Video may have killed the radio star, but now it’s made
for an incredible new DVD series.

Janna Hutz
(Courtesy of Palm Pictures)
Janna Hutz
(Courtesy of Palm Pictures)

Introduced in October, the Director’s Label embraces the
careers of some of the best directors who’ve worked in the
music video format in the past decade. Moreover, these DVD
organizers thankfully did not stop with just the productions done
for MTV, also including short films, documentaries, commercials and
other work done by the selected filmmakers. If that were not
enough, each DVD volume boasts a 52-page book with photographs,
interviews, drawings and, most entertaining of all, stories of
working with the artists.

Since the development of the Auteur Theory by French film
theorists in the 1950s, the director has been widely recognized as
the true author of mostly all film and video work. There have
always been the critics of such singularly-aimed praise, but these
music-oriented sets certainly illustrate how the unique voice of a
single individual can find its way into anything — no matter
how different in style or substance — they do.

The first three Director’s Label discs were released all
on the same day, and three greater voices in today’s music
video world could not have been found.

The Work of Director Spike Jonze

Pick your favorite music video from the ’90s. Go ahead,
any video. Chances are Spike Jonze was the man behind the camera.
Side A of Jonze’s DVD contains 16 examples of how Jonze
revolutionized the music video in the mid-’90s and racked up
a shelf of MTV Music Award astronauts on the way.

Jonze’s video for Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”
may have garnered most of the attention with its Fonz-like
coolness, but “Undone (The Sweater Song)” remains
equally impressive, showing Jonze in his early filmmaking stages,
taking the simplest of concepts (the Cuomo-led band playing in a
blue studio) and through playful acting, a slow-motion-like film
speed and a rush-of-dogs denouement made it repeatedly
viewable.

Here lies Jonze’s other talent; he constantly finds the
best artists, and more specifically songs, on the market and
develops long-lasting, fruitful relationships with them (Weezer,
Bjork, Beasties Boys). The Beastie Boys’
“Sabotage” is a great song. Jonze’s video for
“Sabotage” is even better. Most of Jonze’s
collaborators, like the Beasties, are also featured on the DVD with
interviews and audio commentaries (Christopher Walken even makes an
appearance to talk up Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of
Choice”). Side B has three lively documentaries of
Jonze’s and some rarities, including the skateboarding videos
that got Spike his start.

Rating: 5 Stars.

 

The Work of Director Chris Cunningham

The least well known of the three directors, Chris
Cunningham’s darker work with mostly techno artists may not
be as viewer-friendly, but he also may just boast the best video
from all three discs.

What becomes increasingly obvious as you make your way through
the three DVDs is how the video work of Bjork establishes itself as
the connecting thread between these filmmakers. While not everyone
loves Bjork’s music (or her sometimes alien appearance and
awkward choice of wardrobe), a trip through these DVDs certainly
makes a case for Bjork as the best video artist of all time.
Cunningham’s imagining of her “All is Full of
Love” finds a many-armed machine carefully putting together
an “A.I.”-like robot (with Bjork supplying her face) in
a white-washed space. Once complete, the newly-created android
finds love (and lovemaking) in the arms of its robotic creator.
It’s eerie, distinctive and beautiful — perfectly
capturing the moods of the source material.

Overall, Cunningham’s disc fails to the live up to the
quality of the other two in release mostly because it only occupies
a single side of the DVD, meaning a severe lack in extras. Despite
the shortchanging in available material, Cunningham’s entry is
still guaranteed to linger in your memory banks, thanks to the
nightmarish images of videos like Aphex Twin’s “Come to
Daddy.”

Rating: 4 Stars.

 

The Work of Director Michel Gondry

Jonze has already made the leap to big-screen success with
“Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation;”
Michel Gondry, the director of choice for Bjork and the White
Stripes, is now right behind Jonze with an underrated comedy under
his belt (“Human Nature”) and a Jim Carrey-vehicle
finding release this spring (“Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind”). Still, as is obvious from the recent release
of another memorable White Stripes video (the playfully-edited
“The Hardest Button to Button”), Gondry has not left
music videos far behind.

The Versailles-born Gondry first made a name for himself with a
running teddy bear for Bjork’s “Human Behavior”
video; yet, it wasn’t until the colorful Lego mania of the
Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl” that Gondry
finally found real MTV airplay. However, it is his incredible work
in between, which consistently and wonderfully play with the ideas
of repeated actions and dream-like realities, that make
Gondry’s disc the best of the Director’s Label trio. I
have now watched the video for Daft Punk’s “Around the
World” at least 20 times, and I cannot wait to watch it
again. As Gondry somehow explains in simple terms in the 52-page
book, the song demands the delightful-creepiness of watching an
assembly of skeletons, disco girls, athletes, robots and mummies
dance in circles.

Extras, once again spilling over onto a Side B, include a
75-minute documentary on Gondry and the making of his videos, some
imaginative shorts from his younger days and more.

Rating: 5 Stars.

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