When Magnet Releasing announced the above-the-line talent for their horror anthology XX, one name stood out among the five directors: Annie Clark. Better known as St. Vincent, the artsy songwriter and guitarist makes her directorial debut with “The Birthday Party,” one of the short films in this compilation.
For her fans, Clark’s cinematic avocation comes as little surprise. Her ambitious and engaging music videos, in which she appears as an audience surrogate in off-kilter narratives. In the striking “Actor Out of Work” (2009), for example, Clark reacts placidly to a series of actors auditioning their hearts out for an unknown project; her steely gaze matches the intensity of her music while her rigid posture and minimal movements suggest the control she has over her creative work. More formally narrative videos draw on the Wes Anderson school of filmmaking to subvert viewers’ expectations. Shot in saturated earth tones with richly detailed tableau staging, these clips take the audience on surprisingly eerie journeys, such as the kidnapping and domestic play-acting of the “Cruel” video. Even the more whimsical clip for St. Vincent’s first single “Jesus Saves, I Spend” has its disturbing moments, as when a kid tied up in a sleeping bag gets dropped on a conveyor belt amidst bucolic, proto-Moonrise Kingdom scouting imagery.