The Work of Director Michel Gondry

I've been watching this two-DVD set that collects music videos and other ephemera from the director of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. I'd seen and admired a few of these videos and had heard exceptional things about others.

Watching them again took me back to my senior year at Marquette. On the cusp of age 22, I'd scan daily previews of MTV2 (then simply known as M2) and Amp, a weekly way-past-midnight MTV program that showcased videos falling under the generic, all-encompassing electronica banner: techno, trip hop, drum and bass, alternative dance, etc; I was a year into taking film studies classes for my undergraduate minor, and I felt like I was uncovering new worlds and possibilities unseen in the mainstream--even the Miramax-fueled mainstream that had held my rapturous attention with Tarantino, Fargo, and New Rock 102.1, Milwaukee's mid-90's corporate alternative radio station.

I wanted to revel in my own independence, celebrate my own discoveries and obscurities. I couldn't fully articulate such thoughts and desires yet. That would take time, miles, experimentation, failure and a little grief. I found a passion for hearing and seeing things a majority of my friends and peers hadn't heard of, then felt frustration when they found my developing tastes to be "weird". Fortunately, I eventually learned not to suppress my interests but to express, indulge in, and defend them.

I never fully gave up liking things everyone else likes. For instance, I watched Survivor tonight before Gondry. I used to find the show ridiculous but tonight, it moved me a little. I could say I was suckered in by the theatrics and the show's manipulation to entertain, but is that really a deplorable, unforgivable thing?

It's balance we need: to enjoy the things we want (whether a studio blockbuster or our personal favorite most endearing single song of all time) without feeling guilty about it.

So sayeth the music critic, I know! Well, what I love most about Gondry is that he doesn't seem to work within too many parameters. His very best videos make you ask, "How the fuck did he do that?!" The multiplying Kylies in Ms. Minogue's "Come Into My World"... the all-lego tableau of The White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl"... the delirious, body-morphing choreography of The Chemical Brothers' "Let Forever Be"... perhaps most famously, the six videos he's done for Bjork, from the fake-bear-and-mothlight phantasmagoric cabin tale of "Human Behaviour" to "Bachelorette", a short film to rival Guy Maddin's The Heart of The World in its meta-narrative and conceptual scope.

The DVD was issued as part of a series that also includes Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham, whose work I'm less familiar with. Will have to check it out, and let's hope every one brilliant, groundbreaking music video out of a hundred merely mortal videos gets the same treatment in the near future.


Finally saw Pieces of April this week, and it did not suck. I still couldn't buy Katie Holmes as a problem punk girl, Sean Hayes was a little too quirky/mannered for his own good, and the younger sister was a cartoon. But Patricia Clarkson was magnificent--her best performance so far, the most fleshed out, contradictory cancer patient you're likely to see onscreen, and even more deserving of an Oscar than Renee Zwelleger. The script's only slightly better than your average WB drama, but that didn't matter. It actually charmed my socks off most of the time, and the somber, picture-taking ending was strong.