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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Directors Series, Volume 2: The Work of Director Chris Cunningham
The Directors Series, Volume 2: The Work of Director Chris Cunningham
Palm Pictures // Unrated // October 28, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 12, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Documentary

The Work of Director Chris Cunningham 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 Michel Gondry, have their own discs available now, but this particular release showcases Chris Cunningham. He is perhaps best known for his long-time music video collaborations with Aphex Twin, but has also worked with Portishead, Madonna, and Bjork. (Interesting sidenote: All three directors have worked with Bjork. Hmm...I smell a conspiracy...)

Chris Cunningham has perhaps the smallest body of work of the three directors, but don't let the quantity fool you...there's an unmistakable quality found here. The first thing you'll notice about Mr. Cunningham's work is the almost intimidating level of darkness in his videos. Long story short, his stuff is considerably more wacked-out than the other two directors. His style is most similar to that of film directors David Fincher or even Ridley Scott. Since the mid-1990s, Cunningham has directed a handful of top-notch music videos, and has even done some very unique work in commercials, too. If you're a fan of dark, atmospheric, larger-than-life visuals, you'll really enjoy this collection.

Although this DVD release is a bit slimmer than the other too, there's some real gems to be found here. Chances are you've seen some of this stuff before, and didn't even know it. One things for sure...it definitely stands out as the more aggressive release of the three. There's some freaky visuals here, and I'd have to say that most of this stuff is geared more toward the adult crowd. These videos and commercials are truly creative, and a real head trip to see together.

With that said, the videos and commercials are unique in other ways too. On more than one occasion, I was left scratching my head wondering, "Just how did he do that?" The Sony Playstation commercial with the weird-looking girl still puzzles me. Although I'd have to say this was my least favorite of the three Directors Series releases overall, I still enjoyed it immensely. Most everything here deserves repeat viewings, making this DVD a virtual treasure trove of music video history, even though the earliest offerings aren't even 10 years old yet! In short, it's an awesome release that will hopefully get some attention.

I said before that this release is a little slimmer than the other two, covering a single-sided disc. Overall, it contains a number of music videos, commercials, and a few other things. The music videos, in particular, are a nice mix of the most creative ever made (and the songs are good 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

Music Videos:
Autechre - "Second Bad Vilbel"
Aphex Twin - "Come To Daddy"
Portishead - "Only You"
Madonna - "Frozen"
Leftfield f/ Afrika Bambaataa - "Afrika Shox"
Squarepusher - "Come On My Selector"
Aphex Twin - "Windowlicker"
Bjork - "All Is Full Of Love"

Commercials and Other Stuff:
"All Is Full Of Love" - Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Bjork and Chris Cunningham
Monkey Drummer - Video installation, featuring music by Aphex Twin
Flex - Excerpt from video installation, featuring music by Aphex Twin
Mental Wealth - Sony Playstation commercial (with the freaky girl)
Photocopier - Never-seen Levis commercial
Engine - Nissan commercial, featuring music by Boards of Canada
Windowlicker (Aphex Twin) - Bleeped version

Although it does have a much shorter running time than the other two, The Work of Director Chris Cunningham is still a great deal. 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. These are much more interesting than your average, run-of-the-mill videos found on MTV. Just don't watch these before you go to bed, as you'll probably have some seriously odd dreams. Overall, while this is the darkest of the three releases, it's a very interesting ride.

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!

The DVD

Video:
As a compilation of music videos and commcerials from the last ten years or so, the video here is really good. Overall, this is the best-looking of the three discs, in my opinion (perhaps since less content means less compression). 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 excellent shape, and the videos look even better than their original broadcast versions. Fans won't be disappointed in the least! Most of the stuff found here is presented in widescreen format, but the commericals mostly full screen. Obviously, thie video quality here gets a big thumbs up!

Audio:
Most of the substantial content here is music videos, so the audio had to deliver in spades. It sounds excellent, and the music and effects blast the viewer from all angles! Of all three of the Directors discs, this was the most aggressive in sound design (mostly due to the music selection). Everything sounded open and clear, so fans of every genre represented here will have something to be happy about! The subwoofer also gets some action here, as most of the work exhibits a good deal of bass, with a generous helping of that-rumbling-spaceship-sound (is there a word for that?). Overall, there's nothing here that will disappoint fans of Chris Cunningham's work, so consider this one another win for the Directors Series!

Extras:
Of all the contents found here, only some of the "other stuff" and the behind-the-scenes interviews with Bjork and Chris Cunningham could really be categorized as "extras". Please refer back to the 'Disc Contents' for the full list if you skipped right to this point. Like the other two Directors releases, the awesome content and presentation are the extras. 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 from top to bottom, and it was really worth the wait!

Menu design and presentation:
The menus were a nice touch, if not a little jarring. They're plenty loud, and just as aggresive as the music videos. I might have preferred a more subtle choice of menu style, but I guess it fits the bill here. Personal preference aside, these menus were all well done, and really seemed to add a personal touch to the presentation. Awesome job overall!

On a (somewhat) similar note, the packaging itself also deserves special mention. The wonderful cover artwork (with a scene from Bjork's video All Is Full Of Love) 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, photos, and interviews. The book is a great read and a very thoughtful 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?
It's really hard to say, in this case. I would have wanted to see a bit more stuff, but the guy only started in 1995. In hindsight, it almost seems like they jumped the gun a little. Even though Chris Cunninghman has a smaller body of work when compared to Jonze and Gondry, I know he's done more than this. Unfortunately, some of the stuff that's on here is actually trimmed, such as the Flex video (which is actually 17 mins.), and some of the commericals, too. He's also done many more videos than the 8 presented here, including work for Gene, Auters, and Jesus Jones (to name a few). I would have gladly paid more for a more complete compilation. One other nitpick: no subtitles are included, and would have been a helpful addition (you might miss some of the lyrics!). With that said, while this disc may seem a little slimmer, there's a nice mix of great work here. Overall, this is still an outstanding value and really establishes the Directors Series as a brand to keep your eye on!

Final Thoughts

Although there's much less here than the other two releases, I'd be a fool not to recommend this disc. Among other qualities, the technical side of this compilation is a bit higher than the other two (although this content is a lot more recent). Not to be outdone by the disc's other strengths, 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 Chris Cunningham isn't quite as good as the others in the series, but is still very Highly Recommended. Go buy it already, will ya?

Other reviews for Directors Label DVDs

The Work of Director Spike Jonze
The Work of Director Michel Gondry


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.
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