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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005
    Corbijn on Directors Label
    First DVD to feature on my sidebar is the one I'm currently discovering, my new Mute signed limited edition of The work of director Anton Corbijn.

    Corbijn says that really he's just a photographer: and his NME pictures and those of Pennie Smith covered my bedroom walls for many years. Moody, atmospheric, those sorts of words applied to his monochrome creations. The videos are the same. But it's clear from these pieces - for Depeche Mode, the Bunnymen, U2, Mercury Rev and Travis among others - that the moods and the atmospheres are created through textures of symbolism which fill his frames.

    This is a great collection because it also features many artists, his collaborators, talking intelligibly about these films. Bono, doing what he does best, is very insightful about the nature of, and reason for, the signs and symbols Corbijn uses in his work. They're the work of the son of a Dutch Reformed minister with a religious sensibility which also embraces ancient myth and legend, and which force him to have to tell a story, make a journey, create some sort of resolution, through each film he makes.

    He's helped by some excellent acting from the musicians involved. Wonderful to see the previously puffed-up and pompous Bunnymen permitting themselves to camp it up wonderfully on Seven Seas (McCulloch as lascivious streetgirl, Will Sergeant as a fish). Awesome being pinned to the chair whilst a schizoid Henry Rollins roars out Liar. Disturbing to watch a dream-sequence featuring oddly-grinning Kurt Cobain in a poppy field dancing with strange and surreal figures to Heart Shaped Box, with a crucifixion at its centre ("That video has come closer to what I have seen in my mind than any other video" - Cobain). A delight to watch the performances of Larry Mullen Jr and actress Samantha Morton in Electrical Storm, a truly sensual portrayal of unrequited love featuring a mermaid, a tin bath, a reindeer and the sea. And just great to see how well Depeche Mode do in all sorts of situations: I don't really get their music but watching these gems I really appreciate their engagement with their art.

    Not bad for someone who's meant to be 'just a photographer'. And with mountains of material to get through, this DVD is a very generous package. Makes me consider looking at some of the other titles in the Directors Label series.