Using black and white photography, split screens, close-ups, and lingering beats, Paul Thomas Anderson’s music video for Fiona Apple’s “Hot Knife” paints a deceptively simple portrait of a woman expressing uncontrollable desires for another. It’s not until the final minute, when the mirage of silhouetted faces is cut by a long close up of Apple hidden behind herself (or are these other women’s faces?), that the techniques fuse to reach at a deeper sense of Apple’s psychology. By keeping the singer stranded in the center of the frame, alone and vulnerable, she seems embarrassed to be there. As if singing this song, like yearning for this love, is something she can recognize as ridiculous, but unavoidable. These bashful beats are balanced by moments of genuine passion where it looks as if Apple has forgotten that she’s come to a set, sat under lights for 12 hours, and sang the same song over and over again. To my eyes, only someone who knows Apple as well as Anderson could capture the kind of characteristics that surface here. The video makes the song catchier and miraculously emerges as another indispensable piece of media in both artist’s brilliant canons.
This marks the third time Anderson has directed a video for Apple. Click below to see their collaborations on “Across The Universe” and “Fast As You Can,” along with the now famous behind the scenes moment between Apple and Anderson featured as part of Magnolia’s video diary: