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The Director's Label - Chris Cunningham

Chris Cunningham
The Director's Label
(Palm Pictures)

Like the Spike Jonze release by the same name, this newest DVD is a collection of work by an artist who has left a definite mark on the genre that they started out in (aka the music video). Like Jonze, Cunningham burst onto the scene with wholly original imagery and proceeded to put out some of the best videos that have ever been made (even though most of them never saw any mainstream airtime). Even the video that he considers one of his least-favorite (for Autechre's "Second Bad Vibel") was one that I could remember images from years after seeing it for the first time.

It was said video that was my introduction to Chris Cunningham, and I tried to pay attention to what he was working on following that, even though it was sometimes difficult. The fact that most of his videos (save one) didn't play on mainstream MTV coupled with the fact that I've never had cable made my viewing chances few and far between, but I still managed to scour the internet and download them as I found them. Each time, I was surprised and thrilled (well, with one exception, but I'll get to that below).

Instead of delaying things, I'll go ahead and say that this DVD release is disappointing in several ways to me. The main reason is that it just feels a bit skimpy. Whereas the Jonze DVD had something like 30 videos, documentaries, shorts, and tons of other stuff (basically packing 2 sides of a DVD), the Cunningham release features only 8 videos, one short making-of video, a couple super-short commercials, and an excerpt of a larger piece. It was cool to see "Monkey Drummer," his amazingly bizarre installation video with music by Aphex Twin, but after hearing so much about his piece entitled Flex, it was a letdown to only be able to see 4 minutes of the almost 15 minute piece.

Of the 'bonus' features, the only thing of any real substance is the making-of on the 'holy-shit this is unbelievably cool' "All Is Full Of Love" video with Bjork, and while it's interesting, it still left me wanting more juicy information on the amazing imagery. The videos themselves are nearly all gems, though. Included is the aforementioned video for Autechre, two Aphex Twin videos that have basically become classics ("Come To Daddy" and "Windowlicker"), "Come On My Selector" by Squarepusher, the aforementioned "All Is Full Of Love" by Bjork, "Afrika Shox" by Leftfield and "Frozen" by Madonna. Other than the Madonna video (which is basically her doing her typical camera mugging with some cool effects), all of the videos are stunning, including the absolutely haunting "Only You" by Portishead.

The interesting thing is how many videos are missing, though. Videos mentioned in the included book (but not included) total at least 7, and I know that he's done others that aren't even listed (including one for Jesus Jones). Granted, some of the videos were possibly cut because he was less-than-thrilled with them, but his work for The Auteurs (including "Back With The Killer" and "Light Aircraft On Fire") is amazing and it would have been nice to see the videos again, along with the other work to see his progression in style. Whereas the Jonze video was something that you could sit down with and spend at least 2 evenings with just to get through everything, there's just about an hours worth of material on this one by Cunningham (as well as a nice book of disturbing sketches, interview material and video stills). Fortunately, most of it is stunning, and if any of the rumormills are true (that he's currently working on an adaptation of William Gibsons Neuromancer for the big screen), we'll hopefully get to see even more of his talents in the near future.

Rating: 7.25