There are two very distinct sections to the video of “Les Oxalis” from Charlotte Gainsbourg. This is the most recent single from her incredible album, Rest, and it follows very closely on the heels of “Lying with You” taken from the same album. It’s reassuring, that Ms. Gainsbourg is releasing this work in close succession, when we’ve waited six years between albums. It’s also pleasing that the artist directed this video, herself.
In “Les Oxalis” the first sequence of images explore a monochrome cemetery. Oxalis flowers spread and bloom across the Victorian headstones. Lyrically, Gainsbourg references those who lie here, and in memory. Visually it’s the details of tombs that measure the light. Stone angels are suspended on mossy wings, and sunbursts bring tunnels of light.
Suddenly, the second sequences begins – color bleeds in and Gainsbourg comes in front of the camera – she’s scaling the face of an enormous, bleached out sand dune. We are in another bardo – the otherworldly arrival of the artist is handled simply. She then rolls down the dune and comes to a rest.
By comparison to the formerly mentioned “Lying With You”, which also self-directed, this is a much more nuanced video. Production values here aren’t going for pyrotechnics or literal translation of the lyrics – and as on the rest of her album Gainsbourg demands her audience do some work, and join the dots – follow these cross-cultural references.
One of the most powerful accomplishments of Rest was Gainsbourg’s double-play of words. She gently, sometimes breathlessly, bounced between English and French phrases. She toyed with the meanings of words in both languages. Of course, the word “Rest” can mean many things in English – and as many more things in French. Interchanging languages Gainsbourg moved the lock around the key. It was a brilliant album.
That down-to-earth cleverness that the artist brings to all of her endeavors is evidenced well in the apparently simple video for “Les Oxalis” as a simple weed-flower is elevated to a kind of totem-conduit between worlds. The double play, and the split-section device continues a theme of the album in the most beguiling way. It’s good stuff.
For “Les Oxalis” we award Charlotte Gainsbourg one eye to the kaleidoscopic bardo keyhole.
HURRY – LISTEN – CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG