Preface: Created by Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry, The Directors Series is an ongoing DVD series highlighting the best work of international music video directors. In addition to videos, these directors have also dabbled in film, commercials and other curiosities. Their unique approaches combine unorthodox techniques with a keen understanding of source material, resulting in some of the industry's most memorable clips. Each creator compiled their best work to date for the first three volumes, the reviews for which have been linked below. This series marches on with Volumes #4-7, highlighting the work of Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn and Stéphane Sednaoui.
The final installment in the second wave of The Directors Series, this highlight reel of Stéphane Sednaoui's music videos is subtle but still enjoyable. Well, perhaps a catalog that includes The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" and U2's "Discotheque" isn't completely subtle, but you get the picture. The French photographer and director has produced a successful body of work during the last decade or so, from Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" to a trio of videos for Bjork. His style is perhaps the flashiest of the bunch this time around; this isn't in reference to editing tricks and illusions, but rather his love for all things glittering and shiny. Sednaoui also emphasizes many of the artists in the most traditional way: with extreme close-ups and tight foreground compositions. They got noticed.
Previous installments in The Directors Series have yielded plenty of memorable images, from Spike Jonze's flammable runner in "California" to an aged Johnny Cash in Mark Romanek's video for "Hurt". Though the black-and-white chaos of "Give It Away" and the distorted mirrors of "Mysterious Ways" are prime candidates from Sednaoui's portfolio, it's hard to forget Bjork traveling down city streets on a truck bed or an army of Alanis Morissettes singing in a beat-up car. Even so, spotting some of the most memorable images require close attention. Though Sednaoui often calls attention to his subjects in distinct ways, his work is a bit subtler than you'd think.
As such, the portfolio of a talented director is best showcased by the director himself. The Directors Series presents Sednaoui's favorite music videos assembled over the past decade or so. Though an interesting assortment of bonus features is also on board, this disc includes the following:
Table of Contents
(Bonus Features listed separately)
Music Videos (19 Total)
Alanis Morissette "Ironic"
Björk "Big Time Sensuality", "Possibly Maybe"
Black Crowes "Sometimes Salvation"
Massive Attack "Sly"
Mirwais "Disco Science", "I Can't Wait"
NTM "Le Monde De Demain"
Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give It Away", "Scar Tissue"
Tricky "For Real", "Hell is Around the Corner", "Pumpkin"
U2 "Discotheque" (Director's Cut), "Mysterious Ways"
Youssou N'Dour & Neneh Cherry "Seven Seconds"
Though not included on the content list above, there's actually two versions of Bjork's "Big Time Sensuality": a regular and a "night" version. With those in mind, this is a solid handful of music videos; from the relatively unseen (Tricky, Mirwais) to the incredibly popular (Alanis, Chili Peppers), there's hardly a clunker in the bunch (though NTM's video isn't particularly memorable). Even so, Sednaoui's talent for capturing the unusual with the darkly humorous makes these videos accessible yet refreshing. Though we've seen some of these a hundred times already, they've hardly gotten old. By and large, you can't ask for much more in a music video from any decade.
It's good to know that some studios are capable of consistency, as evidenced by the entire seven volume run of The Directors Series. Once again, Palm Pictures has presented a batch of unique and interesting videos with a helpful assortment of bonus features, topped off with a respectable technical presentation. Overall, the only problem with discs like The Work of Director Stéphane Sednaoui is the fact that they're over too quickly---but that's not much of a problem, is it?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Presented in their original aspect ratios (ranging from 1.33:1 to roughly 2.35:1), the transfers for Stéphane Sednaoui's portfolio of work look uniformly excellent. Although the widescreen videos and short films have not been enhanced for 16x9 televisions, they still appear clean, clear and free of major digital problems. Sednaoui's striking use of space, color and composition give this body of work a polished and professional appearance overall. There's little to no instances of dirt or excess grain to be found, rounding out an excellent video presentation.
The audio treatment is equally impressive, as this content is presented in a lively 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround mix. The atmosphere is generally quite strong and the audio quality for the music videos seems to be right on par with most commercial CD releases. Surround use is somewhat limited, but this collection of material still sounds about as good as it's ever going to on DVD. Unfortunately, no subtitles or Closed Captioning options were made available for this release.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Created and designed by the artists themselves, the presentation for The Directors Series has always been a real highlight. The menu design for The Work of Director Stéphane Sednaoui (seen above) is clean, simple and easy to navigate through, favoring simplicity over flash. A "Play All" option for the music videos has also been included, as well as an option to play the videos in the director's favorite order (nice touch!). The packaging for this one-disc release looks fantastic, featuring a striking cover design and a simple layout. Also included in the double-sized clear keepcase is an informative 56-page Booklet stuffed full of rare photos, personal captions and a slew of other interesting goodies.
Note: Because of the presentation style of this release, bonus features are assumed to be any included content that hasn't been previously seen on television. These are often limited to biographical documentaries, audio commentaries, rare short films, interviews and the like.
Though the bonus features aren't as plentiful as some volumes, there's some interesting stuff to wade through here. First up is a series of Short Films, including a striking underwater-themed clip called "Acqua Natasa", a piece inspired by Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side", a dynamic animated clip based on Bjork's "Army Of Me" Sednaoui's first student film called "Reve Reche" (with optional commentary). Unfortunately, there's no commentary for the videos.
Next up is the aptly titled 34 Minutes and 29 Seconds of Interviews, an informative documentary that collects the thoughts and observations of the featured artists and Sednaoui himself. Keeping in tone with the videos, it's quite funny at times and fits right in with the rest of the director's work. In all, we hear from Bono, Tricky, Bjork, Michael Stipe, The Chili Peppers and many more. Rounding out the extras is Sednaoui's Q&A Session with students at NYU, a funny and informative session that sheds some light on the director. The included 56-page Booklet also rounds out the package nicely.
The second wave of The Directors Series had high expectations to meet, but this assortment of artists is every bit as engaging as the first time around. The Work of Director Stéphane Sednaoui is a fine portfolio of technical skill, simple presentation, humor and a passion for the industry. Overall, Palm Pictures has earned the trust of viewers with these stellar collections of videos, short films, commercials and other goodies that fans will love. The technical presentation, bonus features and generous packaging are only matched by their exceptional value. Do yourself a favor and pick a volume up to see what all compilation DVDs ought to look like. Highly Recommended.
DVD Talk Review Link: Other Volumes in The Directors Series
Randy Miller III is a moderately affable art instructor based in Harrisburg, PA, who also enjoys freelance graphic design and illustration. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.