songwriter, collaborated from the start.

The video’s Spanish details fulfill Madonna’s fascination with Latin culture (the Evita movie was truly fake). She graduates from street pick-ups (Borderline) and ersatz cultural imitation (La Isla Bonita) to indulging Continental tradition. The video’s concept was timely; derived from Pedro Almodóvar’s bullfighting melodrama, Matador (1988) which had recently burst upon global pop culture. It also referenced the great Anna Magnani’s characterization as Camilla, the love object in Jean Renoir’s The Golden Coach (1952), who winces when an arrogant lover slays a bull in tribute to her. Madonna doesn’t impersonate Magnani’s commedia dell arte characterization so much as assume a modern version of the timeless, symbolic wounded: the love-wounded (depicted in shots of a fashion pin pricking her finger and blood droplets falling into a Catholic holy water fount). Take a Bow not only illustrates Madonna’s art consciousness (her appreciation of pop history from Renoir to Almodóvar), it advances those totems of classical pop art to postmodern complexity.

Thrashing languidly in her lonely bed, Madonna sinks under, and out-of, bedcovers. She eventually masturbates to TV images of her proud aloof lover slaying a beast as dispassionately as he used-then-discarded her carnal submission. (“How was I to know you’d break my heart?”) All the images of penetration, climax, sorrow, and abandon come together in Haussman’s imagistic flow, evoking menses and a woman’s heartache.

Take a Bow’s visual and musical effects are so delicate yet so piercing, they linger like a fragrance—way before Madonna initiated a perfume brand in 2012 (a scent desperately titled Truth or Dare). But the sentimental pull and memorable beauty of Take a Bow combine intimate confession with an artist’s challenge to her audience. Telling her fans to honestly bear their romantic pain is a lesson in gay solidarity.

Read the full article at Out Magazine 


MICHAEL HAUSSMAN: GRAVITY – By Moholy Ground

This first person text by the artist examines gravity’s effect on human emotion, told through five high definition video sequences filmed at 2,000 frames per second. GRAVITY debuted in Los Angeles at Young Projects this past February as a video installation. MOH presents GRAVITY’s most dramatic moments in still images alongside Mr. Haussman’s exegesis and a video taken at the original exhibit.

Each of the five subjects is filmed in slow motion, floating upward then descending down to the earth, where they bottom out in gravity’s clutch. Yet each person is magically stationary. They do not move an inch. All that moves is their skin, cellulite, muscles, bones, and expression, creating a disturbing yet beautiful shift in body mass and emotion. Even the background stays perplexingly still. The total effect is that of a moving painting.

This slow motion study reveals the shocking effects of gravity upon our body. What is normally missed in the blink of an eye, is poetically recorded in extreme slow motion, as gravity takes hold and pulls the body down to earth, causing the skin, cellulite, muscles and facial expression to sag down, with a weariness, as if the subject has suddenly aged thirty years. It appears like a special effect, the force ripples from the legs up, turning the body wrinkled and saggy, with a worn, older face that is defeated and depressed. Then the exact opposite effect and emotion overcomes the subject as they are made weightless and set free. We observe the body becoming youthful, rejoicing in it’s expression and flawless skin texture, as it soars away from the earth. All physical and emotional expressions seem to float effortlessly upward in a positive, beautiful direction.

The lighting and color palette is created by a strong heavenly top light, used by Renaissance masters, which dramatically exposes the flesh as if it were moving brush strokes and reemphasizes the relation with the heavens, gravity and sheer weight of the world.

This emotional shift from optimistic youth to depressed old age provokes a very strong, emotional effect. Therefore, each person interacts with a simple, yet symbolic prop in order to gain more depth into this radical emotional shift.

Read the Full Article at Moholy Ground 


Rolling Stone: Madonna’s 20 Greatest Music Videos – Take a Bow – Michael Haussman

Express Yourself: The Making of Madonna’s 20 Greatest Music Videos

Since first storming MTV in 1983 with the poetic, lo-fi “Burning Up,” Madonna’s music videos have spent more than 20 years sparking conversations about fashion, feminism, sex, religion and what you could and could not show on television. To help her realize these 67 clips — one of the most rapidly changing visions in pop history — she teamed up with some video and photography’s most celebrated artists, including David Fincher, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Herb Ritts, Mark Romanek, Chris Cunningham, Stéphane Sednaoui, Jonas Åkerlund, Luc Besson and more.

“Madonna was the one you had to get,” says Michael Hausmann, director of her mid-Nineties clips for “Take a Bow” and “You’ll See.” “That was the video that would be the most airtime. It was, in some ways, kind of more important than having a movie out. More people were watching it, that’s for damn sure.”

To celebrate our cover star, we caught up with many of the directors behind some of the most iconic (and controversial) images in music history.

Remembers director Michael Haussman about this love story filmed in Spain, “She said, ‘OK, Here’s the song: It’s about a girl in love with a public figure. Write something, but just don’t make it dark.’ So, of course I went and wrote something really dark.” Madonna and the director met at the Ritz in Paris, tabled the discussion about his dark idea until dinner and started making small talk. “She says, ‘Well, what have you been doing?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve been really into filming bullfights and stuff.’ And I just saw this sparkle in her eye and suddenly I just kind of went with it. Pretty sure the while thing was written [that] night.” The sepia tinged video mixes shots of real life bullfighter Emilio Muñoz with Madonna for a clip that’s sensual, majestic and features steamy footage of the pop star writhing in front of a TV. “I thought it was going to be [difficult to direct] but then it was one of the sexiest things that I’ve ever seen,” says Haussman. “She would just play the song through and go for it.”

Michael Haussman, director: It became epic in proportions to try and actually do that video because it was such a taboo subject. There were several times when it was gonna be cancelled because of PETA getting involved, saying, “We understand you’re going to film a bullfight?” And originally I was. I was gonna try to film a bullfight where the bull gets killed and everything, and that was kind of the idea to stay true to it. And [it] became kind of obvious…we can’t stage a bullfight for a Madonna video, that’s not going to go across too well….And sure enough, it was such a fiery topic that we had to have to have the police in my office in London opening our mail because a lot of animal rights groups send letterbombs to scientists and things. The producer had a rose taped to his door and it said, “Hasta la vista, baby!” All kinds of really scary shit. I had to check under hotel under different names, which I’ve never had to do, when I was in Spain.

The bullfighting world didn’t want anything to do with someone that’s gonna come in and [try to be] commercializing them. What helped was that I had a super passion about it…I knew enough that I could say, “Listen: I want Emilio Muñoz and I can tell you about every fight he had last year, every outfit he wore and where he fought.” It was kind of funny because everyone said, “Well, he’ll never do it, Emilio Muñoz — why don’t you look at these other guys that are seeking publicity. And those are the guys you didn’t want! So that was a whole trip in itself — literally sitting in hotels in Seville, waiting to meet this guy. Waiting for four days passing — and it’s only his guys coming to scope you out and see if it’s real and it wasn’t some television show where they do pranks on people.

One thing we had to promise was that we’d never harm the bull in any way. And that became a real touchy subject because a bullfighter can’t really fight a bull unless he’s been harmed in some way. Usually they do a pick to his shoulder and that makes his head go down so that he could go use the smaller, red cloth called a muleta. So, if suddenly, we were not able to pick him or have any trace of blood on the bull, so how is he supposed to use this red cloth? She was set to fly out in two days and he was set to come the following day — it was right down to the wire. So I posed him the problem and he didn’t really say anything except, “OK, let me think about this.” And he just kind of of disappeared for two days. No one could get him on the phone. She gets on an airplane to come out. So, the drama was just fantastic! So he finally arrives and says, to the Spanish press, “I’m going to fight this bull, I’m not going to pick or bandeira him. it’s going to be the first time it’s ever done and I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it for my friend Michael.”

I don’t think [the bullfighting community] ever really wanted it to get out because he was able to fight that bull fine and it was beautiful and the bull never got hurt…at all. But you have to understand the reason that can’t happen is, unfortunately, [bullfighting is] about the celebration about killing of a bull. So it kind of took away the reason it why it exists for the Spanish. And also, when you’re looking at the footage, it’s pretty outstanding what he does. He’s not just fighting it — he’s fighting it beautifully. It’s gorgeous. It was all cloaked in secrecy. He wouldn’t do it unless no one saw. It was just too weird that a bullfighter’s fighting a bull that’s not picked or bandeira’d

Read more: Express Yourself: The Making of Madonna’s 20 Greatest Music Videos – Take a Bow – Michael Haussman