Monday, August 9, 2010

I Want Love by Elton John

Robert Downey Jr. is back.

This Academy Award nominated actor proved himself one the best actors of his generation but in the late 1990s was getting more press for his frequent drug-related arrests than his acting. After multiple drug rehabilitation programs he started focusing on his career again. In 2007, Downey made a critical and commercial comeback playing Tony Stark in the blockbuster Iron Man. Downey’s road back to stardom began a lot earlier than this comic book movie with the first acting job he got out of his final stint in rehab, an Elton John music video.

Elton John’s 2001 album “Songs From The West Coast” was a return to greatness John. After numerous albums in the 1990s which only had moderate successes (well, except for The Lion King soundtrack), Elton collaborated with his old lyricist Bernie Taupin, old members of his band and returned to the piano based music that made him famous. Reminding us all why we love Elton John, this album has been followed by two other similar albums and the musical Billy Elliot! which represent some of the best work that Elton has ever created.

In 2001, music videos were one of the most important promotional tools in music but the problem was that Elton hated making music videos. So director, Sam Taylor-Wood cast Robert Downey Jr., fresh out of rehab to star in the music video for “I Want Love,” the first single from the album.

Shot with one continuous shot, this amazing video features Robert Downey Jr. walking through an empty mansion lip-synching to Elton John’s song. The director shot 16 takes of the video and chose the last one because John felt that he was relaxed and “the way he underplays it is fantastic.”

“I Want Love” is one of Elton John’s most honest and painful songs. It’s about someone who yearns for love but feels that he can never be loved. Lines like “I can’t love, shot full of holes” describe a sense of inner turmoil and depression. Downey perfectly captures this in the video sometimes looking in the camera but more often looking away like he cannot face us as he admits his own pain.

Everything is stripped away from Downey in this video, there is no special effects, no bravado and even his voice is taken away. What Downey does with what is left is a truly masterful piece of acting, nuanced, subtle and touching.

"I Want Love" is a beautiful example of two artist coming back to themselves reminding us that even though we might find some entertainment in the drama of celebrities' personal lives it's in their that art we find even greater joy.

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