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The Visual World of Michel Gondry

By jrew in Culture
Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 12:26:36 AM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)
Movies

A month ago I was introduced to the works of Michel Gondry. In short, I was amazed and tantalized by his short films and music videos. Even if you haven't heard of him, you've probably seen his many works in Gap commercials, various music videos, and the recent movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Many of his works explode with visual elements that, when taken alone, are simple and mundane. However, under his masterful guidance, these elements come together to form a highly mesmerizing visual experience. He never ceases to push visual technologies and challenge our ideas about the visual medium.


Michel Gondry was born in Versailles, France. Growing up, he was immersed in pop music culture. He eventually ended up at a graphics art college in France, and formed a band with his friends called Oui Oui.

Even back then, he was already creating visionary videos, using his band's music as the backdrop. The turning point in his career came when Björk called on him to direct her first solo music video (Human Behavior). It was all history from then on. He subsequently directed many more of her and other emerging artists' videos. Awards came piling in to recognize his imaginative visual ideas.

You'll probably recognize some his videos from artists like Björk, Daft Punk, The White Stripes, Beck, and The Chemical Brothers. pause and antville.org have nice collections of his videos online. Some good introductions to his work are

  • "Around the World" by Daft Punk
  • "Let Forever Be" by The Chemical Brothers (My personal favorite. The transitions are jaw dropping.)
  • "Star Guitar" by The Chemical Brothers (Very smooth and relaxing to watch. Notice the visual representation of sound)
  • "Hardest Button to Button" by The White Stripes (The sheer vision and work required is amazing)
  • "Sugar Water" by Cibo Matto (You will find yourself watching this forwards, and backwards)
  • The Work of Director Michel Gondry
This is just a short list of his great body of work. His work deserves many viewings, and you'll enjoy picking out new elements each time you watch them. Director-file also has a great section devoted to vignettes of his work and thoughts.

Michel Gondry is a visual innovator. He was one of the first to employ several cameras at the same time, and later stitch these images together. He paved the way for many modern visual effects like the infamous bullet time in The Matrix. He also directed and created the masterful transitions in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you're even slightly interested in the moving visual medium, you should drink in some Michel Gondry.

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Related Links
o Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
o pause
o antville.o rg
o The Work of Director Michel Gondry
o vignettes of his work and thoughts
o Also by jrew


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The Visual World of Michel Gondry | 46 comments (37 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
army of me (none / 0) (#3)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Aug 07, 2004 at 04:38:40 PM EST

I never saw this video before. Holy cow!

Thanks WDK - WKiernan@ij.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

Re: Army of Me (none / 0) (#23)
by zerblat on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 03:12:07 PM EST

Yeah, that's a pretty awesome video. It's supposedly based on one of Björk's dreams (it must be interesting being Björk!).

What I like about Michel Gondry's music videos is that they're not just cool short films by themselves. They really accompany the songs very well and enhance the experience of listening to the song, instead of being distracting pictures that are needed for the song to be aired on MpTyV.

[ Parent ]

you forgot to mention (2.50 / 2) (#7)
by circletimessquare on Sun Aug 08, 2004 at 04:53:45 AM EST

he does all his effects without computers

when, for example, you see some letters fade on a piece of paper in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind to signify forgetting, you naturally would think "nice little computer fx trick"

except there isn't any anywhere in the entire movie

some of his film and camera and prop and lighting effects are really ingenious


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

You're wrong (none / 1) (#8)
by interjay on Sun Aug 08, 2004 at 01:35:58 PM EST

The Rolling Stones 'Like a Rolling Stone' video is entirely made from computerized morph effects. Also, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there's a scene in a train station where people disappear by shrinking down to nothing. It seems to me like that would be almost impossible to do without computers. It's true that Gondry uses brilliant camera and lighting techniques, but he's not afraid of using some CGI as well.

[ Parent ]
Shrinking (none / 0) (#10)
by Kasreyn on Sun Aug 08, 2004 at 07:55:50 PM EST

couldn't that just be achieved by filming the "shrinking" people on a green screen while pulling back rapidly (ie distance giving them an appearance of being smaller), then layer this onto the scene they're supposed to be in?

Some might call that a computer animation effect, but I think that's going too far.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Re: Shrinking (none / 0) (#38)
by bigpianist on Wed Aug 11, 2004 at 04:38:46 PM EST

couldn't that just be achieved by filming the "shrinking" people on a green screen while pulling back rapidly (ie distance giving them an appearance of being smaller), then layer this onto the scene they're supposed to be in?

No, it could not. At least not without computers.

Perhaps, as is all the rage these days, the shot would be previsualized to check composition and design. This requires computers.

Considering that motion control would be required for registration and synchronization of the many layers, computers would be involved.

No screen processes are photochemical anymore. All passes would need to be scanned and composited on a workstation or workstations, where compositing and rotoartists would integrate and color correct the layers. Again, more computers. In fact, many computers.

Then the images would be laser recorded to film... with... suprise! More computers.

Not acknowledging the ubiquiteness of computers and their effects on cinema -- even when the effect is invisible -- would be going to far. Simple shots often involve complex post-production processes to achieve. In fact, as a rule of thumb, the more subtle the effect, the more ingenious and difficult it is.

[ Parent ]
Not true. (none / 0) (#14)
by hbiki on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 01:22:25 AM EST

While Gondry did avoid the use of CG in Eternal Sunshine (see the AC article on the film), he doesn't avoid the use of computers at all. There were a few shots in Eternal Sunshine, IIRC, which were composited.


---
I take all knowledge to be my province.
- Francis Bacon
biki.net/blog/
[ Parent ]
I hereby proclaim this a coffee table article (none / 1) (#15)
by Enu the Subway Groper on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 01:45:07 AM EST

Everyone voted it up and nobody's commenting.

But what do I know? I just squeeze womens' asses on the morning train to Osaka.
I love the Google ads for this article. (none / 0) (#16)
by truth versus death on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 02:33:21 AM EST

And that I broke the camel's back.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
small correction (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by la hapalo on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 02:36:50 AM EST

Björk called on him to direct her first solo music video (Human Nature Behavior)

(Human Nature was his first feature film.)



The Science of Sleep (2.50 / 2) (#18)
by driph on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 02:56:47 AM EST

Gondry and Kaufman are two of my favorite figures in film these days. Thanks for the writeup.

Anyone have dirt on The Science of Sleep, Gondry's next film?

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave

Since it got posted (none / 3) (#19)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 07:58:36 AM EST

I posted an editorial comment about this, but: can some editor take the referral code out of the Amazon link?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
Why? <nt> (none / 0) (#24)
by wurp on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 05:55:00 PM EST


---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]
Reason (none / 0) (#26)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 10:30:26 PM EST

Because referral links in articles suck. They cast doubt on the editorial integrity of the author. Whoever's link that is (I don't think it's the author's) is making money off an article they have nothing to do with. j1mmy posted it, I don't know if it's his link (if so, shame on him) or if he googled for it or what.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#32)
by wurp on Tue Aug 10, 2004 at 09:31:29 AM EST

If the notion of the referral money influenced how the author wrote the article, I agree with you.  I don't really think it did in this case, and I sure don't have a problem with the author making a buck on his Amazon account if the article is good.

If the referral is from someone else, then I don't see a problem with it, other than it should be the author's... it can't have influenced the article author, and personally I'd rather some random guy got that money than Amazon keeping it.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

Re: Since it got posted (none / 0) (#27)
by FattMattP on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 10:34:26 PM EST

What purpose does removing it serve? It doesn't affect the content that's being linked to nor the story here on Kuro5hin. Can you give a reason other than "I don't like Amazon?"

[ Parent ]
I like Amazon (none / 0) (#28)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 10:46:59 PM EST

I don't like users who make money off referral links in articles hosted on websites they don't run. This one didn't seem malicious but in some cases referral links are one step away from spam.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Re: I like Amazon (none / 0) (#29)
by FattMattP on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 11:28:21 PM EST

I think you confused Amazon's session information for one of those Amazon associate tags. If you go to amazon.com, search for "gondry" and then click on the third link down (which at this moment is the link to the DVD linked in the article) then you'll get the nearly the same link that j1mmy submitted in editorial.

[ Parent ]
Did I? (none / 0) (#30)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 11:40:56 PM EST

I thought that /ref= indicates a referral link. Hm... well, sorry I made a stink about it. Still, long Amazon URLs suck.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
gondry (none / 0) (#20)
by victorxray on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 09:28:55 AM EST

thankyou for mentioning gondry; he is my favorite video clip director. i have had his dvd since earlier this year. his video clip expertise is astounding and eternal sunshine was an amazing movie. he eveidently understands the video clip form and its precedents (movie musicals) well. as well as the clips mentioned i also love 'star guitar' and even the video for kylies 'come into my world'.

I just watched all of them (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by Aka on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 09:43:50 AM EST

"Many of his works explode with visual elements that, when taken alone, are simple and mundane. However, under his masterful guidance, these elements come together to form a highly mesmerizing visual experience."

After watching through all of them available on that site I can understand what you mean by this. Some of the stuff at first glance is just "meh" but when you start to think "how did he do that" or "wait, that's not right" it becomes better and better.

I think I'll watch through them again later when I have time, or perhaps look for some higher quality versions of some. I'm disapointed Bjorks weren't available (or atleast didn't seem to work).


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds

nosub (none / 0) (#25)
by FattMattP on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 10:27:10 PM EST

but when you start to think "how did he do that"
Yeah, but did he do that or did he just hire a company to complete the task? It's one thing to have the idea, it's quite another to do the work yourself.

[ Parent ]
You have a point (none / 0) (#37)
by Aka on Wed Aug 11, 2004 at 04:32:13 PM EST

I guess you're right, I'm not sure if he developed the techniques himself or not, can someone explain?


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds
[ Parent ]
the dvd (none / 0) (#43)
by lennarth on Sat Aug 14, 2004 at 07:04:10 PM EST

according to the dvd, he pretty much figured those techniques out in an experimental (and playful) way himself. it is well worth it to sit through the two discs, and especially the documentary, I've been 12 forever, is an eye opener.

[ Parent ]
Where can I get them? (none / 0) (#44)
by Aka on Sun Aug 15, 2004 at 05:02:49 AM EST

I'm not sure where I can get the DVDs. Any ideas? I'm in Canada.


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds
[ Parent ]
Places to get the DVD (none / 0) (#45)
by nulleffect on Tue Aug 17, 2004 at 09:06:33 PM EST

I got mine at an HMV store. Not all HMV stores have it, but many do. I think I saw it at a Sunrise Records store too. If your local stores don't carry it, you can always order it from Amazon.ca.

[ Parent ]
Thank you (none / 0) (#46)
by Aka on Thu Aug 19, 2004 at 05:40:13 PM EST

Thank you. I will check them out. I'd rather stay away from Amazon though, duty fees and all.


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds
[ Parent ]
Bjork videos (none / 0) (#35)
by Frigorific on Tue Aug 10, 2004 at 11:39:40 PM EST

Some of them can be found on Bjork's web site, though the quality is pretty deplorable.



[ Parent ]
STAR GUITAR (1.62 / 8) (#22)
by CAPS LOCK on Mon Aug 09, 2004 at 11:15:03 AM EST

THAT IS A GREAT MUSIC VIDEO, PRETTY MUCH MY FAVOURITE EVER.

Well, now I have some movies to watch (none / 1) (#31)
by J T MacLeod on Tue Aug 10, 2004 at 09:15:20 AM EST

I never bought into the hype surrounding these films, but perhaps I should have.  I'll give them a watch.  

I will note, though, that I watched Sugar Water and wasn't impressed.  It was a clever idea, I think (though still not one that makes sense to me--was it supposed to?), but past that, I can't say much.  

Gap Whore (1.33 / 3) (#33)
by jaeson on Tue Aug 10, 2004 at 06:08:09 PM EST

I wonder how many little kids had to make clothes in the Gap's sweatshops in order to pay this guy?

"Clothing retailer Gap Inc. said yesterday that forced labor, child labor, paying below minimum wage,
physical punishment and coercion are some of the widespread workers' rights violations occurring at
many of its factories worldwide."
(http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4963367/)

RE: Gap whore (none / 0) (#39)
by Aka on Thu Aug 12, 2004 at 03:50:01 PM EST

I don't think that really has anything to do with this. Sure he made some commercials for them, but it's not like he went and said "Hire some child labor to pay me".


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds
[ Parent ]
Re-read my post (none / 0) (#40)
by jaeson on Thu Aug 12, 2004 at 06:52:41 PM EST

Please note that I never claimed he asked the Gap to "hire some child labor".

I do agree he probably was *not* aware that the Gap was exploiting child labor to make their products. Perhaps when someone drives a truckload of money up to your house you may not ask too many questions. However, by making commercials for the Gap he has surely generated more business for them, which in turn allows them to exploit even more offshore labor, including children (Boy that offshore labor is cheap! cheap! cheap!).

IMHO it tarnishes the artistic value of his work somewhat. Feel free to disagree.

[ Parent ]
I can agree... (none / 0) (#42)
by Aka on Sat Aug 14, 2004 at 06:38:33 PM EST

I can agree with you on the facts that he helped them generate more money with the commercials. And that they probably exploited more child labor thanks to his commercials. However I don't think it tarnishes the artistic value of his work. Nor do I think the two thoughts should be combined. He did his job, and they failed to do theirs. Or more correctly, they were greedy and needed to meet profit margins. The Gap is the evil here, not him. And if someone dumped a truck load of money at my house, I WOULD ask where it came from and why I got it. Perhaps those aren't the questions I should ask?


-And that's my 2 Lebanese Pounds
[ Parent ]
Star Guitar (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by the77x42 on Tue Aug 10, 2004 at 07:27:55 PM EST

I have a feeling watching this online isn't doing it justice as the music beatmatching seems to be a bit off on some of the elements. I think a smoother video can be found here.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Horrible soda ads (none / 1) (#36)
by xir on Wed Aug 11, 2004 at 12:57:26 PM EST

Those recent diet something ads featuring people openning cans of soda (or 'pop') and people dancing around with the bad CG bubbles that come out, were directed by mister genius. I like the color, but the whole piece, the brand and the content, screams subpar crap to me. On the other hand, his video for Michael Andrews' and Gary Jules' Mad World (a Tears for Fears song, first seen in Donnie Darko) is quite good, with a rooftop vantage point showing people on the street making simple shapes and 'animating' them. It's only when the camera pans up to eye level and to the right to see someone, who we can assume is Mike or Gary, singing the lyrics and looking distraught. But the meat of the piece does show Gondry's use of simplicity as beauty. even his kylie minogue vid is great and simple, using motion tracking and lighting in its simplist sense. I see his works almost as etudes. Still waiting for his second Wrenz video.

Don't mistake autism for wit.
Thanks! (none / 0) (#41)
by andr0meda on Fri Aug 13, 2004 at 04:49:22 AM EST


I had seen Star guitar video and the Knives Out, and of course Daft Punk's Around The World and some of Bjorkses, but didn't know who was behind it, much less that it was the same person!

It's very nice to learn about him!  I love hiw work!

Do not be afraid of the void my friend, is it not merely the logical next step?

The Visual World of Michel Gondry | 46 comments (37 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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