Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Work of Mark Romanek

Remember music videos? Images are filmed and put to a song? They used to play them on MTV. Well for those who remember Palm Pictures has putting out collections of seminal music video directors on DVD. The first three were for Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry. I highly recommend the Jonze and Gondry ones. If you don’t know who Jonze is, well… Gondry went on to direct “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” They recently released four more DVD’s for: Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn, St├ęphane Sednaoui. U2 diehards should recognize Corbijn and Sedanoui. Glazer went on to direct “Sexy Beast” and the ultra uncomfortable “Birth.” I actually went with my girlfriend at the time to see “Birth.” Yeah, there was no romance happening that night. I also don’t recommend seeing “Closer” with a date or significant other particularly if you plan to get frisky afterwards.

Anyway, the DVD I picked up was Romanek’s. He directed One Hour Photo. Alright, I hate that I just used films to identify these directors when there videos should be enough. Below is the list of videos on Romanek’s DVD. Over two-thirds of these are great. He’s directed at least four classic (or to be classic) music videos: Jay-Z, Apple, NIN - Closer, and Kravitz. He’s also directed what in my opinion is the probably the greatest music video: Johnny Cash – Hurt.

I remember seeing this video for the first time. I had that "dust in my eye" going on near the end. Every time that piano starts pounding near the end and the cuts of a young Johnny Cash become more frequent I still get a little teary. The main goal of music videos is to advertise and represent the artist. Yet, Romanek actually achieved something I’ve only seen one other time in a music video: emotion. (The other time was the video for Chocolate Genius’ “My Mom,” but that’s another post) It clearly had the same impact on others as evidence in interviews with artists on DVD. Yes, most of the emotion is in Cash singing that song, but the decision to innercut old footage of Cash is what puts it over the top. The point is that it had an impact beyond the music video norm. That’s why it at least belongs in the category of “Greatest Music Videos of All Time.” Remember when MTV used to air the “100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time?” For a long time it was always “Thriller” at numero uno. Then Gn’R’s “November Rain” took over the top spot. Which I still think was ridiculous. “November Rain” was an epic music video, but greatest ever? “Hurt” though belongs. The rest of Romanek’s work is great as well with a few snoozers sprinkled in. Included in the DVD is nice booklet that includes an interview by Spike Jonze. There's also a nice retrospective with the artists he's worked with. He like all these directors on these DVD’s takes the music video commercial and makes it art. So, I recommend at least Netflixing this DVD as well as the others.

Work of Mark Romanek:
Jay Z - 99 Problems (director's cut)
Linkin Park - Faint
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Can't Stop
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Audioslave - Cochise (director's cut)
No Doubt - Hella Good (director's cut)
Mick Jagger - God Gave Me Everything
Janet Jackson featuring Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip - Got Til It's Gone
Fiona Apple - Criminal
Nine Inch Nails - Perfect Drug
Beck - Devil's Haircut
Weezer - El Scorcho (director's cut)
Eels - Novocaine for the Soul
Sonic Youth - Little Trouble Girl
Michael & Janet Jackson - Scream (director's cut)
Madonna - Bedtime Story
R.E.M. - Strange Currencies
G. Love & Special Sauce - Cold Beverage
Nine Inch Nails - Closer (director's cut)
David Bowie - Jump, They Say
Madonna - Rain
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
Keith Richards - Wicked as it Seems (director's cut)
En Vogue - Free Your Mind
kd lang - Constant Craving


bobby said...

Sadly, I've only seen two of these: 99 Problems and Scream. And I've only *heard* about five of these songs. Should I throw away my Billy Joel tapes and turn on the radio?

Bradford said...

Actually, I was reading the interview in the booklet, and Romanek mentioned a Billy Joel music video to illustrate one of his points about lighting. Of course I can't remember which one, but I thought of Bobby.

bobby said...

The kid's drawing from the wrong well. I've seen every Billy Joel video and they all suck. In fact the video for She's Right On Time is the worst video ever made.