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Samuel Bayer's finicky auterishness, in an unlikely marriage with remake mania

April 30, 2010 |  2:46 pm

Warner Bros.' "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake opens Friday around the country, and though the studio took a somewhat odd tack in showing it to reporters and critics -- namely, they didn't, not until a couple days ago, anyway -- the film is actually not half-bad, well-paced and with a number of stylish set pieces. (In the Los Angeles Times, critic Robert Abele was less sympathetic -- you can read his review here).

It's not surprising that the movie would offer some visual flourishes given its director, Samuel Bayer. Bayer is one of those you've-seen-his-work-but-probably-didn't-know-it-was-him guys. Over the last several decades he's directed a host of massively well-known commercials as well as an equal number of classic music videos, including "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Only Happy When It Rains" and "American Idiot." (He's also responsible for the video for Blind Melon's "No Rain," with that girl in the bumblebee tutu -- yes, your childhood is flashing before your eyes. Kind of like seeing Freddy Krueger ads all over again.)

Although he's been a director for more than 20 years and had been courted by many in Hollywood, Bayer had never directed a film before, as we write in a profile in Thursday's paper. He's known for being picky and fanciful. Many in town have a story about him, the kind in which he talks energetically about, say, re-imagining Hamlet in an Ohio junkyard or contemporizing a Sam Peckinpah classic, but never, in the end, taking the plunge and getting behind the camera. In fact, he almost didn't direct "Nightmare" -- it took a special plea from Michael Bay, who produced the film, for him to finally agree.

As a kind of homage to/refresher on Bayer's non-film work, here are a few music videos from him (we'd embed "No Rain" but the label has taken out all embed code, so here's a link instead.) For his next movie, Bayer is more likely to do an art house film -- he was attached to "Monster's Ball" back in the day -- though sources tell us he's going to be methodical in making a decision. As he told us, "I want to wait and make sure it's the right thing. Too many directors take on their next movie right after the first." Let's hope it's not another 20 years.

-- Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

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