File under: None of us is getting any younger. In the new video from British band Clock Opera, a couple of elderly strangers tease out a tenuous relationship that keeps almost beginning. At a time of year when everyone strives to be a bit bolder, it’s an affecting message that should send more than a few viewers out of the house to proposition their unrequited laundromat loves.
Once and For All may be a music video, but it has the look and feel of a short film, and a fully fleshed out narrative to boot. Veteran actor Dudley Sutton plays the rumpled old man who falls for his female counterpart one fateful laundry day. Ben Strebel, who directed the clip, describes Sutton as “the sweetest man ever,” and if you watch the gentle way the actor takes off his wool cap and adjusts his hair in deference to an approaching lady, you’d probably be inclined to agree. “Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you don’t have the same feelings as everyone else,” Strebel says. These are hardly typical stars of music videos, though.
“I heard the song, got to know the lyrics, and then something automatically clicked with old people,” says Strebel. “In this country [London], they’re quite downtrodden and not really respected; in contrast to some Latin and Southern European countries where the older you are, the wiser and more respected you are in the community.”
Indeed, the director ended up gaining a great deal of respect for his lead, the vaguely Jack Lemmon-like Dudley Sutton, over the course of the shoot. “I gave him a suggestion once and he said that Fellini had asked him to do the same thing,” Strebel says. “I sound a little self-flattering when I say that, maybe, but just finding out he’d worked with Fellini was epic.”
Ben Strebel is one half of the directing team, Ben and Lewis, who are responsible for lauded videos by Phoenix and Crystal Fighters, among others. He conceived the idea for Once and For All based on an indelible image he’d seen six months earlier of an elderly woman alone on an estate, visiting with a flock of pigeons that seemed to be waiting for her. From there, he extrapolated the protagonist who must connect with her before it’s too late, and the setting where they’d meet. “The idea of a laundromat came later,” he says. “I quite like it because it kind of mocks the classic laundromat affair.”
After developing the idea further, though, the director submitted a completely different concept to the band, owing to his worries that they wouldn’t they go for an idea that seemed more like a short film about senior citizens. Shortly thereafter, he felt emboldened enough to submit a second pitch: what would eventually become the finished work. If the band rejected it, perhaps they would let him use it for a short film later on.
Ultimately, the band called the director back two days later, wanting to use the idea he’d hedged his bet on. “They said that there’s only one they wanted to do and it was that one. So we went in on the basis that their video would also be a short film,” Strebel says. “They were like, ‘This is your baby, your story–you do it.’”
Given free rein to honor his vision, Strebel went out and made the video he wanted to make. How fitting then that the finished product serves as a stirring call to arms, practically issuing a mandate to all viewers to go outside and seize the day.