Palm Pictures presents
Director's Label Series Boxed Set: The Works of Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry (2004)
"I would be stupid to refuse all of this amazing stuff coming into my head."- Michel Gondry
Stars: Bjork, Beastie Boys, Wax, The Pharcyde, The Breeders, Daft Punk, Fatlip, Weezer, Fatboy Slim, Dinosaur Jr., MC 900ft Jesus, The Notorious B.I.G., The Chemical Brothers, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Portishead, Madonna, Leftfield, Squarepusher, The White Stripes, Kylie Minogue, Foo Fighters, Cibo Matto, The Rolling Stones, Massive Attack, Oui Oui, Beck, Lucas, Jean Francois Coen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Willowz
Director: Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, Michel Gondry
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, violent images, sexuality, language)
Run Time: approx. 4 hours
Release Date: 2004-11-16
DVD ReviewAlthough released previously as three separate discs, Palm Pictures has gathered up the The Works of Director Spike Jonze, The Works of Director Chris Cunningham, and The Works of Director Michel Gondry, slid them into a cardboard slipcase along with three 50+ page postcard-sized books (one per director), a poster and a bonus disc containing a couple of additional music videos, and issued it as a limited edition box set.
This is the kind of art that I like, and any of these three main discs on their own would produce a measurable case of sensory overload, but getting them all in one huge injection is almost too much to absorb. Keyword being "almost".
Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) have recently stepped over into line into feature film directing, and with Cunningham rumored to be on the short list to helm the film version of William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Neuromancer it is likely he too will get an opportunity to go long form. But all three of these visually inventive directors cut their collective teeth directing music videos, which was an extension of their varied forays into shorter, experimental works. Though there are a number of short films and documentaries spread across the four discs in this set, the bulk of the most stunning material are the music videos themselves, and that is where these three directors get to show off the most. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, there could just not be a more disparate set of styles between Jonze, Gondry and Cunningham, and by binding all three of them into one box set it is like storing potentially combustible materials together in one cabinet.
Jonze is probably the most immediately playful of the bunch, with some of his videos poking fun at familiar targets, like television (Sabotage - Beastie Boys, Buddy Holly - Weezer) or the homage to a 1940s song-and-dance number (It's Oh So Quiet - Bjork), and then he sometimes drifts into simply strange, hypnotic visuals, such as a man-on-fire-running-down-a-street (California - Wax). His work on Fatboy Slim's breakout single Praise You video features the questionable choreography of the Torrance Community Dance Group, which led them to a coveted appearance on the MTV Music Awardsócovered in the included short film Torrance Rises (31m:00s)ó and it is difficult to know whether it is a joke or not. Funny it is, but I'm never sure if I'm laughing with them, or at them. Jonze can even take the old staple of a band lip-synching, as with Cannonball from The Breeders (one of the great unheralded rock classics, in my opinion), and transform it into some kind of wonderfully narcissistic sing-a-long for the Deal sisters.
In terms of style Gondry could possibly be a cousin of Jonze, but he's definitely far enough down the family tree to be a distant relation, at best. Instead of purely playful, Gondry employs seemingly simple visual elements and then suddenly distorts them into elaborately involved set pieces that are deeper and more intricate than they appear at a casual glance, such as the two months needed to create the all LEGO action of White Stripes' Fell In Love With A Girl, which flies by in under two minutes. Cibo Matto's Sugar Water is another textbook Gondry, featuring a split screen of the two singers, one moving backwards (ala Coldplay's The Scientist) and the other forward. Midway through the video the two halves meld together to briefly create a whole before splitting again, with the person who was moving backwards now moving forward, and vice versa. It creates one of those "whoa, that was cool" moments that has increasingly become a rarity these days, and Gondry has a number of those on his retrospective. There is the story-within-a-story-within-a-story of Bjork's Bachelorette, about her dreams of writing a novel, or the shared comic fairytale nightmares of Foo Fighter's Everlong that wedges up against The Chemical Brothers' Let Forever Be, in which a young woman's daily life becomes a series of well-choreographed optical illusions.
Representing the dark side in this collection is Chris Cunningham, who is the polar opposite of Gondry and Jonze. These are the videos that are artistically grotesque and disturbing, and based on the selections here it would seem that Cunningham has a lot of demons running around in his head. Come To Daddy from Aphex Twin is like a mini-horror movie, with mutant children attacking an old woman, culminating in some kind of skinny creature being birthed out of a television set. I don't claim to know what the hell's going on, but it is creepy, frightening and difficult to look away from. The onslaught of unpleasant images rolls on during Leftfield's Afrika Shox, in which a man's limbs get shattered one by one as he tries to make his way through some shadowy cityscape, until he is left sprawled on the pavement, flailing madly. The only times Cunningham seems to leash those demons is during Madonna's Frozen, a fairly subdued clip that manages to avoid any significantly horrific visuals, or with Bjork's All is Full of Love, with a pair of robots discovering the joy of mechanical love and sex.
The music videos form the core of the content for all three directors, though each disc is sprinkled with assorted short films, documentaries, commercials or video installations. Cunningham's are mostly commercials (including the Mental Wealth spot for Playstation), though we are offered some insight into the creative process with the Making All is Full of Love for Bjork. The Gondry disc's highlight is a nearly 75 minute documentary entitled I've Been 12 Forever, which takes a detailed peek at the artist via interviews, storyboards and drawings, and uses a branching option to go directly to a music video that is being discussed. For Jonze, it is a set of documentaries and so-called "rarities", one being the test footage for an Oasis music video that was eventually scrapped, with random people describing their visual impressions of what the video should look like.
I could try to be very esoteric and offer some high falutin' buzzwords to reinforce that this set is modern art.
All I can really come up with is that it is a trip.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
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Image Transfer Review: The variance in video styles, film stocks, etc makes a straight grade a bit of a challenge, with the music videos retaining the best image quality, and the indie bits decidedly more hit-or-miss. Most of the material is presented in 1.33:1 fullframe, and on average, detail and clarity are strong, with the colors in Bjork's It's Oh So Quiet looking absolutely brilliant.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Audio on all four discs is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and considering the majority of the material is music-related, the presentation is fairly beefy and full. The docs and short films tend to sound slightly tinnier, however.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 60 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 60 cues and remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Adaptation, Yeah Right!, The Work of Director Chris Cunningham, The Work of Director Michel Gondry, The Work of Director Spike Jonze, Rubber Johnny
17 Feature/Episode commentaries by Wax, Bjork, Beastie Boys, The Pharcyde, Daft Punk, Fatlip, Weezer, Fatboy Slim, Dinosaur Jr., Puffy, Christopher Walken, The Chemical Brothers
Packaging: Box Set
- Three books
This fourth disc contains three music videos, with two from Jonze (Y Control - Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Island In The Sun - Weezer) and one from Gondry (I Wonder - The Willowz), as well as an excerpt from Yeah Right! (Jonze), featuring skateboard-less skateboarders and Ossamuch! (Gondry) a three minute film about a woman buying clothes and a guy dancing like a maniac. All three directors are featured in the nine minute Q&A segment, filmed at a promotional appearance (with Jack Black in the audience) at a Virgin records location.
It's tough to isolate what the extras are, but in terms of traditional supplements the only one with commentaries is the Jonze disc. Sporting a whopping 17 commentary tracks (from the likes of Wax, Bjork, Beastie Boys, The Pharcyde, Daft Punk, Fatlip, Weezer, Fatboy Slim, Dinosaur Jr., Christopher Walken and The Chemical Brothers), the artists themselves get to comment on working with the director. As an added plus, depending on your tastes, Beastie Boys offer an additional 40 minutes of random chatter on "select videos", and not being a real fan, I found their comments tended to drift aimlessly more often than not.
As with the single disc releases, this set also contains the three 52-page postcard size books, one per artist. Inside each are photos, interviews, storyboards and random arty coolness, and are far removed from being simple frothy and pointless filler.
There is also a huge Chris Cunnigham poster that features some of the disturbing images he is so famous for.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsThis is high art, imaginative vision, rock and roll and the stuff of bad dreams all rolled into one staggeringly jam-packed box set.
Rich Rosell 2005-02-01