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Michael Shamberg
In 1980 filmmaker Michael Shamberg was videotaping concerts at New York’s legendary Hurrah nightclub when he met the members of New Order. Recently renamed after the suicide of their lead singer, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, New Order would go on to shuck the earlier band’s existential gloom for a spiky electronic — and wildly successful — dance pop. But in 1980 they were just a band on their first American tour.

Forming a relationship with New Order and their manager, Rob Gretton, Shamberg promoted a New York concert in 1981 and filmed it with Barry Rebo as “Taras Shevchenko: Live at the Ukrainian National Home,” which now appears on the New Order DVD 316. In the process he became the band’s link to both cutting-edge film and the art world. When New Order would release an album they’d go to Shamberg, who would solicit video proposals from a series of great film directors and visual artists. Over the years Shamberg produced New Order videos by Robert Frank, Robert Longo and Gretchen Bender, William Wegman and Robert Breer, Jonathan Demme, Gina Birch from the U.K. band the Raincoats, French video artist Philippe Decouflé and Kathryn Bigelow.

“I never had anyone write a scenario,” Shamberg says of his approach to video commissioning. “The band could be in [the videos] or not — it didn’t matter.”

As the band grew in popularity, they started needing more, well…normal videos. When their Get Ready album was released in 2001, Shamberg solicited proposals from Leos Carax, David Gordon Green, Gaspar Noé and Michael Winterbottom for the lead-off single “Crystal,” but the record company decided to go with video director Johan Renck. Still, Shamberg retained his relationship with the band and continued making quirky lower-budget New Order videos that exist alongside the “official” releases. This September, Rhino is releasing a compilation DVD that collects New Order’s clips with a chapter heading allowing the viewer to play separately Shamberg’s productions. Included on the disk are two new Shamberg clips. The first is a simple and evocative video for the old song “Temptation,” directed by Shamberg and featuring Victoria Bergsman as a French girl buying and dancing to a New Order record. The second is Chinese d.p. and director Yu Lik-wai’s color-seared take on the band’s first single, “Ceremony.”

Of these two new clips, which cost only $10,000 each, Shamberg says, “In the early days, when Hurrah screened videos on monitors, videos were shot on video. Then they became commercials and were shot on film. Now, with these little cameras, we can go back and shoot on video with no crews, and that’s encouraging. It’s made me want to go back and make short films.”

The DVD contains Jonathan Demme’s epic production of “A Perfect Kiss,” a stunning video that consists of precisely framed shots of the band recording the song in a studio. At the time, the rumor was that the simple video was extravagantly expensive, and I asked Shamberg if that was true.

“The band didn’t mime to songs,” he explained, “so we recorded the song live on 24-track. We brought d.p. Henri Alekan over to Manchester, shot in 35mm and edited with Tony Lawson on a flatbed. Then we went to Liverpool to do a mix of the music and then traveled to L.A. to do a final film mix with Demme. It was like making a mini feature, and it cost about $200,000.”

Shamberg is also building a Web site (www. that will contain his stories about the making of these videos as well as one special treat. “When I called Leos Carax” — the legendary French director of Les Amants du Pont-Neuf — “to do a video for ‘Crystal,’ he told me, ‘The video will be very cheap, but my fee will be very large,’” recalls Shamberg, who notes that Carax didn’t get the job. “Then one day he called and told me that he had gone ahead and made the video. It’s very funny, and it will be up on my Web site. It’s just him, his dog and his cat. It makes fun of music videos. At the end, his dog is sitting there with an erection.”

Following the DVD release, Shamberg will move on to another Manchester-inspired project, a feature on Joy Division in collaboration with U.K. director Carol Morley, Yu Lik-wai and Natasha Dack of the production company Tigerlily. The film will examine the early years of the band as seen from the eyes of two Japanese fans who travel to England to meet them.


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