For a band who helped build their reputation on music video, it’s been a long time since Duran Duran made a promotional film worthy of their classic clips from the ’80s, which repeatedly cast the band as a hedonistic, futuristic, slightly effeminate gang of pirates.
Some of those videos – “Girls on Film,” “Rio” and “The Chauffeur” among them – turn up in a jarring montage midway through “Girl Panic!”, the new Duran Duran film directed by Jonas Åkerlund. I say film, because it’s nearly 10 minutes long, though it could also just as easily be called an infomercial. More on that in a minute.
There is a plot, a sort of loose one which is ultimately meant to tug at memories of an era when the guys in Duran Duran were young and pretty and supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigova, Helena Christensen and Yasmin Le Bon were even younger and prettier. Those models appear in “Girl Panic!” and to the surprise of almost no one, they still look incredible. In fact, the only shock of all is that being married to swarthy Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon for a few decades has only served to make Yasmin Le Bon get even better as the years pass. Surely Oscar Wilde would have had an explanation for that.
So the plot, such as it is, is one of rock & roll decadence: Waking up in a fancy hotel (in this case London’s Savoy) surrounded by hot chicks, clearly having overdone it the night before with the booze and blow, but still looking like a god among wastrels. The rock stars in this case, however, are the supermodels, which I suppose qualifies as a twist if you can’t remember who Robert Palmer is.
Campbell plays the role of Simon Le Bon in the video, while the rest of the Fab 4/5 are portrayed by Crawford (bass guitarist John Taylor), Herzigova (keyboardist Nick Rhodes) and Christensen (drummer Roger Taylor). Yasmin Le Bon turns up as an unnamed guitarist in a sort of tongue-in-cheek gag which may or may not sit well with the band’s long time axeman, Dom Brown, an unofficial member who has been a crucial piece of the puzzle over the past few years, both in the recording studio and on stage.
There are other in-jokes as well, with the actual members of Duran Duran serving as photographers, journalists and hotel staff: Le Bon is a clumsy room service waiter; Rhodes a patient bellhop; Roger Taylor an elevator operator who may be the victim of sexual harassment or at least the makings of a letter for Penthouse Forum; and John Taylor as a chauffeur (get it?!?!?!?)
In the first Wayne’s World film, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey broke the fourth wall in a memorable bit about how products like Doritos can appear on screen as a sort-of-subtle means of advertising. Swarovski Crystals are no Doritos, and their appearance in “Girl Panic!” isn’t meant to be remotely subtle, either. It’s splashed across the screen both in word and deed. So is the UK edition of Harper’s Bazaar, which not coincidentally has a cover feature about the video and the supermodels in its current issue.
In fact, the only thing I was left asking at the end of “Girl Panic!” was whether the video had done a good job of advertising “Girl Panic!” itself. After far too much consideration far too early in the morning, the answer is an emphatic yes.
“Girl Panic!” is just one song on an album Taylor-made (haw haw!) to harken back to an era when Duran Duran mattered most: The ’80s! All You Need is Now, produced by Mark Ronson, was a deliberately crafted time capsule, one which blended the Duran Duran of 2010/2011 with the sounds of 1981/1982. It’s splashy and sugary and, thanks to a rash of terrific songs and terrifically energized performances, it works from start to finish.
As a single, “Girl Panic!” dipped its toe in the water with a Record Store Day single, which included an exclusive David Lynch mix of the song on the b-side. Good fun, but where was the video?
Several months later, the video effectively captures the hedonism of the song’s grooves in scenes of young, barely clothed models touching tongues on four-poster beds, though “Girl Panic!” ebbs and flows like waves of cocaine and champagne crashing on a crystalline shoreline. The first time through the video, I wasn’t sure it had worked. But the song is like an earworm, catchy and clever, and it’s still there much later.
“Girl Panic!” works because it’s the first time since 1985’s “A View to a Kill” that a Duran Duran video effectively captures the band’s essential modus operandi: Booze, babes and bling.