Jim Blashfield

Jim Blashfield: And He Was

Brian Libby previews two nights of Jim Blashfield music videos and films

Screenshot from Jim Blashfield video for the Talking Heads’ “And She Was”

By BRIAN LIBBY

Michael Jackson as a Gulliver figure tied down by tabloid-writing Lilliputians. An elephant shooting lasers out of its trunk as an accordion floats by played by invisible hands. A potato as the getaway car for a morose husband. As two upcoming Northwest Film Center screenings (part of the Reel Music festival) remind us, the mind of Portland filmmaker and installation artist Jim Blashfield is a seemingly endless junk shop of quirky enlightenment.

In 1984, David Byrne and his iconic post-punk band, Talking Heads, needed a music video for the new single, “And She Was.” These were the glory days of MTV, when no song or album aspiring to the Billboard charts could go without accompanying videos on the then all-music channel. But Byrne was busy making his feature-film directing debut, “True Stories,” and the band was scattered across the globe. For both practical and artistic reasons, they needed something different than Talking Heads players lip-synching in front of the camera.

About this time, Byrne saw a copy of Portland filmmaker Jim Blashfield’s surreal short “Suspicious Circumstances,” with its blend of surrealism and humor born from an eclectic mix of images floating in and out of the frame: potatoes, an old tail-finned Cadillac, disembodied Donald Duck heads, even a cheese grater chiming like Notre Dame or the Liberty Bell. Within a few weeks, Blashfield not only had the go-ahead to direct a video for “And She Was,” but a veritable carte blanche from Byrne to follow his artistic impulses.

“David sent over some drawings that were kind of like storyboards but didn’t go that far. I basically said, ‘It looks like we’re kind of in the same place with this. He just said, ‘Well go ahead then.’ I said, ‘So you want me to just go ahead and make it?’ And he said, ‘That would be best, wouldn’t it?’ So here’s a band I’m tremendously interested in, that I find exceptional: the music, the language. I was scared shitless, but also quite confident I was on the right track, even if I didn’t know what it was going to be. It went on MTV 28 days later with us shooting all over Portland. It made such a big splash that after that people thought they were supposed to trust me. The fact that it was a Talking Heads video was stamp enough.”

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