There’s a reason why Ninian Doff gets the best directorial commissions, and that’s his unparalleled sense of fun. The talented director made his name with a cool little music video about no-handed bike moves and has since made films for the likes of Graham Coxon, Darwin Deez and JJ Doom. He’s picked a Gondry, and he’s apologised for that, but we let him have it as you just don’t get many write-ups as passionate and technical as this. Take it away, Ninian.
Ninian Doff: The White Stripes – The Denial Twist
Choosing a Gondry video here feels very obvious and a bit uninspired, a bit like choosing The Beatles when asked for a favourite band, but it’d be impossible for me to choose anyone else. Like many people my life was changed forever when the original Gondry, Jonze and Cunningham Director’s Label DVDs came out. I watched those DVDs every day, multiple times, and learnt them off by heart like a favourite album. This is why I was delighted and surprised when years later I found this video on YouTube. It was made a few years after that DVD collection came out yet it’s an integral part of that incredible period in Gondry’s career, especially as it’s a White Stripes video. It’s just possible that it has slipped under some people’s radars and they can enjoy it now for the first time.
I think Star Guitar is Gondry’s most perfect music video, and therefore arguably one of the most perfect music videos ever made, but I love The Denial Twist more as it’s full of the mess and imperfections which Gondry does so well. The only criticism I’d give it is that to truly appreciate the video you do need it explained first! Fortunately there’s a great making of over here.
As anyone with a dodgy TV will know, television ratios often display wrong, so a 16:9 image (wide) sometimes appears on your TV as 4:3 (square) – this means all the people looked stretched and tall in your image. Likewise sometimes 4:3 gets displayed as 16:9 causing everyone to looked squashed. Gondry’s genius here is to physically create those distortions in camera and then correct them in post so they look normal, meaning that only the White Stripes get affected by the ratio mistake. So not only is the set squashed but he also uses little people wearing masks of squashed faces in the shot – so that when the image is stretched in post all the the proportions return to normal, except the White Stripes who now get distorted.
Likewise he then shoots other scenes using seven-foot-tall cast members wearing stretched masks in elongated sets so he can squash this image in post the other direction to create the regular image. Often he combines these two tricks into one set so the band can walk in real time from one distortion into another.
Like all great Gondry videos it’s both incredibly simple and mind-bogglingly complex. The fact that he then also pushed it to be a one-take video is just plain cocky.