Video Review: R.E.M. “Strange Currencies”

In black-and-white, a headlight from a car shines on several stacks of newspapers on the sidewalk. R.E.M. perform in the parking lot of an abandoned building.

While driving through the city, Michael Stipe sits in the backseat of the car and views a little boy tucked inside a hollowed out television.  A young man in the front seat of the car watches the band perform. A worn photograph of a woman (Samantha Mathis) lies in a puddle. A thirtysomething man talks to someone on the pay phone.

The headlights shine on a vanity and a chair. The young woman sits on the roof of the building, her legs dangling. A thirtysomething African-American woman holds her baby. A little boy spreads a dead bird’s wings. A stray dog scrounges for food on the sidewalk.

Stipe sees a second young woman and man sitting on the sidewalk. A third young woman stands by the wall, staring at the ground. The first young man gets out of his car and runs down the sidewalk. A fourth young man rides his skateboard backwards as a train rolls past him. The young woman walks out of her apartment building and watches the car drive past her home. She looks down.

Rating: 3/5

Despite the economic growth in major cities of the United States, some areas were unable to recover from the recession. People, like the first young woman, live in neglected apartment buildings. A pipe burst recently and she had to throw most of the furniture in her family room out. She’s been driving into the suburbs on garbage days, hoping to find a usable couch and a table. So far, she’s only been able to get a mattress and a lamp. At night, she sits in on the mattress, staring at the ceiling. In a month, she’ll be able to buy a television.

Michael Stipe worries about his sister. They haven’t talked to one another in a while. However, he knows she’s not doing well. He spots her sitting on the roof of the building. He hopes she reaches out to him. On the sidewalk, he sees a homeless teenage couple sleeping and a young mother watching him through her door. He turns his head as he sees dead animals and a stray dog. Every living being in the city is suffering. The stores are boarded up. There’s a lone liquor store open on one block. An overgrown field grows by a closed sports venue.

The young woman sees a car slowly drive by her apartment. She wonders if it was brother, checking on her. She’d like to talk to him. However, he would come over right away and move her into his home. She gives herself two more month before she calls him. It will give her enough time to find a better job.

Director: Mark Romanek Year: 1995

 

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