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Friday, May 8, 2009

DVD Review: Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before & After DVD 1.

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, May 8, 2009 at 8:48 PM

Michel Gondry is a genius. There's no other way to say it, no way around it: When the dude is at the top of his game (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle's Block Party, The Science of Sleep) he's absolutely unfuckwithable, and even when he's not at the top of his game (Be Kind Rewind, Human Nature), his films are still jaw-droppingly unique and enjoyable and good-hearted. The dude's creativity is just astounding, and nowhere is this more evident than on his recent self-released DVD, Michel Gondry 2: More Videos Before & After DVD 1 (the "DVD 1" being, I assume, The Work of Director Michel Gondry).

I mean, look at this. I dare you not to be astonished.

And shit, while we're at it:

What's impressive here isn't the technical ingenuity that Gondry so often displays—on this DVD are videos that take advantage of stop-motion, forced perspective, crazy props and/or sets, and any number of other imaginative, surreal techniques—but that he's able to marry these ideas so completely to the purpose of whatever he's doing. Gondry's works always have an element of "How did he do that?" to them, but that's never the focus of his works—the work itself is, the tone of it, the message he's trying to get across. The fact he gets those messages across in ways that no one else could even dream of doing is almost secondary.

All of this is most effectively captured in a the segment of the DVD that offers six behind-the-scenes glimpses of how Gondry made some of these videos—the best of these featurettes are directed by Jeff Buchanan, and examine the productions of the White Stripes' "The Denial Twist," Steriogram's "Walkie Talkie Man," and Beck's "Cellphone's Dead." Sometimes, the stars of these videos seem confused as to what Gondry has planned for them ("I think I'm being punk'd by a hyper-cool Ashton Kutcher," Conan O'Brien says on the set of the mind-bending video for "The Denial Twist"), sometimes Gondry seems delighted with his ideas ("I just thought it would be nice to do a whole video with yarn and fabric," he says, offhandedly, about making the video for Steriogram's "Walkie Talkie Man"), and sometimes he seems overwhelmed by what he's come up with ("It is the most complicated way to do a camera move that could exist in the world," Gondry admits about shooting "Cellphone's Dead"). But goddamn, the methods that he uses to make these videos are just insanely, awe-inspiringly creative and brilliant—and you'll have to check out the DVD to see them, 'cause I won't ruin them here—but seeing how Gondry conceived "Denial Twist" is amazing, and seeing how he decided to shoot the video for Paul McCartney's "Dance Tonight" is so much more interesting and tangible and beautiful than you'd ever guess:

With 20 music videos, plus those behind-the-scenes looks at how six of them were made, plus more special features (like "Michel Gondry Solves a Rubik's Cube with His Feet," "Michel Gondry Solves a Rubik's Cube with His Nose," and "Jack Black Beats Michel Gondry with His Rubik's Cubes"), the DVD is definitely worth the $17.95 it's going for at michelgondry.com. Admittedly, not many DVDs are worth paying full price for, but this is undoubtedly one of 'em. It's already stacked on my DVD shelves alongside my two other favorite music video compilations—The Work of Director Spike Jonze and the Criterion Collection's The Beastie Boys DVD Anthology—and just looking at it, I'm overwhelmed by how much creativity and beauty and weirdness is packed into such a small package. (Shit, the DVD menus alone for this thing boast more originality than most feature films can manage.)

A complete list of the music videos on the disc:

1. Michael Andrews ft. Gary Jules "Mad World"
2. Paul McCartney "Dance Tonight"
3. Thomas Dolby "Close But No Cigar"
4. Björk "Declare Independence"
5. Steriogram "Walkie Talkie Man"
6. The Willowz "I Wonder"
7. Beck "Cellphone's Dead"
8. The White Stripes "The Denial Twist"
9. Donald Fagen "Snowbound"
10. Cody ChesnuTT "King of the Game"
11. Sinead O'Connor "Fire On Babylon"
12. Queen with Wyclef Jean ft. Pras & Free "Another One Bites the Dust"
13. Radiohead "Knives Out"
14. Dick Annegarn "Soleil du Soir"
15. Sananda Maitreya "She Kissed Me"
16. Sheryl Crow "A Change Would Do You Good"
17. The Black Crowes "High Head Blues"
18. Leafbirds "It Can All Be Taken Away"
19. The Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter"
20. Energy Orchard "How the West Was Won”

So yeah, pick it up, post-haste, and enjoy. And I know what you're thinking. I know. But here's how amazing Gondry is: Even his videos for the Sinead O'Connor and Sheryl Crow songs are great. Yeah. Think about that for a minute.

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