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Palm Pictures presents
The Work of Director Chris Cunningham (1995-2001)

"I think at the time I was just trying to make sure that each video I did was different from the last one."
- Chris Cunningham

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: January 07, 2004

Director: Chris Cunningham

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: G for (explicit sexual imagery, violence, extreme images)
Run Time: Approx. 1 hour
Release Date: October 28, 2003
UPC: 660200306922
Genre: compilation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- C-A-A- C-

DVD Review

Chris Cunningham is one of the most celebrated music video directors. I suppose I can see why. His creations are all his own, yet they more often than not feel wholly appropriate for the song they accompany. He creates intense and memorable images that stick in the brain, and thus do what a good video is supposed to—make you remember the band (and hopefully buy the CD). But the artists he works with tend to bring out... well, if it isn't the worst part of his psyche, then I think I've seen enough. He's talented, yes, but he uses his talent to make harsh, brutal, and unrelenting art that is difficult to stomach. Sure, it's art, but I certainly don't want to look at it.

I admit he's an interesting guy. He got his start in the industry working on robot technology for director Stanley Kubrick, back when he was still alive, still insane, planning to make A.I. real robots, and forcing Steven Spielberg to crouch in his closet and read secret faxes. He has true passion for his work, and invests himself fully in every single video. But his work with Björk, Portishead, and a few others aside, he tends to find inspiration in angry, noisy acts like Aphex Twin and Auteurs, and his visuals match the music a little too closely for me.

So if you like his style and the music, you'll probably love this compilation disc, which includes his most celebrated spots. If you are picking it up because you really liked The Work of Director Spike Jonze, you may want to check Cunningham out on the internet a bit before laying down your cash and buying a disc you might hate.

Music Videos:

Second Bad Vilbel, Autechre
In this DVD's companion interview booklet, Chris Cunningham reveals that Autechre hated this video, and I can see why. He created this abstract piece of machinery, and it sort of comes alive to the music, but not really. There is very little rhythm to its movements, and it isn't photographed very well, and the images don't really seem to synch up with the song. An early effort, to be sure, and not something I'd ever watch again. While I can see the merit in including some failures on a DVD like this, I would have rather had a video that is actually, you know, watchable.

Come to Daddy, Aphex Twin
All right, let me qualify that statement: a video that is watchable, and doesn't make me want to throw up. This ugly video, about a bunch of horribly deformed little children worshiping a demonic creature and terrorizing an old woman and her dog in a bombed-out apartment building, is perfectly suited to the song, a typical bit of angry electronica from Aphex Twin featuring lots of screaming and "lyrics" like "I want your soul/I will eat your soul." Shower after watching this one.

Only You, Portishead
This eerie video is one of the better inclusions on the disc, and is another excellent blend of music and imagery. The entire thing is set underwater, as a boy floats down a deserted street and tries desperately to connect with someone. It's still very depressing, but then, Portishead isn't exactly a band for joyous occasions.

Frozen, Madonna
This oft-played Madonna clip works better in concept than in practice, owing mostly to some goofy special effects shots. It's basically the Material Girl clad in Hindi makeup and a voluminous black dress, dancing spastically in the middle of the desert. Every once in a while, she morphs into a computer generated Madonna (with a British accent that's 98% more authentic) and bends in lots of impossible ways unseen since the release of Sex in the 1990s.

Afrika Shox, Leftfield featuring Afrika Bambaataa
On a sunny day in Chris Cunningham's brain, a skinny African refugee wanders around a city, searching for comfort and finding none. Every time someone knocks him over or runs into him, some of his limbs break off and he has to hop around. Eventually, he's hit by a car and he explodes in a cloud of dust! The end. Hooray!

Come On My Selector, Squarepusher
The song seems to have little to do with this bizarre, anime-inspired clip about a little girl in a science lab who attempts an escape and is pursued by inept and scary guards. It's got a few nice moments, I guess, but the sound and the image just do not synch up at all.

Windowlicker, Aphex Twin
This Aphex Twin video is only slightly less disturbing than the last. It still features the same ugly, deformed heads, but this time they are superimposed onto swimsuit models instead of midgets and children. Not that that is actually any less disturbing, but this parody of flashy rap video excess seems, at least, to have a point.

All Is Full of Love, Björk
Ah, I knew there had to be at least one video that would force me to keep this disc in my collection and out of the fiery pits of hell where it belongs. This otherworldly piece blends computer imagery with detailed makeup and model work to create one of the most cohesive and original music videos I've ever seen. Two sterile, cream-colored robots (both played by Björk) sing to each other, and then... do whatever it is robots do instead of have sex. Apparently it involves lots of rotating parts, pistons, and a milky white lubricant of some kind. OK, fine, it's robot porn. But it's a great video, really.

Other Work:

Monkey Drummer (featuring music by Aphex Twin)
A drum machine with a monkey head plays the drums. It's weird.

flex
People float around in midair having sex, then they hit each other. It's disturbing.

Mental Wealth
This Playstation ad features a very scary-looking girl talking about something that has nothing to do with PlayStation and everything to do with freaking me out. It's upsetting.

Photocopier
In this Levi's commercial, a Levi's truck runs over a photocopier. It's a commercial.

Engine
A Nissan commercial, somehow. A guy flexes his muscles while making car noises. His muscles, that is. He isn't, like, making them with his mouth.

Windowlicker: Bleeped version
Right. Like I'd watch this again. Ew.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Despite the fact that the age of the included material varies, all of it looks very good. Each video preserves its intended stylistic visuals, and each is free of distractions like unwarranted grain, edginess, and artifacting. Aspect ratio varies throughout, but most clips are in nonanamorphic widescreen of one kind or another. The imagery might be ugly; the image is very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mix is only DD 2.0, but this is a very aggressive track. The musicians profiled are, save one or two, anything but soft and soothing, and this mix reflects that with glaring, blaring audio that threatens to make your ears bleed. The front soundstage is very strong, with a full presentation across the center and mains. The surrounds are also quite active for a 2.0 mix, and LFE is fairly pronounced, considering there is no dedicated .1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 8 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Rubber Johnny, The Work of Director Michel Gondry, The Work of Director Spike Jonze
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The Work of Chris Cunningham is very light on extras, and the presentation isn't nearly as impressive as that on its companion discs on Palm's Director's Label. Still, it does include another impressive 52-page postcard book featuring a video-by-video interview with the director. He says little that justifies scarring my psyche with videos like Windowlicker. You can also enjoy images from his sketchbook, like zombie/penis/vagina/rape montage on page 46-47. Oh, and 48. Then flip to page 49, featuring cute bunny rabbits, a deer, and a Chihuahua.

The only other extra of note is a short featurette on the creation of Björk's All is Full of Love, and thank goodness it's actually about one of the videos I like. If I had to see how Come to Daddy was made, I might have to wash out my eyeballs with lye. Trailers for Cunningham's short, Rubber Johnny, and the two other entries in the Director's Label round out the disc.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

If only I could someday meet director Chris Cunningham. I'd walk up to him, shake his hand, and then, when he wasn't looking, I'd stuff his mouth full of Prozac. I suspect The Work of Director Chris Cunningham to be a polarizing entry in Palm's excellent Directors series. I find the majority of his work ugly, repulsive, and pointless—almost enough to make me go Amish—but that doesn't mean you have to, so by all means, pick up this disc if you're a fan. If, on the other hand, you simply want a copy of that great Björk video, you might want to keep an eye out for the DVD single, and save yourself the mental anguish.

 


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