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 music 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 acclaimed directors Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn and Stéphane Sednaoui.
You'll know right from the start that Anton Corbijn is probably the oddball of four featured directors this time around. Whether it's due to his long history in music videos or his ever-changing style, his body of work often showcases gritty darkness partnered with a touch of subtle humor. The Dutch photographer and director often uses rough footage and stylized colors (sharp in contrast but still easy on the eyes), while his tendency to shift focus often plays tricks on the viewer. More often than not, Corbijn's music videos tend to almost drift by while they're playing. Even so, they'll stay in your memory.
His music video work goes back at least 20 years, while his work in photography runs parallel. If you think you haven't seen any of his videos before, how about Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" or even Henry Rollins' "Liar"? If you think you haven't seen his photographs before, just check out the cover of U2's Joshua Tree. His long-running collaborations with Depeche Mode are also some of his most famous, though admittedly the bulk of his work has gone under the radar. Even so, the multi-layered images give Corbijn's body of work a limited accessibility but high amount of replay value; if nothing else, more patient viewers can get to know one of the music video industry's best-kept secrets. Fortunately for us, he's still at it: the recent videos for bands like The Killers and Travis offer proof of this. All in all, it's a varied and entertaining body of work for fans to gleefully dig through.
As such, the portfolio of a talented director is best showcased by the director himself. The Directors Series presents Corbijn's favorite videos during the past three decades (!), and it's quite a package. Though an interesting assortment of bonus features is also on board, this disc includes the following:
(Bonus Features listed separately)
Music Videos (26 Total)
Propoganda "Dr. Mabuse"
Nirvana "Heart-Shaped Box"
Overall, this is a solid mix of stuff. I'll admit I wasn't at all familiar with a few of the included artists, but the inclusion of Corbijn's more mainstream work (for U2, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, etc.) kept things from being too overwhelming. It was especially nice to see work for Mercury Rev, who I've enjoyed for several years but never actually saw on TV. Though Corbijn's work has changed greatly since he began directing in the early 1980s, it's interesting to see a few fundamentals that he's generally followed. With vivid colors and grainy footage as his primary visuals, his visual style may take some getting used to; even so, it's perhaps the most rewarding of all.
We're halfway through the second wave of DVDs in The Directors Series, but things don't seem to be slowing down. As with previous installments, The Work of Director Anton Corbijn covers all of the bases very well: it's packed with content that looks and sounds good, while the bonus features are numerous and informative. Overall, the total package is one you'll enjoy many times over; it's got more history than previous volumes, so there's more ground to cover than usual.
The audio treatment fares slightly better, 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.
Created and designed by the artists themselves, the presentation style for The Directors Series has always been a real highlight. The light-hearted menu design for The Work of Director Anton Corbijn (seen above) is clean and simple but navigation can be confusing. A "Play All" option (as well as "random" and "chronological" options) is also included. 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 a 56-page Booklet full of photos, personal captions and other interesting material.
The first and most notable bonus feature is a series of Audio Commentaries that run over most of the music videos---there's roughly 17 in all, featuring words from Bono, Lars Ulrich, Grasshopper (of Mecury Rev), members of Joy Division and more. They're entertaining from start to finish, with many of the contributors sharing funny and unusual memories during production. Strangely enough, Anton himself didn't contribute any tracks, but I suppose he's not much of a talker.
Also on board is NotNA (40 minutes), a revealing documentary about the acclaimed director by Lance Bangs. For the most part, it's a collection of interviews with the featured musicians; among other topics, they're eager to shed light on Corbijn's oddly compelling personality and imagination, even admitting his influence on their own work. There's also a catch-all section entitled "Stuff", collecting a slew of odds and ends through the years. Among other things, there's a series of MTV Promos, Corbijn's First Video, The Making of U2's Electrical Storm Video and an excerpt from the director's 1993 short film. Rounded out by the previously mentioned 56-page Booklet, The Work of Director Anton Corbijn is a satisfying disc with decades' worth of neat stuff.
Bursting with personal touches and creative enthusiasm, Volume 6 of The Directors Series is an excellent release. The presentation is a bit disorganized and the video quality could use a tune-up, but it'll be hard to find a more comprehensive collection of great videos from three decades…that just happen to be directed by the same creative guy. In all other departments---audio, packaging, bonus features---this release is right on par with past volumes in the series, making it an easy choice for those looking to beef up their music DVD collection. To make a long story short, Corbijn's portfolio is certainly one that followers of the series shouldn't pass up. Very Highly Recommended.
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.