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Weapon of Choice – an unapologetic panegyric

Lise Smith

Fatboy Slim, I have to celebrate you. It’s hard for me to be coldly analytic about one of my favourite music videos – nay, one of my favourite short films – ever, so I’m not even going to try. This is going to be a solid gold panegyric, three hundred words of nothing but effusive praise. I have to praise you like I should.

In an era of music promos featuring identikit popstrels performing overfamiliar street-jazz routines in monotonous unison, with intrusive close-ups of the face and midriff of the otherwise forgettable pop muppet in question, it’s good to be reminded that there are artists with a genuine interest in making a creative product to accompany their music. And it’s great to be reminded also, in the figure of Christopher Walken, what genuine star quality is.

Walken’s character in the video is deliberately unglamorous – he wears a shabby, dun-coloured suit and his face appears ashen. He sits in a bland hotel foyer with only the hum of a hoover for company. Walken is, of course familiar to millions for his ice-cold Bond villain and crime boss characters, so it’s a surprise for many to see him leap up from his lonely seat and tapdance to Fatboy Slim’s latest floor-filler. That Walken is a trained dancer who performed in musicals as a younger man was news to most.

The movement has a wonderfully relaxed quality to it – although Walken’s tapping is scintillatingly rhythmic, he performs much of the material with hands casually in pockets and with minimal effort showing in the face. Parts of the material are gently mimetic: on the line “You can go with this,” Walken gestures to the side with a hand. Other sections have more visual dash – a sequence where Walken executes a series of fast stepping turns through a double-mirrored corridor, causing infinite reflections of the dancer, lingers long in the mind.

The illusion of a middle-aged man (Walken was 58 when he shot the video) having fun in a hotel-shaped playground is somewhat broken towards the end when the actor takes to a harness and flies around the lobby. This fantasy sequence actually takes away some of the magic for me – I prefer the idea of the jaded man having a moment of plausible pleasure, dancing around the escalators and corridors of the hotel, and this final sequence breaks my suspension of disbelief. But that one small niggle aside, Weapon of Choice remains one of the most inventive, original and surprising videos of the last ten years. And all without a hint of midriff in sight.

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