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POP EYE

August 17, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

VIDEORGY: Just when you thought rock video had lost all its sizzle, along comes a new video that makes you sit up and take notice. It's the amazing new Janet Jackson video, "When I Think of You." Directed by video wizard Julien Temple, its four minutes appear to have been shot in one continuous take, without any edits whatsoever--much like the opening scene in "Absolute Beginners," Temple's recent film. Shot on a leftover 20th Century Fox set from "Big Trouble in Little China" ("I think we actually used more of it than they did in the film," Temple said), it features Jackson prancing around a colorful tenement back-alley filled with brawling sailors, jugglers tossing flaming torches and a horde of dancers outfitted in turbans, wig-hats and zoot suits.

Temple confessed that the video wasn't really shot in all one take. It actually has three separate edits, which are cleverly disguised by the flash of a photographer's camera, a pan across a wooden beam and a darkened doorway at the bottom of a stairwell. Still, it's a bravura technical exercise, as the camera bounds back and forth across the set, capturing a seamless flow of movement; most of the dance sequences were choreographed by film veteran Michael Kidd ("Band Wagon" and "Guys and Dolls") .

"The camera movement is the hardest part, to keep it dynamic and exciting," Temple explained. "The key to pulling it off was getting our camera crew together with the dancers on the set, because the dancers had been rehearsing in their studio, but we needed to adjust the timing of each routine, so the dancers could hit their marks precisely when we had the camera in position. This was actually a low-budget video, so a lot of our extras did double-duty. It was very funny to watch. After they'd performed their first routine, they'd run off behind the camera, changing hats and jackets as they got in position for another shot down at the end of the street."

Temple may be associated with a new generation of gaudy video stylists, but he insists his affection for old Hollywood musicals has little in common with the MTV-style movies that are popular today. "I really can't stand the idiocy of films like 'Flashdance' that rely on so many quick cuts that you never get a real sense of the performance," he said. "The whole point of shooting a dance is to be able to see the dancers move, not to cut away every three seconds. I'm a big admirer of Fred Astaire's films. But even he said that one of the reasons he gave up dancing was that everyone kept cutting away from his performance all the time."

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