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Palm Pictures presents
Director's Series Vol. 6: The Work of Director Anton Corbijn (2005)

"I find it hard to make things that have no other purpose than entertaining. So I always try to find another layer in my work, so it's not just surface."
- Anton Corbijn

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 09, 2006

Stars: Propaganda, David Sylvian, Echo and The Bunnymen, Golden Earring, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, U2, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Nirvana, Henry Rollins, Metallica, Herbert Gronemeyer, Mercury Rev, Joseph Arthur, Travis, The Killers, Beck, Dave Grohl, Front 242
Director: Anton Corbijn

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:07m:07s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 660200308124
Genre: compilation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+B+B+ A-

DVD Review

As number six in the coveted series from Palm, this is a compilation of the work of celebrated Dutch rock-photographer-turned-video-artist-director Anton Corbijn, a man who generally slides in subtle and quirky humor into many of his creations. The artists selected here reflect a cross-section of mainstream (U2, Depeche Mode, Nirvana), alternative (Echo and The Bunnymen, Nick Cave, The Killers) and less well know acts (Herbert Gronemeyer, Mercury Rev, David Sylvian), all of whom received the Corbijn treatment at some point over the past 22 years.

Corbijn's talent as a creative photographer—he spent time with London's New Musical Express in the early 1980s—presents itself as a seamless evolutionary link into his video work, much as the 1984 video for Proganda's Dr. Mabuse, with its creepy horror-movie use of shadows, or the multitude of black and white robed figures of Joy Division's bittersweet 1988 Atmosphere, looks more often than not like it could have originally been intended as a series of photos. Likewise with the overabundantly colorful Heart Shaped Box from Nirvana, a video awash in harsh religious imagery (a Jesus figure ascending a cross while wearing a Santa hat) that crosses into a striking parody of The Wizard of Oz.

As a rule, all of that dark imagery is generally offset by underlying glimmers of dry Corbijn humor. This is especially evident in "old school" material like Echo and The Bunnymen's Seven Seas, with lead singer Ian McCulloch looking oddly appealing in drag, or new radio-friendly stuff from The Killers All These Things That I've Done, itself a a full-fledged throwback to the good old days of the wacky mini-movie music video, this time taking a few nods from the work of Russ Meyer. And I defy anyone to explain the purpose of the soul-seeking giant polar bear in Herbert Gronemeyer's Mensch, unless you listen to the commentary, in which you'll realize just how artistically playful Corbijn can be.

Pound for pound, this is one of the strongest set of musical artists in the entire series, at least from where I sit. The videos are not always the kind that make you sit up and go slack-jawed, but the dramatic composition and use of light and shadow is really quite stunning. Seeing overlooked greats like David Sylvian or Ian McCulloch again almost got me misty-eyed for the old days of cool, and I'll never turn down a musical visit from Nick Cave, Mercury Rev or Depeche Mode.

Music Videos:

Propaganda: Dr. Mabuse
David Sylvian: Red Guitar
Echo and The Bunnymen: Seven Seas
Golden Earring: Quiet Eyes
Echo and The Bunnymen: The Game
Depeche Mode: Behind the Wheel
Joy Division: Atmosphere
Joni Mitchell with Peter Gabriel: My Secret Place
Depeche Mode: Enjoy The Silence
U2: One (director's cut)
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Straight to You
Depeche Mode: Walking in My Shoes
Nirvana: Heart Shaped Box
Henry Rollins: Liar
Metallica: Hero of the Day
Metallica: Mama Said
Depeche Mode: Barrel of a Gun
Depeched Mode: It's No Good
Herbert Gronemeyer: Bleibt Alles Anders
Mercury Rev: Opus 40
Mercury Rev: Goddess on a Hiway
Joseph Arthur:In the Sun
Herbert Gronemeyer: Mensch
U2: Electrical Storm
Travis: Re-Offender
The Killers; All These Things That I've Done

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The various videos were all shot with differing styles by Corbijn, though black-and-white is a common theme throughout. The transfers, ranging from full frame to nonanamorphic widescreen, appear to have gone through a cleanup, especially evident on some of the older clips (Echo and The Bunnymen's Seven Seas). Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box, with its broad palette of oversaturated reds and golds is particularly striking on this disc, wedged as it is between so much minimal coloring. Image quality throughout is marginally soft, though I suspect that's more of a Corbijn trademark than a transfer inadequacy.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: As with the other titles in the series, audio is presented in a pleasing 2.0 stereo surround mix that is very fullbodied. Bass presence is fair without being overpowering, and the overall sound clarity for the music tracks is quite good. Instrument separation is not as distinct as it could have been under a more discrete 5.1 treatment, but that's a minor quible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 26 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
8 Featurette(s)
17 Feature/Episode commentaries by Claudia Brucken, Ian McCulloch, Dave Gahan, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Steve Morris, Bono, Nick Cave, Lars Ulrich, Herbert Gronemeyer, Grasshopper, Joseph Arthur, Samantha Morton, Fran Healy
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 56-page book
Extras Review: Extras are done well here, even if the navigation gets a little clunky in spots. Multi-functionality allows the videos to be played either individually or via Play All, as well as subdivided into either random or chronological order, with or without commentaries. Likewise, there is a Play All option for everything, including all of the bonus interviews, etc. Whew.

NotNa (40m:34s) is a documentary about the life of Corbijn, largely narrated by the artist himself, punctuated by input from folks he has worked with, such as Dave Gahan, Michael Stipe, Nick Cave, Ian McCulloch, Lars Ulrich and Grant Lee Phillips, who calls Corbijn "the world's tallest elf." It was interesting to hear about Corbijn's life growing up the "son of a preacherman", and seeing how the imagery in his music videos reflects that upbringing, though he claims an inability to do a proper video. Yeah, right.

Under the Interviews and Commentaries section are 17 commentaries for the music videos, from a wide range of people including Claudia Brucken, Ian McCulloch, Dave Gahan, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Steve Morris, Bono, Nick Cave, Lars Ulrich, Herbert Gronemeyer, Grasshopper, Joseph Arthur, Samantha Morton and Fran Healy. Some of the tracks get no commentary, others get more than one, and some participants (Dave Gahan, Bono) show up more than once.

The Stuff section features pretty much that, meaning essentially random leftovers. There's a making of piece called U2: The Making of Electrical Storm (07m:23s), tour projections used by Depeche Mode for the song It's No Good (04m:36s), a bizarre "observation of his observations" short film about Captain Beefheart's Don Van Vliet called Some YoYo Stuff (04m:30s) that features an appearance none other than David Lynch. Weird? You betcha. A trio of other Corbijn-directed music videos are also found here—Travis: Love Will Come Through (03m:37s), Palais Schaumburg: Hockey (03m:11s), Front 242: Front By Front (04m:46s). Lastly, there are two MTV Promos, with one featuring Beck (:34s) with an IV and the other showcasing Dave Grohl (:36s) in a dual role.

Just like the other releases in the Director's Series, there is a 56-page heavy stock book included. It is full of random photos and notes from Corbijn, as well as excerpts from some of his original storyboards for a couple of the videos, such as a bizarre one for Nirvana that features the notation "jesus scarecrow with santa hat."

The disc is cut into 26 chapters.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

I've always been impressed the creative caliber of the directors selected for this series from Palm—even if some of the musical artists weren't in my wheelhouse—but this time everything fits together.

Anton Corbijn's most recent work with The Killer or Travis holds the same arty, comic charm as his early pieces with Echo and The Bunnymen or Golden Earring, and the bad acid nightmares of Nirvana and Joy Division show his dark side.

Highly recommended.

 


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