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Like a big tin of Quality Street, everybody has their favourites. James Berry sits down in front of his flat-screen and unwraps the release of the fantastic Directors collection out now on DVD.


Rock Videos. Pop videos. Choreography. Pouting. A third world debt’s worth of push-up bras, blusher and flattering lights. ‘Artsy’ slow-mo and unnecessary use of black & white. Lame CGI. Lame narrative. Reoccurring artiste close-ups as constant reminder of product. Empty sexuality. All the fireworks in Texas (hello, Audioslave!). Or big room, stage, two cameras, endless supply of ugly gurn-any-which-way-to-get-on-TV fans and band playing live. Or as near as they can manage. And another heap of slow-mo. Music videos, like fossil fuels and Richard and Judy, we take very much for granted. Most of us grew up with MTV in existence if not within immediate reach. MTV let people know they could see music with their eyes, but they did that with such ease by, for the most part, bypassing the imagination. Most of us are therefore unaware that most of what we are peddled is actually dead horse meat, marketing jism, pre-artistic flotsam. We demand nothing. They are just there. Music videos exist to buy the head of EMI a new car. Or for Sophie to lumber along to absent-mindedly in the gym.

There are, granted, numerous exceptions to this rule, some even make it to or gatecrash the mainstream. But you’re unlikely to see most of them unless you’re an insomniac and you haven’t already had enough of MTV2 by 1am. But the directors are out there, not that you’d know it. MTV2 used to begin it’s videos with the direction credit, though that indulgence has long been buried beneath adverts and sponsorship packages. You only know their work as That Radiohead One In The Woods or That Sigur Ros One With The Downs Syndrome Kids. But they are out there, and with their imaginations intact. For instance Jake & Jim (That Super Furries’ One With The Dogs) have been quirky and attention grabbing for years, if a little hit and miss. Shynola (That Rapture One With The Flyers and That Semi Animated QOTSA One With The Lady Spreading Her Legs Over A Road) has been consistently stylish. And there are others.

But there are 3 contemporary directors who in this modern age have been consistently synonymous with quality, ambition and disturbing fucky freakiness. And Englishman Chris Cunningham, Frenchman Michel Gondry and American Spike Jonze had the good grace to get their shit together and put out compendiums of their work, the music videos, the short films, the commercials, the documentaries, the interviews, the rarities. To let you know who they are, rather than just the bands they give such personalities to through selfless artistic goodwill. Et voila.

The Work Of Director Michel Gondry – Rating: ****
Michel Gondry has a number of obsessions. The most notable of these being repetition, graphic reproduction and thoroughly deconstructing music only to build it back up entwined with a symmetrical visual foil and a sense of the absurd. You will already know him, particularly for the White Stripes’ One With The Lego, One With The Trashed House And The Projections, and One With The Ridiculous Equalizer-esque Reproduction Of Jack And Meg. Then there are his victorious mind-melting visuals for The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Star Guitar’ where to the untrained eye it appears he has choreographed the whole of France from a train window, and to the trained eye like he’s a meticulous genius. Then there’s the psychedelic mind-warp of ‘Let Forever Be’, transforming musical desperation into necessity. He may have embraced constantly reoccurring themes through his body of work (Daft Punk’s ‘All Around The World’ does look like an affordable demo for ‘Star Guitar’) but he still lets each song speak for itself and take ownership of the video. And with ‘Everlong’ he produced the only Foo Fighters video worth sitting through till the end. Achievement all around. Not every last music video is a cast iron work of infinite genius, but most are a blast and there is a benchmark he never descends below. Just remember to watch French band Oui Oui’s numerous videos with the sound off. His commercials and short films are all worth repeat peeps too, ‘La Lettre’ in particular being a stunningly sweet ride. In an interview, Bjork attributes his style to a hippie upbringing, which may actually correlate with our guess, LSD.

The Work Of Director Chris Cunningham – Rating: ****
As perfectly affable as he probably is down the pub with a bitter and a cigarette on a Sunday afternoon, as far as character scans go, this doesn’t conjure a pretty picture. If he lives as he works you can bet he’s not at the top of many Christmas card lists. He has the freedom of the city of your darkermost thoughts, and he goes there all the time. Although this collection does paint (pixellate?) him out as a broader artist than many who just know him as the guy who sewed Aphex Twin’s face onto all those little gingham-dressed girls and scared the bejesus out of you the first time you stumbled on ‘Come To Daddy’ in the early hours of the morning may believe. However, in ever single instance he seems to be similarly playing chicken with the musical track. Inevitably though neither move an inch and he dislocates limbs-a-plenty in a numerous creative head-on smashes. From the vamp-serenity of Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ and soft bliss of Porishead’s ‘Only You’, to the staggering cold mechanical passion of Bjork’s ‘All Is Full of Love’, to the harsh disorientation and dark humour of Leftfield’s ‘Afrika Shox’ and certainly in Squarepusher’s outrageously frantically hilariously distorted ‘Come On My Selector’, he is magnifying the atmospheric premise of the song and hijacking it, staffing it from his own warped worldview. Exactly which world isn’t clear, if it’s this one it’s looking through one hell of a lens. His adverts aren’t as much cop but his ‘Monkey Drummer’ video instillation is exactly the kind of craziness TV screens were made for.

The Work Of Director Spike Jonze – Rating ***
Spike Jonze is a slightly different prospect to his DVD series colleagues, though in his own way no less valuable. He doesn’t dig deep into the tune and excavate, he doesn’t manipulate imagery with technology to any fantabulous degree, he doesn’t turn a concept upside down and shake it beyond normality. He’s more likely to just turn the camera upside down if he thinks it’d be, like, cool. His own gift is his angle on situations, the giddiness with which he often shoots, his lack of respect for conformation, and his ability to make his characters and subjects shine. And of course his, like, umm, really cool ideas. He’s more prone to slip into normality than the other two and for that the two discs may be stretching things a teensy bit. Stuff like the golf across New York narrative to Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Feel The Pain’ would be fine throwaway stuff for a Weezer clip, but doesn’t cut the Marmite here. But then Weezer have got the smile-guaranteed world-conquering Happy Days ‘Buddy Holly’ vid, so you won’t be hearing a grumble about their side of the deal. And on top of that one there’s the Beastie’s celebrated ‘Sabotage’, The Pharcyde’s excellent ‘Drop’ (predating Coldplay’s backward ‘The Scientist’), Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ dance troupe and the Christopher Walken (and dancin’) starring masterpiece ‘Weapon of Choice’ and Bjork’s (incidentally the only artist to appear on all 3 DVDs) gleaming showpiece ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’. If he wasn’t making videos and films he’d probably be sat at home watching Jackass. So just thank god it didn’t start in the 80s.

Relevant sites:

James Berry for Crud Magazine 2003©

01/04 Directors Label DVD - Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham
01/04 Jet - Get Born - Limited Edition DVD
01/04 Kid Symphony - Live - Westminster University
01/04 Mad Action - Live - London Barfly
01/04 Ram Interview - Coordinates
01/04 Razorlight - Live - Cardiff Barfly
01/04 Reel Big Fish - LIve - Birmingham Academy
01/04 Scissor Sisters - Live - Northampton Soundhaus
01/04 Super Furry Animals - Cardiff Barfly
01/04 Delays - Live - Liverpool Carling Academy
01/04 Killers - Live -Electric Ballroom, London
01/04 The Shins - Live - Arts Cafe, London
01/04 The VInes - LIve - Camden Electric Ballroom
01/04 The Walkmen Interview
01/04 White Stripes - Live - Alexandra Palace

01/04 Top Ten Albums 2003
01/04 Turin Brakes - Interview - Coordinates
01/04 Twilight Singers - Live - Islington Academy, London
01/04 Velvet Revolver Interview
01/04 Yo La Tengo - Live - Northampton Roadmender
01/04 Auf Der Mar Interview
01/04 Auf Der Mar Live - Islington Carling Academy, London
01/04 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Live - Brixton Academy, London
01/04 Cooper Temple Clause - Interview
01/04 Cooper Temple Clause - Live - Brixton Academy, London

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October - December 2004
January - March 2005
April - December 2005
January - August 2006
September - December 2006
January - September 2007
October - December 2007
January - May 2008
June-December 2008



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