The Videographic Essay: Criticism in Sound and Image

Imitation of Life Voiceover Story

Kristen Warner reworked the scene of Annie Johnson’s funeral from Imitation of Life, speeding up and slowing down some shots, re-cutting (and repeating) some film dialogue, and interspersing these with her own reading of the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’, whose refrain is ‘Annie, are you OK?/ Annie, are you OK?’ The song’s lyrics—‘As he came in through the window/It was the sound of a crescendo/He came into her apartment/He left the bloodstains on the carpet/She ran underneath the table’—depict a scene of physical violence that perhaps stands in for the emotional violence the character has suffered. The song’s refrain further points up the extent to which Annie has been taken for granted, ignored, cast aside: it takes until 1987, or perhaps even 2015, for anyone to ask after her well being.

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  1. Imitation of Life Storytelling Voiceover