Rihanna and director Melina Matsoukas reduce the love-story drug movie to its under-five-minute essence, while tweaking no shortage of noses, in the extraordinary music video for “We Found Love,” which premiered today. Loosely based on Trainspotting, albeit transplanted to Belfast (complete with introductory narration in a slightly dodgy Irish accent from Mancunian-born Agyness Deyn) the video features enough skin, crime, violence, and drug use for culture-watchers to cry controversy even before broadcast censors get hold of the clip. Rihanna and video beau Dudley O’Shaughnessy pop pills and rave their way through a greatest-hits of such doomed-love stories; aside from the eye-dilation insert shot made iconic in Requiem For A Dream and reused in Spun, we saw shades of Jia Zhang-Ke’s Unknown Pleasures and the skate-punk Kids. The clip also has a clever way of showing the worst of drug use without really showing it, both by including a needle, but in the context of an amateur tattoo (more on that in a second), and by portraying Rihanna bent over and vomiting…ribbons. Plus a ton of stock shots and superimpositions of police lights, fireworks, crowds moving in time-lapse à la Koyaanisqatsi, a controlled demolition, and a burning house.
The tattoo is a black-ink “MINE” branded on Rihanna’s left butt cheek, an almost too on-the-nose contrast with the bright-light “YOURS” she writes in the air earlier in the video, and one of a number of signals that the self-destructiveness of O’Shaughnessy’s character is turning just as equally towards Rihanna’s. Much is being made of a physical resemblance between him and Chris Brown, which we can sort of see. But what makes the comparison really stick is O’Shaughnessy’s bleached-blond hair—which is either another stylistic callback to a drugged-nineties moment (like the mud rave halfway through the video) or else it’s a pointed reference to the dye job Brown unveiled earlier this year—two years after his and Rihanna’s notorious confrontation. Or, more likely, it’s both. If people are going to circumscribe Rihanna’s work with the specter of Chris Brown anyway, why not play it up for attention? There’s a lot more to unpack here, not least the global vs. the local, the “art” of post-industrial decay, and the coolness level of doing donuts in a Trans Am. Needless to say, we love it. Watch it now!
[Image: Getty Images]