Laura Gibson is a singer-songwriter from Oregon... where pretty much all the really great indie artists come from, apparently. Seriously, it's like half of the musicians I find a brilliant music video for come either from England or the Pacific Northwest. Dreariness is apparently a muse, but I digress.
Gibson brings an amazing energy to her music. Think of her as a Rasputina with no cello and a throbbing John Lee Hooker rhythm. I came across the haunting music video for her tune "La Grande" through the office of Mick Cullen at Subterranean Radio.
Cullen sends me most of the best underground music to be found on the planet, and "La Grande" was no exception to his selection of true gems. "La Grande" is a period piece, though the exact period is sort of hard to pin down. There's a mishmash of jazz hats, old cars, and art deco that America has sort of labeled "the past."
Director Alicia Rose has cobbled together an absolutely amazing, if somewhat disturbing, tribute to Gibson's song. Gibson herself stars as a mysterious young woman who happens upon a haunted hotel full of ghostly specters clinging to the remains of previous lives.
"I visited the Hot Lake Hotel about a year before we shot the video, while writing the song "La Grande," says Gibson via email. "I had been looking up historic train wrecks in Oregon and came upon a picture of the hotel through an Oregon history Web site.
"When I Google-searched for the place to find out if I could stay the night, dozens of ghost-hunting Web sites came up," she adds. "Apparently it is known as one of the most haunted places in the United States (I'm not sure who decides these things).
"When I first met with Alicia Rose, I told her the story of my visit there, and we came up with the concept," concludes Gibson. "We were able to stay the night at the hotel during the shoot, and I didn't see a ghost, as hard as I tried to find one."
"It's an eccentric, rambling old place that was built in 1812 and has had quite an incredible history of tragedy over the years," adds Rose. "There was a major train crash almost directly in front of it, it was ravaged by a huge fire during its stint as a nightclub, and in the early part of the 1900s it was a sanatorium often referred to as the 'Mayo Clinic of the West' where thousands of ailing folks came to bask in the healing waters of the 200-plus-degree 'Hot Lake' it was built next to.
"The more research I did, the more I drew from this history to build the narrative, which became kind of an amalgam of different stories and memories of the hotel itself," Rose continues.
Gibson struggles amongst the sad shades that make up the staff and residents of the hotel. Throughout the course of the video is an unbearable feeling of unease and loneliness. Forgotten children play without enthusiasm, a man dances with the memory of his girl while an incorporeal band plays somberly in a front room lit by a begrudging sun.
A constantly shifting mixture of conventional shots and time-lapse thoroughly screw with the viewer's ability to sense fourth-dimensional motion. It's hard to find a firm place to stand, and Gibson seems to feel it in every exploration of the grounds
The foreboding sense of her own misplacement dogs her every step, and build in the way I haven't seen since the criminally underrated Nicole Kidman ghost story The Others.
As night falls and eerie mist moves in like in a Silent Hill game, Gibson finds herself surrounded by a circle of the dead. The camera lingers briefly on her startled eyes before cutting to a fleeting dawn. All in all, "La Grande" is a masterpiece of gothic suspense and romantic spiritualism that truly draws you into the veil between the world of the living and the dead.
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