There is little room to deny that Michel Gondry was one of the last great music video directors. Building en empire of visual oddity during a flourishing musical renaissance where big budgets matched the big artistic personalities, Gondry was a reliable architect of the bizarre and endearing, the humorous and enchanting.
He’s made his way into Hollywood, floundering a bit before striking gold with the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – but his true legend mark is in the DIY aesthetic of his music video work. A complex mind with wild bursts of color and abstract fantasy, his creations took on lives of their own – and helped define the freedom of an era. Gondry has directed more than 50 videos in his time – what follows is a small selection of some of his best, most fascinating music videos.
Cibo Matto – “Sugar Water”
For this fantastic visual wonder from 1986, it’s best to divide the screen in two, while you can play forwards on one side and backward on the other, and then switch them over halfway through the video. It’s visually complex, but one wonders how long it’ll take before we start hearing back from disgruntled simplicity-seeker.
Radiohead – “Knives Out”
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is having a fever dream in this single-take video that leaps between symbols and atmospheres like an existential carousel. A real-life game of Operation? Let’s have it. Yorke braining a female train passenger with a hammer in self defense? Well…
Björk – “Human Behavior”
A child’s dream gone terribly wrong, and at the end of our forested tale a giant teddy bear beats a hunter to death. What would you do if you stumbled on Bjork in the woods?
The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl”
The song that put The White Stripes on the map was also a defining moment for Gondry, who is still referred to as the “Lego video guy”.
Bjork – Army of Me
Bjork drives through the city in a massive tanker truck with giant teeth, and that’s just the beginning of this nightmare oddity that sees us visiting a gorilla dentist (to pull a diamond out of Bjork’s mouth, of course), and a mission to blow up a museum to save the life of the man she loves. Romance!