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Palm Pictures presents
Director's Series Vol. 4: The Work of Director Mark Romanek (2005)

"I have a knack for this."
- Mark Romanek

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 12, 2005

Stars: Jay-Z, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Audioslave, No Doubt, Mick Jagger, Janet Jackson, Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Weezer, Eels, Sonic Youth, Michael & Janet Jackson, Madonna, R.E.M., G. Love and Special Sauce, David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Keith Richards, En Vogue, kd lang, Bono, Steven Soderbergh, Rick Rubin, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, David Fincher, Robin Williams
Director: Mark Romanek

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (occasional language and mature images)
Run Time: 02h:30m:00s
Release Date: September 13, 2005
UPC: 660200307929
Genre: compilation


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

DVD Review

Mark Romanek branched out into directing feature films in 2002 with One Hour Photo, but throughout the 1990s he made his mark (no pun intended) directing a slew of inventive and highly stylized music videos for a wide range of artists (Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails, Madonna).

As part of their continuing DVD series, Palm has now issued Director's Series Vol. 4: The Work of Director Mark Romanek, which collects 25 of his music videos, including the capper of this set, the brilliant clip of Johnny Cash doing a raw cover of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt that transcends so many levels it hits like a hammer to the heart.

These aren't run-of-the-mill performance videos, even when he almost seems to want to go in traditional directions. Instead, he'll opt to capture a band performing in unusual ways, whether it being filming them from behind (Linkin Park's Faint) or lit by fireworks (Audioslave's Cochise). Romanek displays a distinctive visionary talent to paint futuristic settings (Michael and Janet Jackson's Scream), stark black-and-white imagery (R.E.M.'s Strange Currencies) or strange nightmarish dreamscapes (Madonna's Bedtime Story) with his unique fingerprint, utilizing light and composition in haunting ways. His unedited version of Nine Inch Nail's Closer, filmed on hand-crank cameras and purposely distressed, is presented here in all of its twisted ugliness (all that MTV couldn't show), and seems even more perverse when played next to the comparatively comical Eels video for Novacaine for the Soul, which features the band floating weightless.

This is really exciting stuff, full of the kind of creative energy that music videos are supposed to radiate, and Romanek, according to director Steven Soderbergh, has the innate ability to "find the soul" of a given track, and actually add to the experience. It was Romanek's concept to take a sexually provocative approach with Fiona Apple in Criminal, lighting the apparently post-group-coital video with a small spotlight, which ends up giving the song a much darker and seedier tone than the original recording had. Now, when Apple sings "I've been a bad, bad girl," it means something else entirely. His design for Lenny Kravitz' star making video Are You Gonna Go My Way is manic and fast, and it lays out a public image that Kravitz only had to build upon from that point on.

There are directors who just make videos, simply showcasing faces and songs in cookie cutter fashion. Then there are the artists, directors with a style and vision and the ability to turn songs into something more. Guess which one Mark Romanek is.

Music Videos:

Jay-Z - 99 Problems (director's cut)
Linkin Park - Faint
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Audioslave - Cochise (director's cut)
No Doubt - Hella Good (director's cut)
Mick Jagger - God Gave Me Everything
Janet Jackson - Got 'Til It's Gone
Fiona Apple - Criminal
Nine Inch Nails - Perfect Drug
Beck - Devil's Haircut
Weezer - El Scorcho (director's cut)
Eels - Novacaine for the Soul
Sonic Youth - Little Trouble Girl
Michael & Janet Jackson - Scream (director's cut)
Madonna - Bedtime Story
R.E.M. - Strange Currencies
G. Love & Special Sauce - Cold Beverage
Nine Inch Nails - Closer (director's cut)
David Bowie - Jump They Say
Madonna - Rain
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
Keith Richards - Wicked As It Seems (director's cut)
En Vogue - Free Your Mind
kd lang - Constant Craving


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 menu system is anamorphic widescreen, but the videos and docs are presented in 1.33:1 fullframe, though some are shown in nonanamorphic widescreen (such as Fiona Apple's Criminal). Romanek uses a wide range of visual styles, film stock, and lighting, so one can't really make a blanket statement like, "all the clips are equally sharp," because each one represents a distinct approach. That said, the presentation really shines during the beautifully stark black-and-white videos, such as R.E.M.'s Strange Currencies or kd lang's Constant Craving. Other videos sport colors that are bright and bold, sometimes intentionally oversaturated, or, in the case of Nine Inch Nail's Closer, purposely altered and washed.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: It's a shame these tracks weren't remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the 2.0 stereo surround tracks are deceptively fullbodied. Bass presence is moderate but adequately substantial, and the sound clarity is generally very well-balanced. One complaint is that the Hurt track from Johnny Cash has some minor crackle during the final chorus, which I don't believe was part of the original recording.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
43 Feature/Episode commentaries by Mark Romanek, Jay-Z, Joe Hahn, Anthony Keidis, Flea, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Gwen Stefani, Janet Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Beck, Weezer, Mark Oliver Everett, Kim Gordon, Michael Stipe, Lenny Kravitz, Keith Richards
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 56-page booklet
Extras Review: There are a whopping 43 commentary tracks for the 25 music videos, with Romanek providing one for each, with separate additional commentaries from Jay-Z, Joe Hahn, Anthony Keidis, Flea, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Gwen Stefani, Janet Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Beck, Weezer, Mark Oliver Everett, Kim Gordon, Michael Stipe, Lenny Kravitz, and Keith Richards. Noticeably absent are tracks from Mick Jagger. Madonna and David Bowie (and to a lesser extent G. Love & Special Sauce, En Vogue and kd lang). While the comments from the performers are moderately interesting (Stipe, Fiona Apple, Trent Reznor especially), it's Romanek's lucid descriptions of his intent for each particular clip that makes this fascinating and insightful, particularly when the vision comes on a bit artistically esoteric.

The Work of Director Mark Romanek (38m:16s) ties everything together, as the likes of Rick Rubin, Steven Soderbergh, Chris Rock, Bono and nearly every act represented by one of the music videos on this disc chime in on the director's drive and talent. Romanek himself offers talks about his perfectionism and the background on the concept origins for the various videos, including the sexually provocative intent Criminal clip for Fiona Apple that strained their relationship or the background on the grimacing crucified monkey from Nine Inch Nails Closer. Great stuff.

Making of 99 Problems (10m:41s) is a brief look at the making of the Jay-Z video, presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. Rick Rubin reveals Jay-Z originally wanted Quentin Tarantino to direct, but was convinced to go with Romanek, and the rest, as they say, is history. Romanekian (07m:41s) is lighter in tone, with Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Robin Williams doling out dry comedy about Romanek's skills and abilities, and with those three it's difficult for this piece to not be funny.

A 56-page book is included, containing black-and-white photographs, as well as an interview with Romanek conducted by Spike Jonze.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

Here's one of the benchmark releases in Palm's superb Director's Label series, with the work of Mark Romanek represented by 25 music videos, 43 commentaries and a 40-minute documentary that connects all the visionary dots together.

The raw sadness of the Johnny Cash Hurt video alone should make this a mandatory purchase. It is an emotionally charged killer.

Highly recommended.

 


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