NOTE: A portion of this review contains similar comments (and references) from The Work of Director Spike Jonze. If you haven't checked it out yet (here), I'd encourage you to do so...it's a great disc!
The Work of Director Michel Gondry is part of the first run of DVDs from the Directors Label. Produced by Palm Pictures, these DVDs highlight some of the best directors in the music video industry. The other two directors, Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham, have their own discs available now, but this particular release showcases French director Michel Gondry. He is perhaps best known for his long-time music video collaborations with Bjork, but has also worked with Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers, The Rolling Stones, and many others.
Michel Gondry is not only a talented director, but an accomplished musician and artist. He served as the drummer for the French band, Oui Oui, also cutting his teeth by directing their earlier music videos in the late 1980s. From there, he made the gradual transition to the well-respected director he is today. He's also completed a number of short films and stories that range from the childlike to the truly bizarre. This DVD release celebrates some of Michel Gondry's best work, and showcases a nice mix of everything he's dabbled in. His terrific visual style leans toward pure art itself, and his gifts of color and design really makes his body of work stand apart from the pack.
With that said, the videos are unique in other ways too. On more than one occasion, I was left scratching my head wondering, "Just how did he do that?" In particular, the White Stripes and Bjork videos were the most memorable overall. For the most part, these videos are very playful and fun, and tie in well with the music onscreen (sometimes they almost tie in too well). Everything here deserves repeat viewings, making this release a virtual treasure trove of music video history. In short, it's an awesome release that will hopefully get some attention.
Essentially the equivalent to a 2-disc release, this double-sided disc is divided as such: each contains a number of music videos, short films and stories. The music videos, in particular, are a nice mix of the most creative ever made (and the songs are great too!). The packaging and presentation are also very well done, and are discussed in more detail in the later portions of this review. I won't spoil any more of the wonderful surprises found here, so I'll get right to the content.
Table of Contents
The White Stripes - "The Hardest Button To Button"
Kylie Minogue - "Come Into My World"
The White Stripes - "Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground"
The White Stripes - "Fell In Love With A Girl"
The Chemical Brothers - "Star Guitar"
Bjork - "Joga"
Beck - "Deadweight"
Bjork - "Bachelorette"
Foo Fighters - "Everlong"
Daft Punk - "Around The World"
Cibo Matto - "Sugar Water"
Bjork - "Hyperballad"
The Rolling Stones - "Like A Rolling Stone"
Bjork - "Army Of Me"
Bjork - "Isobel"
Massive Attack - "Protection"
Lucas - "Lucas With The Lid Off"
Bjork - "Human Behavior"
I Am - "Le Mia"
Jean Francois Coen - "La Tour De Pise"
Oui Oui - "Ma Maison"
Oui Oui - "Bolide"
Oui Oui - "Junior Et Sa Voix D'Or"
Oui Oui - "Les Cailloux"
Oui Oui - "Un Joyeux Noel"
Oui Oui - "La Ville"
I've Been 12 Forever (Parts 1 and 2, total 70 mins.)
Stories and Things:
"Drugstore" (Levi's Commercial)
"Smarienberg" (Schmirnoff Commercial)
"Resignation" (Polaroid Commercial)
"Drumb & Drumber"
"Pecan Pie" - short film starring Jim Carrey
"Three Dead People"
"My Brother's 24th Birthday"
"Spin Art" - Oui Oui Live concert footage
Again, sorry for the lack of descriptions here...you're much better off spoiler-free, though!
Needless to say, there's a good bit of stuff here for your viewing pleasure. At best, it's some of the most creative work by any director in recent memory. Even at worst, it's all pretty darn watchable. I made sure not to get into the music too much, as it may have affected my judgement of the videos on their own. I'll be honest, the lineup here is a virtual "who's who" of what's been in my CD player for the last 10 years or so. Still, it's hard not to get into the music, as most of the footage onscreen fits extremely well with it. One can't work without the other: a real testament to the level of quality found here. These are much more interesting than your average, run-of-the-mill videos found on MTV.
Darn it! Here I am rambling on, and we've got a DVD to look at! Once again, this is an awesome release in nearly every category, so I'm not done gushing just yet. Here we go!
As a compilation of music videos and short films from the last fifteen years, it's obvious that the video quality is going to vary a bit. Obviously, the earlier efforts don't have the budget of Gondry's later works, so you have to take that into account when considering the video quality. Overall, this is a slight step up from the Spike Jonze disc, but it would be unfair to really compare the two. Several of the videos and short films exhibit a bit of grain, but not because of any print flaws or negligence...most of this is intentional. These appear to be in great shape, and the videos look even better than their original broadcast versions. Fans won't be disappointed in the least! While most of the videos and short films were intended to be seen in the fullscreen aspect ratio (1.33:1), a few are also offered in widescreen (1.78:1). Obviously, thie video quality here gets a big thumbs up!
Most of the substantial content here is music videos, so the audio had to deliver in spades. It sounds great (presented in what appears to be Dolby Surround), and the music and effects came in nicely from all angles. Everything sounded open and clear, so fans of every genre represented here will have something to be happy about! Some of the videos showcased slight directional activity (intentional, of course), but most are anchored strongly in the middle. Overall, there's nothing here that will disappoint fans of Michel Gondry's work, so consider this one another win for the Directors Series!
The contents here are divided sporadically on this double-sided disc. Although there's not a typical 'extras' menu, there's a bunch of great content...please refer back to the 'Disc Contents' for the full list if you skipped right to this point. Like The Work of Director Spike Jonze, the great content and presentation are the extras. Two things not previously mentioned are also present here: the first is an interview with Michel Gondry (sort of a "behind-the-scenes" type deal). Also of note is the included book (discussed below) which is certainly a valuable bonus in itself. Overall, a very solid effort in this department…this disc was obviously a labor of love, and it was really worth the wait!
Menu design and presentation:
The menus were a nice touch, and featured the main man himself banging on a drum set. Some of the drum heads acted as the sections of content, and clicking on each one cued a drum fill that ended on the particular section. Hard to explain, but it's pretty cool to see. Also noteworthy are the submenus...in particular, I liked the video listing, which was laid out like a box of colored pencils. Another menu looked like a tray of watercolor paints. One thing I especially liked about the "video" section was the ability to sort the playlist several differn ways: by chronological order, by artist, or "shuffle". These menus were all nicely done, and really seemed to add a personal touch to the presentation (like Criterion's Rushmore menus and packaging).
There's a few points about the navigation and layout that I felt could have been improved, though. For one, I didn't really like how each side has videos, stories, and short films. I would have preferred the style used on the Spike Jonze disc much more, where the videos got their own side, and the other stuff was on Side B. Subtitles were also not included and are sorely missed (after all, you might miss some of the lyrics!). Oh, one other nitpick: double-sided discs are extremely hard to keep in excellent condition. It would have been more favorable to use two single-sided discs instead, at least for a rough-and-tumble fella like myself.
On a (somewhat) similar note, the packaging itself also deserves special mention. The wonderful cover artwork (with a scene from The White Stripes' video Fell In Love With A Girl, AKA The Lego video) is a real attention-grabber, and the overall design layout is nice to look at. The clear keep-case (also showcasing photos from the back of the cover art) is double-wide, but not to hold two discs. This extra room is needed for the awesome 52-page square-bound color book also included, featuring a collection of writings, drawings, and interviews. The book is a great read and a very nice inclusion to the release. Overall, this is one of the most substantial packaging jobs this year, and really adds to the value of this collection!
Should anything else have been included?
I think this release pretty much covers all the bases. There's a nice assortment of great music videos, and the stories are a nice addition. Heck, you even get a 70-minute short film (which most fans probably haven't seen yet). With the extensive double-sided disc contents and the beautiful 52-page booklet, I really can't complain! One thing does bug me, though: the trailer for this showed clips of Radiohead's "Knives Out" video, which is nowhere to be found here...bummer. Overall, though, this is an outstanding value and really establishes the Directors Series as a brand to keep your eye on!
I hope you're convinced that this disc is worth your time and hard-earned money. If not, this disc is worth your time and hard-earned money. The rock-bottom MSRP of $19.99 (with online prices under $15) makes this a definite must-have, even for the casual fan. Of course, it also helps that the content found here is top-notch as well. If you're a fan of creative music videos---or just creative movies---you owe it to yourself to give this disc a spin. The Work of Director Michel Gondry easily cruises into the esteemed ranks of the DVD Talk Collector's Series. Well, gotta go...I'm off to watch some of the videos again!
Other reviews for Directors Label DVDs
The Work of Director Spike Jonze
The Work of Director Chris Cunningham
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.