Pardon me, boy (track 29)


Pardon me, boy (video still)

Video, 4 mn 15.

A free and loose piece based around Chattanooga Tchoo Tchoo by Glenn Miller, the top hit from Sun Valley Serenade, whose ballet scenes are used throughout the Ice series, Pardon Me, Boy is visually centered on a pirouette performed by Sonja Henie.

By alternately showing Henie and her reflection in the ice, the skater’s movement – stretched, restructured, and subject to slow motion and accelerations – acquires a somewhat abstract dimension that brings the music to the fore. While this action helps underscore the phenomenal success of the song playing beneath it (having sold 1.2 million copies, received the first golden record in history, and essentially superseded the film in collective memory), it’s principal function is to tire the viewer’s gaze.

Through the reiteration of excerpts and the multiplication of video loops, the scene ends up essentially likening the athlete’s body to a rotating vinyl record, or the tip of her skate to a needle running over a microgroove. The video’s alternate focus on the body and its reflection proposes a commentary on this delicate tipping point between the dancer’s image and this metaphoric field underpinned by the music’s linearity. The image frees itself from its concrete form so as to summon another, while still anchored in the first by the moving tip of the ice skate. An erosion of sense, comparable to the wear created by the excessive use of a vinyl album, is thus set to work, encouraging thoughts to digress before becoming a prisoner to this logic and jumping over a series of grooves.

But the work’s title displaces this approach. Borrowed from the lyrics that Mack Gordon wrote for Chattanooga Tchoo Tchoo, it likens the ice skater’s routine to a dialogue that the video’s logic makes go around in circles. Becoming insistent from the repetition of the figures and almost subversive due to Sonja Henie’s artificial posture, it seems to propose a seductive behavior that, undermined and ineffectual, presents the song in an ironic light.

This interpretation of the video, which recalls the sexual issues that run throughout the Ice series, presents Pardon Me, Boy as a companion piece to Play It Again. Unlike the latter, the image of the seductress is less undermined by the very process of her indecision than by that of her partner. That is, unless Pardon Me, Boy constitutes some sort of sad reverse of the earlier video, which, like Coming Out, can be interpreted as the expression of amorous elation following successful overtures to the person desired.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet