Tonight Michel Gondry's coming to Family Books on Fairfax to sign copies of his new book/DVD My New New York Diary, a collaborative project with cartoonist Julie Doucet that merges autobiographical illustrations and cinematic storytelling. My New New York Diary is a hardcover volume from PictureBox that includes a DVD of the film itself, and all of Doucet's drawings for the film. In anticipation of Gondry's new release, here are ten music videos showcasing his fantastic imagination and technical genius.
Björk “Army of Me”
Björk discovered Gondry and asked him to direct a video for her song “Human Behaviour,” which ended up sparking a long-term collaboration between the two. Of the seven videos he's directed for her, “Army of Me” is probably the creepiest: a cyberpunk nightmare in which Björk drives a massive tanker truck with teeth for an engine. Gondry even sends Björk to a gorilla dentist who pulls a diamond out of her mouth. Terrifying!
Oui Oui “Les Callioux”
This animation is obscenely cute and this song is ridiculously catchy. Gondry used to be the drummer for this French rock band, and it was the videos he made for them that got him noticed by Bjork. Four adorable but expressionless friends head out on an adventure together in which they're chased down a hill by a giant boulder, skip rocks into the ocean and watch them magically transform into sailboats, and then throw rocks into a building that shrinks into the ground.
The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl”
The video for “Fell in Love with a Girl” is a psychedelic masterpiece made completely of LEGOs. I have no idea how Gondry had the patience to construct and animate each and every frame of this video, but his genius is his creative and meticulous use of unusual materials.
Daft Punk “Around the World”
“Around the World” is a surreal and tightly choreographed dance of skeletons, robots, athletes, synchronized swimmers, and mummies–all around a giant record. Daft Punk's thumping beats, the freaky costumes, and Gondry's constantly-evolving lightshow make this video feel like a four-minute-long acid trip.
Radiohead “Knives Out”
Gondry has called this video for “Knives Out” autobiographical–a reconstruction of his memories of his ex-girlfriend. This is the height of Gondry's surrealism: a woman is encased in her hospital bed in an operating room as a crowd of doctors tower over her and pick out her organs like in the game Operation, ending with Thom Yorke turning into a skeleton with a giant heart for a head.
Cibo Matto “Sugar Water”
The video for “Sugar Water” is a visual palindrome, with images of two girls split into two panels, each moving in the opposite direction before converging mid-song into a single cryptic message: “YOU KILLED ME.” This video is a dreamy puzzle that gets really weird really fast.
Gondry throws Beck into opposite-land, where he pushes paper while wearing a suit on the beach and sunbathes in his office. His bedroom walls are blown-up family photos, and his picture frames are filled with wallpaper. It's silly and simple but extremely clever.
Chemical Brothers “Star Guitar”
I love Gondry's highly stylized work, but this video is amazing because of its subtlety. At first glance it seems to simply be footage shot from the inside of a speeding train, but upon closer inspection it's perfect audio-visual synchronization–a seamless journey where buildings, trees and even pedestrians seem to dance along to the beat of the music.
Kylie Minogue “Come Into My World”
“Come Into My World” starts with a walk around the neighborhood with one Kylie Minogue and ends in four Kylies strolling down the streets in a single take. A world of endless Kylie Minogues is kind of unsettling, but I could watch this mind-bender over and over again.
Mia Doi Todd “Open Your Heart”
Gondry's latest is another fantastically choreographed, visually playful video in which Mia Doi Todd is followed around town by a crowd of people (including many L.A. locals!) in a rainbow of clothing. The image of 100 people arranged by color marching up a giant circular staircase on a freeway interchange is stunning and almost magical. No real plot, but it's a beautiful visual experiment.
Michel Gondry's book/DVD signing on Thursday, Nov. 11, at Family, 436 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. 7 PM. Free. All ages. familylosangeles.com.