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From Rooftops To Railway Lifts: The Films Of Vincent Moon

Vincent Moon’s off-the-cuff music videos are steeped in romanticism.

Photo by Nina Mouritzen

Vincent Moon never wants to hog a memorable experience all to himself. He became a major player in the blog revolution when he started filming musicians for a video podcast called the Take Away Show on French music website La Blogotheque. Moon, whose real name is Mathieu Saura, has documented a variety of indie bands performing in unusual locations like elevators in Canada (Arcade Fire), rooftops in Ohio (Sufjan Stevens), and cramped apartments in Paris (Yeasayer). By removing the gimmicks and stunts of the modern day music video, Moon has re-conceptualized the music video as a documentary. Creating seemingly improvised, intimate sets, he attempts to bridge the gap between the musicians and the audience.


"My point is not to make movies but to make relationships," said Moon, in an interview with Creative Commons. An advocate of free culture, Moon has also democratized the music performances he captures by broadcasting them freely on the internet, exposing many bands to his legion of followers. His hand-shot, single-take productions and high-contrast imagery have generated a wave of spin-offs in the YouTube and Vimeo community, imitating his unmistakable style and the off-the-cuff feel of these mostly-acoustic sets.

Architecture in Helsinki’s Take Away Show out of windows and in the street.

Moon continues to expand his role in documenting music with longer features, like his 2009 CPH:DOX Sound & Vision Award-winning film, La Faute Des Fleurs. The feature-length film on Japanese singer, artist, and writer Kazuki Tomokawa does not stray far from the aesthetics of his Take Away Shows and is similarly riddled with grainy, sepia-toned close-ups. Last August, Moon and Danish band Efterkland produced a music performance film called An Island. Shot in four days on an island (as the name implies) off the Danish coast, Efterkland collaborated with more than 200 local musicians to recreate songs from their album Magic Chairs. The public can access it through private/public screenings or a "Pay What You Want" digital download.

The trailer for La Faute Des Fleurs.

Claiming to be a wandering vagrant, Moon has been traveling around the world for the last two years and turning his camera lens on everyone he encounters along the way. As he develops a more global vision, he gives more musicians (from Mali to Cambodia) a platform for their music on his new internet label, Petites Planetes, which was just launched last month. One of his last projects, called Temporary Valparaiso, captures musicians' tales of stolen guitars and heart-wrenching performances in sun-soaked Chile through a series of videos, music, and essays. Juxtaposing black and white clips from a French tourist film of Valparaiso in the 1950s with its current-day streets, Moon catches little moments that define the city: a game of soccer at dusk, the flicker of a line of hot chili pepper lights, a woman blowing a kiss from a cliff railway lift.

By directing films with a strictly non-commercial approach and surviving off of donations, Moon’s work gives jaded music lovers hope in an oft brow-beaten music industry. His films can also be found here.