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The Work of Director Michel Gondry

The Work of Michel Gondry, part of Palm Pictures' "Directors Label" DVD series, is essentially a two-disc set presented on one disc — Side A is a sampling of the director's newer videos, short films and commercials made from 1996 to 2001, with Side B offering works from 1987 to 1995. Bridging the sides is a two-part, 75-minute featurette, "I've Been 12 Forever," a nice overview of the director's life and work combining artist and family interviews with behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, commentary and Gondry's drawings. The videos on the disc range from his straightforward work on the Rolling Stones' 1995 cover of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" to his earlier experiments in animation for Oui Oui (his own band, for whom he played drums). Prominent themes recur, especially dreams and multiples, from the dual fantasy worlds of Dave Grohl and his sleeping girlfriend the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" to the kaleidoscopic shopgirl's dream of the Chemical Brothers' "Let Forever Be," in which seven identical dancers slide in and out and around video footage of the dreaming woman's "reality." Kylie Minogue multiplies over and over again as her doppelgangers prance through the same-but-changing cityscape of "Come Into My World" (a piece of filmmaking that practically begs the viewer to watch it again and again to try and figure out just how the effect was achieved) and the split-screen of Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water" presents two women going through the same actions — one forward, one backward — and finally changing places in a mind-boggling piece of cinematic legerdemain. Gondry's most impressive work is, arguably, on display in the videos he made with the surreal Icelandic songstress Björk, whose input in plotting their six videos' intricately symbolic and almost impenetrable visuals Gondry freely acknowledges. Easily the artistic equal of the justifiably lauded "Human Behavior," Björk's "Bachelorette" is an unfolding story-within-a-story-within-a-story-within-a-story, visually presenting the creative path of writing to publishing to play to film as a deconstructive process that ultimately destroys the original work. Palm Pictures' DVD release offers 27 videos plus short films in either anamorphic widescreen or full-frame, depending on the ratio of the original piece. The disc's design is clever — besides running in backwards chronology from oldest to newest, each side offers the option of viewing the videos in either chronological order, "shuffling" them, or by artist. And, as a sort of quasi-Easter egg, the set starts with an introduction by Gondry that changes with each subsequent playing, offering more to see every time you start it up. Besides the videos, the disc offers three of Gondry's award-winning commercials, for Levi's, Smirnoff and Polaroid. Several very short films are included, like "Pecan Pie," in which a pajama-wearing, Elvis-channeling Jim Carrey drives his car-bed into a gas station for a fill up and tuck-in, the clever "La Lettre," about the fickleness of adolescent love, and the scatological, baffling "One Day," which stars Gondry as himself, followed around town and harassed by a piece of his own excrement — played by comedian David Cross. The enclosed booklet is a nice addition as well, featuring drawings, anecdotes and interviews. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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