Monday, May 11, 2009

6 Music Video Directors: Make the Leap

Two of the most imaginative and talented directors, Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, came into the world of feature film direction out of first cutting their chops at music video direction. Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry... is there anything they can't do?

Another question: is there some certain action they had to take to make the leap from music videos to features? Is it just a drive to handle bigger stories? In less than five minutes they created some of the most beautiful and bizarre imagery I've ever seen, and thankfully it was brought along through Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep, and etc. There's a bushel of other music video directors I feel have the visual style, and storytelling prowess it takes to make features as great as Gondry or Jonze, yet they haven't taken the leap I imagine exists. In case they do someday take their turns at feature length films I would like to be the first to discuss them, and what it is I find worth seeing more of.

Chris Cunningham
Probably the name that first jumps to mind when pondering directors who are long overdue for a feature, Cunningham works in the realm of dark mechanisms and horrific bodily deformations, able to fit the tone of romantic and sensual, sickening and disturbing, or light and comedic with each revolutionary, sense-puzzling device he conjures up. Really catching his stride with his first Aphex Twin collaboration "Come to Daddy" Chris Cunningham has been pushing the boundaries of sight and sounds partnership, and forcing the viewers minds to stretch to the limits of comprehension with his creations of flesh and machine. His world is filled with sharp contrasts of white and black, flared lenses, and graying bodies. He can be stunning, he can be amusing, but he is never short on innovation, and he is one director I highly anticipate a feature from.


Martin de Thurah
A director I just discovered thanks to the release of Fever Ray's debut, de Thurah has quickly risen to one of my top favorite music video directors, and knowing he's directed two rather lengthy short films already, one as recently as last year, I have high hopes that a feature is soon on the way. He is a master of shallow focus, especially in the "When I Grow Up" video. His works seem to touch strongly on the suppression of emotions: fear, anger, sadness. Troubled youths witness and cause destruction in environments highly unsuited for such releases of energy. Jerky movements and awkward dance sequences are norms, and subdued colors compliment the subject matter magnificently. I say magnificently with complete conviction. Martin de Thurah is a true artist, and is easily pegged into the theory of authorship in his direction.


Andreas Nilsson
I'd compare Nilsson's videography to Michel Gondry's in its ability to shift style for the song. His series of videos for The Knife are all moody, glum and foreboding affairs, while his videos for Jose Gonzalez have a magical and frantic feel. His latest videos for Peter Bjorn and John ("Nothing to Worry About") and Fever Ray ("If I Had a Heart") are almost polar opposites in tone and style, one being a happy, upbeat handheld documentation of aging Asian greasers having a dance off, and the other a dark, deliberate view of death, slow in its travel through a corpse strewn mansion. He may be able to change his mood on the drop of a hat, but each video is unique, and fits perfectly with the music. His videos for White Lies, a conventional British alternative rock act, far surpass the merits of the music with their visuals. Nilsson has been working for a while, and seems to have a grasp enough on the whole directing process to be ready for the big time.


Andy Bruntel
So many directors keep the worlds inside their videos so dark and somber. Bruntel is a huge exception. His videos have a youthful quality to them. There's a sense of innocence and mysticism to most of them, and tongue in cheek stories that actually manage to elicit audible laughs from my world-weary diaphragm. Working with the geekier branch of independent musicians like Stephen Malkmus, Modest Mouse and The Mountain Goats his videos match their pace, and manage to feel happy and free. Whether working in slow motion, stop motion, or no motion, Bruntel captures the essence of the songs. The plots he manages to craft inside such a short period of time speak greatly for what he could do with two hours on his hands, I think. And they're all so cute and funny, too, with probably meaningless symbolism, and dogs acting as the Spirit of the Forest. His last video came out of early January, and I can't wait to see more of him. In feature form mayhaps? We'll see.


Jonnie Ross
I wish I could have found a screenshot from a Jonnie Ross video that didn't have the widescreen black bars, but I couldn't, so we'll all just have to deal. Ross hasn't done much with himself. He's done very much with himself, yes, but he doesn't have enough videos for me to be content with, and I want to see more music videos, more commercials, and especially a feature from him right about now. His videos have a crazy kinetic energy to them. Even when the characters in the frame are purely moving about in strange ways it's funny. Each video brought a grin to my face. Even when they were less than 30 seconds. His use of handheld is boggling to the mind and his MTV2 commercials deserve to be turned into features. He definitely has a feel for translating the intensity of the video into the consumer of the video. The use of light creates unusual highlights that are a bit hard to explain, and create an atmosphere that feels like home, but slightly flipped. An exciting artist, and I desire more. 


Stefan Nadelman
Working less in the realm of music videos, and more in the realm of animating videos with heavy use of music, Nadelman is responsible for some of the most awesome animated films I've had the pleasure to lay eyes on. His style, which is a sort of digital stop motion process, give his films a style that I've never seen before, and an impressive one at that. Also one of the funnier animated shortists working today. His dog doing an impression of Orson Welles is adorable. And his commentaries on the way the world uses language, and of how transportation can work to create a claustrophobic world, not a pleasant one, are clever and pretty awesome. And using food to spell out the world's history of combat? Clearly a sharp guy. I think Nadelman has what it takes to use his animating skills, and his humor making skills to dole out an awesome movie. And if he never gets around to doing that, I never want him to stop releasing his shorts. Major kudos for all he's done. 


What will it take for these men to make features? I don't know, man. I'm just talking about it.

 - Eric T. Voigt, Gots To Get Paid

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