We see NYC, whereby Michael Jackson's character has found out about his lovers relationship with 'Alex'. "Who is it?" he asks - only for it to be revealed that 'Alex' is not a lover of hers - but in fact an alias she goes by when she is working as a high-class call-girl. She has some very shiny cards all with different names on: Alex, Diana, Celeste, Eve, etc.
Michael is - obviously - cut up by this and decides to leave one night while she is out working. he gets on a plane and she tries to run back to him but it is too late. Michael Jackson's assistant throws all the cards back in her face and she realises he knows. But, alas, she returns to her employers - a man and a woman - who promptly slap her and then start making-her-up again for her next client.
Michael is in China (?). Alone.
What I reckon...
This has so many clear links to Fincher's work - specifically 'Panic Room'. The entire beginning of the video recalls Hitchcock's 'Psycho' credits sequence, which was in turn, copied by Fincher in 'Panic Room'. Even the warm colours and false-looking NYC buildings in 'Panic Room's' opening credits could have been taken directly from the opening shots - before the beat kicks in and flips from the warm palette of oranges to the cold colours of black and blue.
The entire atmosphere reeks of Neo-Noir, 'Blade Runner'-esque influence - smokey woman, shadows and shiny surfaces (elevator walls, the cards themselves, mirrors). Then again, there is more to it - to the point that it feels a little like a 'Dairy Milk' advert. The woman with a white hood in this high class society: All because the lady loves ...
I'm going to mention two directors whom I know little of - David Lynch and David Cronenberg. The shiny cars, the shiny walls, the mysterious hooded woman ... am I right? I watched Cronenberg's 'Crash' years ago and - obviously - due to the nature of the film (eroticism and cars) it relied heavily on the metallic sheen of vehicles, so this did seem to recall that but 'Crash' was made three years after so clearly that is just me. Maybe a Cronenberg fan can clarify if this type of 'look' is his influence ... David Lynch though ... I don't know exactly where I got his influence from, especially when currently I have only seen 'Mulholland Drive' (I've got 'Blue Velvet' sitting on a shelf!) ... so completely discard that last paragraph if you know better, if you don't then ... be aware it might be rubbish. Throughout the video, we often see a face emerge from flat, clean surfaces and this is completely surreal so that might be the link - Lynch and his Surrealism.
Nevertheless, Fincher doesn't seem to be making a run-of-the-mill music video. We have the product-nature of the woman, constantly reiterated in the nameless-faces that emerge from the artists drawing paper initially (deigning woman, designing humans, products thus prostitution) and then blank surfaces throughout. One specific special effect is incredibly haunting as we see what Michael feels, as a couple are underneath sheets - but when the sheets blow away there is nothing there (Strangely enough, in the recent trailer for Scorsese's 'Shutter Island' there is a similar effect as Michelle Williams disappears in DiCaprio's arms...) But we, the viewer, get to see the real identity of her clients intermittently - one of which is not only disturbing, but quite amazing to see in a Pop music video. A man sits in the shadows and then reveals himself to be wheelchair bound - cut to this client using an oxygen mask while she dances seductively out-of-focus, soon enough he gets the energy to stand, cut back to Michael. Lonely as hell. This is pretty serious stuff - prostitution, disability, sex and money. A feature ... if only
An interesting side-point is how the video raises concerns about what is the role of a man - and what is the role of the woman. When she realises Michael is gone she is found by her employees - a male character moves close to hear (does he smell her?) and moves off disapprovingly, while the female employer comes up to her and slaps her. It would make more sense for a woman to slap a man but this 'girl' was slapped. Bear in mind this is a woman who has slept with many men. Maybe the role-reversal of a woman with many partners, opposed to a man accepted if he has many partners, is a factor. But, in this case, she is slapped because she wanted to be with one man opposed to the many clients who desire her - and pay for her. Normally your are chastised for having many partners, but her employers chastise her for wanting one partner: Michael Jackson.
The entire video is steeped in expressionistic visual signals - Michael awaits in a dark and cold environment while feeling pain and anguish - but as the video progresses, he moves into the city through to the airport as he faces not only the city lights, but the reality of his life and his relationship and its impracticalities. When we first saw her she was dressed in white as some sort of saviour, but by the end she is in the shadows with dripping make-up in the rain - clearly, this career option began as beauty and class but degenerated into a destructive and ugly lifestyle.
But Fincher did not ignore Michael's trademark socks - and, as he sits upset, he shows a quick shot of the iconic socks. This is a Michael Jackson video of course.