how 400 chinese schoolboys prepared for jamie xx's 'gosh' video
Kim Chapiron illustrates the community behind the otherworldly music video in a new film that captures what went into its creation. Sneak a peek at what life is like in a faux-Parisian town, and what happens at a 400-person peroxide dye job.
The Romain Gavras-directed video for Jamie xx's "Gosh" is a tightly choreographed, monochromatic voyage through the Tianducheng neighborhood of Hangzhou, China. Today, a new clip directed by Kim Chapiron details components of its enormous 400-cast member production — from a mass hair-bleaching session, to the translingual direction necessary to finesse such swooping camera angles without using 3D or CGI effects. The video follows newly blonde Chinese schoolboys running through an empty hotel lobby, flipping off the camera man, and learning the militaristic precision necessary for the music video's circular finale.
The music video owes much of its familiar yet sparse nature to Tianducheng, the pseudo-Parisian town complete with its own 354 ft. Eiffel Tower, surrounded almost entirely by farmland. Construction on the neighborhood began in 2007 in tandem with a Chinese trend often referred to as "duplitecture," the reconstruction of global (often European) cities with the intention of expanding internal tourism. This trend led to recreations including Thames Town, an English-themed village in the Songjiang district; "Hallstatt 2," a near complete replica of the Austrian town in Guangdong; and most recently, a Venetian canal in the city of Dailan.
Though not much is known about these imitation communities — "Hallstatt 2" was famously revealed accidentally by a Chinese researcher visiting the original Hallstatt — they're often relegated to a "ghost town" narrative. In 2013 Gizmodo described Tianducheng as "depressing," citing its then-population of 2,000 as an illustration of empty grandeur.
Perhaps this is why one of the most gorgeous moments of Chapiron's footage is a candid montage of citizens gleefully dancing in the town plaza. Though it's only a brief segment, the humanizing message in the context of Tianducheng's supposed "ghost town" status is a powerful one. It's a visual that amplifies the initial video — which features an albino black man, was created by a Greek director for a song by a British producer, and was shot in a French town in the middle of rural China — into something even more wonderfully compelling.