The Work Of Director Spike Jonze
- Palm Pictures
- A- Community Grade
It would be overstating the case to call music-video and advertising directors the true heirs of avant-garde cinema, especially since actual avant-garde filmmakers are still grinding away for nowhere near the commercial-makers' money. But MTV and its promotional offshoots have undeniably given film students an excuse to write off their Stan Brakhage screenings as a business expense. And when the young bastardizers have really rolled, they've made visionary art out of consumerist dreams and abstract logic. Palm Pictures' "Director's Label" DVD series is an idea well past due: It collects the best work-for-hire of in-demand video and commercial directors, and packages them with experimental shorts and interviews. The series' first wave consists of The Work Of Director Spike Jonze, The Work Of Director Chris Cunningham, and The Work Of Director Michel Gondry, DVDs profiling three men who couldn't be more different as stylists or personalities. Spike Jonze, an American, is a deadpan prankster, engaged in street-level surrealism, subjecting low culture to the distorting heat of natural light. Chris Cunningham, a British native, is a dark technician who crafts vivid nightmares out of the warping of technology and biology. Frenchman Michel Gondry is an obsessive miniaturist who surrounds himself and his subjects with models and playhouse sets, arranged in endless patterns. All three have worked for Björk, and both Jonze and Gondry have spun production numbers out of the rhythms of daily life: Jonze with Björk's "It's Oh So Quiet," inhabited by dancing postboxes and spinning tires, and Gondry with The Chemical Brothers' "Let Forever Be," which stops the harried workday of a makeup-counter clerk to let her dance with herself. Each of the directors had a hand in designing the packaging of their discs, including the clever menus and the varied supplements, and Jonze crony Lance Bangs supervised the interviews. The sets could use more "how'd-they-do-it" information, but since none of these guys or their musician friends are inclined to play it straight, the fragments of on-set footage and the odd bit of straightforward commentary are suitably illuminating. Mostly, it's just good to have this ephemera readily available–to pore over the subtle, funny gestures of Jonze's deceptively simple clips, or such truly horrific Cunningham creations as his take on Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy," or Gondry's Escher-like bends and regressive replications of Kylie Minogue and The White Stripes. Like the best avant-garde cinema, these mini-movies distort the known, and cut through to a different way of seeing.