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Director's Label Series Volume 2 review, Director's Label Series Volume Two DVD review
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Director's Label Series: Volume 2 (2005)

Starring: Radiohead, U2, Jamiroquai, Bjork, Madonna, Nirvana, No Doubt, Depeche Mode and more

Rating: NR
Director: Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer, Mark Romanek and Stephane Sednaoui
Category: Various

There are few things that underscore how label obsessed pop culture has become than the fact that there are DVDs on the market that consist solely of the work of a particular music video director. And for a change, that kind of branding is actually a good thing. When Palm Pictures put out the first three volumes of the Directors Label series in 2003, which featured the work of Michel Gondry (the White Stripes’ Lego video “Fell in Love with a Girl”), Chris Cunningham (Madonna’s “Frozen”), and Spike Jonze (Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” a.k.a. the Christopher Walken Video), they surely knew that these directors had a following, but they couldn’t possibly have imagined that these DVDs would fly off the shelves the way they did. The message was clear: The kids know their vids.

So Palm decided to go one better. They assembled the work of Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn and Stéphane Sednaoui, four staggeringly talented directors, to serve as the second installment of the series, so to speak. If the first three sets focused on the here and now, the videos here are a microcosm of where music video has come from. You can look up exactly when these videos were made, but they still feel timeless, as if mere mortals had nothing to do with the making of them. Bullz-Eye sat down, for about 96 hours without blinking, to deconstruct the film influences, and explore the Gregorian references within – ah, screw it, we just wanted to check out some killer vids, bro.

Mark Romanek

To steal Q Magazine’s description of songwriter Neil Finn, Mark Romanek pisses genius. Assembled in reverse chronological order, the disc starts with Jay-Z’s phenomenal video for “99 Problems” (a director’s cut, no less), which literally sent Jay-Z’s rapping career to its grave in a hail of bullets, and ends with “Constant Craving” (both, coincidentally, shot in black & white), the video that vaulted kd lang to stardom. In between are a slew of power rotation videos, from Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” (as well as the arguably superior Gothic fantasy “Perfect Drug”) to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” the most elegant slice of soft core porn you’re likely to find. You’ll also find the best Madonna video you never saw (“Bedtime Story”), the worst Michael/Janet video you ever saw (“Scream”), and one of the most literally explosive videos ever made (Audioslave’s “Cochise,” which features the band backlit by a barrage of brilliant fireworks). But most importantly, you’ll find the video for Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” the most moving, most powerful piece of film you’re likely to ever see in your entire life. The secret weapon to his videos are the candid shots, the moments where he captures the artist with their guard down, and his editors always find the perfect place to insert that moment of humanity. As cliché as it sounds, Romanek is truly in a class all his own, and this compilation proves it.

Jonathan Glazer

This is definitely one of the more interesting collections in the Director’s Label series if only because it offers an assortment of other mediums aside from the typical music video. The disc contains, of course, all of Glazer’s videos (save for one by Jamiroquai), but also features his television commercial work, as well as two excerpts from feature films. “Sexy Beast” is easily one of the most underrated films of the past decade, and Glazer’s fantastical vision shines through in his directorial debut. Unfortunately, the excerpt provided doesn’t highlight any of this, but instead features Ben Kingsley’s brilliant onscreen performance. Still, interviews with Kingsley and co-star Ray Winstone help to enlighten the viewer as to what it was like working with the young director, but another example of Glazer’s influence would have worked much better. Why they didn’t include an excerpt with the bizarre Rabbit alter ego is beyond me, but those dream sequences represented the most important visual elements within the project. Other standout pieces on the disc include the infamous “Virtual Insanity” video (along with commentary by Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay on how it was shot), the controversial video for UNKLE’s “Rabbit in Your Headlights,” as well as commercials focused on the idea of invincibility (Guinness’ “Swim Black” and Levis’ “Odyssey”) and fantasy (Guinness’ “Dreamer” and “Surfer”).

Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn likes sand. He also likes shooting in black & white. Oh, and title cards, too. Most importantly, he likes Depeche Mode, a lot. Five of the videos here are from Depeche, along with two each from Metallica, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen and Mercury Rev, many of which were shot in the desert or on the beach. Fortunately, these videos happen to be quite good, and a couple, like “Enjoy the Silence” and “One,” are classics. The beauty of this set is in the lesser known videos, like Henry Rollins’ magnificent “Liar,” Travis’ “Re-Offender,” where the band fights between every gig and has the bruises to prove it, and most importantly his first video ever, Propaganda’s “Dr. Mabuse,” which is of its time yet absolutely nothing like it. On a sadder note, the compilation also includes Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box,” which might be the last time Kurt Cobain was caught smiling on film.

Stephane Sednaoui

Perhaps the most unpredictable director of the bunch, Stephane Sednaoui is also the youngest, and yet his unique style has been praised by many as being ahead of the curve. Except by me, of course. About half of the videos on this disc will look strikingly familiar, like Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it Away” and “Scar Tissue,” and U2’s “Mysterious Ways” and “Discotheque,” but none of them feel as culturally significant as the collections from the other three directors. Sednaoui likes to work in very distinct opposites. Everything is either a very dull black and white (Garbage’s “Queer” and Bjork’s “Big Time Sensuality”), or exhibits an extreme use of bright colors (Mirwais’ “Disco Science” and Bjork’s “Possibly Maybe”). The more aggressive videos (including “Give it Away” and “Queer”) are a pain to watch, but Sednaoui’s more fantastical, neon-hued videos are at least visually appealing. Oh, and there’s also a video for French rappers NTM as well. What a drag.

Final Thoughts

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, we have a couple suggestions for the next series of Directors Label collections: compilations from David Fincher (Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love”), Steve Barron (A-ha’s “Take On Me,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), Russell Mulcahy (all of the Duran Duran Sri Lanka videos, “Video Killed the Radio Star”) and Zbigniew Rybczynski (Art of Noise’s “Close (To the Edit”), Pet Shop Boys’ “Opportunities”) would look great on our shelves. Just a thought.

~David Medsker & Jason Zingale

dmedsker@bullz-eye.com / jzingale@bullz-eye.com





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