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The playful magic of Michel Gondry’s collaborations with The White Stripes

Screenshot: YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube

It’s been almost a decade since the last White Stripes album came out, and much of the curiosity that accompanied their early years has faded into trivia, especially as Jack White continues his slow transformation into a hat-wearing record-industry barnacle à la Bono or Rick Rubin. But it’s also a good time to revisit that rush of interesting music, prolifically released for a few years, as well as the group’s ironclad sonic and visual aesthetics. A huge part of that was the duo’s series of videos with director Michel Gondry, mostly released in the early ‘00s as the director was working up toward his 2004 masterpiece Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. A new video from Film Radar digs into that fruitful collaboration, figuring out what made it all work and what we can still learn from it.

The video explores three of their five videos together, teasing out the increasingly elaborate tricks Gondry pulled behind the camera to bring the duo’s music to visual life. While “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” was all done practically, with footage projected onto walls at the same angle from which they were filmed as Jack White wanders through a house haunted by a failed relationship, the legendary Lego-inspired video for “Fell In Love With A Girl” took a slight step toward digital effects, using stop-motion but also a little bit of computer editing.

The dizzying video for “The Denial Twist,” meanwhile, was accomplished by creating a series of skewed, almost expressionist sets that were then un-skewed back to normal ratios, thus making the people in them look mutated and bizarre.

The Film Radar video draws some interesting comparisons between the way The White Stripes and Gondry limit themselves to practical, analog production methods, to make themselves uncomfortable and thus more inspired. It’s an inspiring angle for anyone looking to make creative work, which present-day Jack White might do well to revisit.

On the other hand—maybe the real Jack White disappeared a decade ago, and the other one is just an impostor? Just a thought.

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