FEATURE: The Morning Star – Dinner Parties (Dir. Jess Milne)

In your 20s, you are socially free. Free to make all the friends you want, date all the people you want to, released from your comfortable echo chamber, and now subject to the many different cliques, crowds and ways of thinking. Musical artist The Morning Star channeled her jarring encounters with social monotony into a rough, sarcastic audio experience in track Dinner Parties. Alongside director Jess Milne and producer Nick Bolton at TEN ALPHAS, an artistic, dreamlike music video was conceived, concentrating on disconnection within a partnership and their respective social crowd. Milne reflects:

“I wanted to create a world that felt ominous. The dinner party is a symbolic representation of a couple trapped in an meaningless and shallow social network, but more sinister. When our protagonist Ali arrives the guests sit down on a beat, it’s almost cultish and heightens her sense of being out of place… Having random eccentric characters (Such as the Cat Lady and Doll lady) added to the quirkiness; they are doing nothing but observing Ali, making her feel watched.”

Amidst the grotesque consumption of various foods at a dinner party, the protagonist finds herself in a situation in which she feels she doesn’t belong, misaligned with small talk of university, as mentioned in the lyrics of the song. As the shots traverse the various slurping of high class delicacy, there is a palpable sense of both awareness and sarcasm from the protagonist as she watches on, exaggerating the people who consume as snobbish, alluding to how transparently she disavows their obvious, garish display of arrogance. While this happens, at the opposite end of the opulent table, sits the protagonist’s partner, also watching and passing critical judgement, but rather than focusing on the egregious display, his interest is to how Ali herself is acting. This stifling presence adds a new pressure to the claustrophobic context, erupting into Ali’s self aware breaking point. In the middle of the clip this culminates in a passionate moment where Ali looks up to the ceiling and meets the eye of the camera, looking directly, if not painfully, to us as viewers. Milne gives insight into this artistic decision:

“The guests are all in sync with each other; like the same food, laugh at the same gags, aren’t shocked at the confronting food, making Ali feel unwelcome and out of place…When Ali breaks the fourth wall and looks up at the camera, she’s seeking to get out of the situation she’s found herself in – it’s the moment she realises this world isn’t for her. There is a sense of foreboding with the interactions between Cody and the waiters.”

This eccentric and again, opulent world, is detailed and picturesque in contrast to the disgusting display of social rules. The camera doesn’t move and locks the viewer into the slow, dreamy movements that poor out from the performers. The creators decided to shoot in a higher frame rate to slow down the footage. This keen aesthetic attention drones along with the melancholic, strumming music, trapping the viewers in their awe. The lighting is dim and intertwines with the candles dotted around the setting, a feeling which, as the director Milne says, is cultish as opposed to merely whimsical, reflecting as if a neurotic ritual is taking place. The clip was shot overnight at The Heritage Hotel in Bulli. With setup at 10am, there was ample time to prepare food, the lighting and the space of the set, revealing the amount of detail and precision put into the set decoration and lighting elements. The filmmakers remark on the equipment used:

“We shot with the Arri Alexa Classic which is a camera we at TEN ALPHAS specifically purchased to use in creative projects just like this one… We decided to embrace the grain in the image. The Alexa grain is very filmic and not offensive to my eye… The overhead camera is a Canon C70. A big thank you to DOP Brendan Barnes for his help as 1AC, and Dennis Lundin for the light.”

When asked about the inspirations for the clip, Jess Milne speaks of Eyes Wide Shut (1999) due to it’s grandiose, lavish world. They also were fortunate to partner with Don from Black Diamond Antiques and Collectibles, which was in walking distance of the shooting location, a match made in heaven for the logistics of the shoot.

“We’re surrounded by obscene riches. Fur coats, pearls, candles along with the grotesque – intentionally excessive in every way…The food was intended to be all baby foods – suckling pig with baby carrots and potatoes. We couldn’t source a suckling pig, so we settled on the pig’s head ($50 from Hawthorn Butchers in Woonona!). We had to keep the head intact during the very hot day that preceded the shoot. It was pretty grotesque, even more so than I’d imagined. We all cooked various dishes that could be eaten. The biggest challenge was asking the vegan dinner guests to eat with a decapitated head sitting in front of them!”

The world and concept of Dinner Parties illuminates the experience of having to define what is against one’s own inner nature and what is expected to be performed within a group. Jess Milne and The Morning Star capture the grating nature of having to endure egotistical social circles and the weight of conformity. The creatives of this project have portrayed their deep artistic understanding, managing to communicate a hard to define internal experience with confidence and style. The efficiency of production is a testament to well practiced artists and fulfills the murky waters of emotive artistic intention.

Here is the official video for “Dinner Parties

Music Video Credits

A film by Jess Milne. A TEN ALPHAS FILMS Production. Producer: Nick Bolton. Producers: Jess Milne, Ali Mollica, Cody Munro Moore. Director of Photography: Jess Milne. 1AC: Brendan Barnes. 1AD: Nick Bolton. 2AD: Corey Read. Camera Assists: Daniel Smith, Simon Ellis, Zoe Lewis, Corey Read, Joel O’Brien. Gaffer: Dennis Lundin. Stand by props: Zoe Lewis. Stills: Simon Ellis. Editor: Grace Vaughan. Grade: Jess Milne.

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