In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the music video was being redefined. A series of visionary directors were beginning to imagine the music video as more that just a means of promotion, but as an opportunity for artistic expression in itself. Last week, the Tribune took a look at some of Spike Jonze’s best work. This week, French Director Michel Gondry is under the spotlight.
“Everlong” – Foo Fighters 1997)
Equal parts Evil Dead (2013) parody and surrealist dreamscape, “Everlong” is an introduction to the snappy editing and camera tricks that Gondry would later perfect in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A suburban bedroom, a cabin in the woods, and a crowded party scene are blurred together as Dave Grohl and the gang seamlessly shift through space and time. It’s a little bit like an alternative rock Alice in Wonderland—and don’t even try to deny that Taylor Hawkins looks good in pigtails.
”Let Forever Be” – The Chemical Brothers (1999)
If you think “Everlong” is trippy, “Let Forever Be” is positively kaleidoscopic. The video follows the dreams, nightmares, and everyday experiences of a young woman in possibly the least ‘everyday’ way possible. Simple, mundane scenes seem to explode in every direction. A simple visit to the drug store becomes a dizzyingly choreographed dance routine. A street drummer seen outside the protagonist’s window suddenly appears in her bedroom. Technically cutting-edge and visually captivating, “Let Forever Be” is arguably Gondry’s most ambitious video.
”Fell in Love With A Girl” – The White Stripes(2001)
How much time must this have taken? In “Fell in Love With a Girl,” Gondry animates an entire world out of LEGO bricks, frame by frame. Despite its status as the definitive White Stripes music video—“The Hardest Button to Button”, also directed by Gondry, is a close second—“Fell in Love With A Girl” almost never happened at all. According to Jack White, Gondry was actually hired by accident after the record label mistook him for Mark Romanek. White, who was a fan of Gondry’s work anyway, decided to go ahead with the video. The rest is history.
“Around the World” – Daft Punk (1997)
Like Daft Punk’s best music, the video for “Around the World” is a simple idea, done really, really well. A departure from Gondry’s typical camera trickery, “Around the World” instead features a continuous shot of five sets of dancers, each representing a different element of the song. For example, men with tiny prosthetic heads boogie to the pulsing bass while the task of interpreting a bouncy synth line is given to group of women in synchronized swimming outfits. The choreography, initially devised by Gondry and amended by Spanish choreographer Blanca Li, is as impressive as it is weird.
“Bachelorette” – Bjork (1997)
“One day I found a big book buried deep in the ground,” said Bjork at the beginning of the video for “Bachelorette.” To Bjork’s surprise, the book begins to write itself, setting off a chain of events that chart the course for this mind-bending Matryoshka doll of a music video. While “Bachelorette” lacks the dazzling visuals of “Everlong” or “Let Forever Be,” it more than makes up for its shortcomings with a stronger narrative than some of Gondry’s feature films (looking at you, Green Hornet). Watch and be amazed.