Lady Gaga's latest cinematic epic has finally arrived: Months after the mini-Tarantino saga "Telephone", the nearly nine-minute-long new video for Gaga's Fame Monster smash "Alejandro" debuted today on Vevo. Directed by Steven Klein and choreographed by Laurieann Gibson, the video features all the cutting edge wardrobe, creative dancing and tidal waves of eye-popping "did you just see that?" moments fans have come to expect from Gaga. In what looks like a fashionable propaganda film packed with contrasting images of soldiers in underwear and uniforms, the pop star transforms herself into a latex nun, a female Bono, a thick-goggled Siddhartha and the Material Girl — with a machine gun bra replacing Madonna's now seemingly demure conical model. As opposed to Gaga's past Technicolor projects, "Alejandro" takes place in the same muted grey space as David Fincher's "Vogue" video for Madonna, giving the video a more silent-era feel that evokes a black-and-white photograph.
"She likes epics. It fits her personality. We combined dance, narrative and attributes of surrealism," Klein, a fashion photographer who in the past has worked closely with Madonna, tells Rolling Stone. "The process was to express Lady Gaga's desire to reveal her heart and bear her soul."
Surrounded alternately by half-naked, monk-haired male dancers in high heels and uniformed soldiers, "Alejandro" avoids one defining plot, opting instead to wow viewers with its intense, provocative political and religious imagery. Gaga swallows rosary beads, simulates sex with her dancers and winks at the "Lady Gaga has a penis" rumors by wearing a red phallus-shaped mark on her crotch. Like "Bad Romance" before it, the ending of "Alejandro" shows Gaga laying in bed before it culminates in Two Lane Blacktop fashion — Gaga's blank stare morphs into a specter as the film burns and disintegrates in the projector.
Even though the clip's running time ballooned beyond the length of standard videos, Gaga and Klein struggled to squeeze all their ideas into the final cut. "On a music video there is never enough time," says Klein, who, besides directing tour videos for Madonna, hadn't tackled an MTV-style project. "We had planned so much and achieved much of that, but of course some of it we were not able due to time constraints."
While "Alejandro" seems both politically and religiously charged, Klein insists "the politics came out of the story, but was not the official intention." Madonna's visual oeuvre seems like the obvious reference point for "Alejandro," with its not-so-subtle hints of "Like a Prayer" and "Vogue," but Klein admits that painters, more than any musicians or film directors, influenced the design and spirit of the video.