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Category:    Home > Reviews > Music Videos > Hype Williams - The Videos V.1

Hype Williams – The Videos: Volume One (DVD)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Videos: B

 

 

When New Waves happen in filmmaking, there is usually a group of exceptional artists who arise out of it, then the cycle ends and those creative forces continue.  Hype Williams benefited from the Black New Wave in a big way, but unlike those who came and went (Matty Rich), started serious and went commercial in a big way (John Singleton), stayed serious throughout (Spike Lee, who launched it to begin with), found commercial success while staying serious (Antoine Fuqua), or those actors who crossed back and forth behind and in front of the camera (Kasi Lemmons, Forrest Whittaker), Williams became one of the great artist forces in the commercial world of Music Videos.

 

Hype Williams – The Videos, Volume One collects ten of his favorite clips and offers an interesting variety of extras.  Of course, this DVD could have fit more material, even if we limit the videos due to the cost of royalties, but it is not bad as it stands.  The videos are:

 

1)     Wu-Tang Clan – Can It Be All So Simple

2)     Craig Mack – Flava In Ya Ear (Remix)

3)     L.L. Cool J – Doin’ It

4)     Nas – Street Dreams

5)     Mase – Feel So Good

6)     Busta Rhymes – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See

7)     R. Kelly – Half On A Baby

8)     Jay-Z – Big Pimpin’

9)     TLC – No Scrubs

10)   Ja Rule - Holla Holla

 

 

Since Williams pick them, it is interesting to see him reflect on how he thinks he has progressed as a filmmaker and there is no doubt he is at least one of the most significant Music Video directors of the last 15 years.  He also can be added to a list that includes and goes back to Russell Mulcahy for trying to bring a more cinematic sensibility to the Music Video.  If Mulcahy brought letterboxing and an abstract style to Videos (Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”, Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”) and Mark Romanek (of the remarkable feature film One Hour Photo) outright Stanley Kubrick-influenced Videos (Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” (with a touch of still photographer Joel-Peter Witkin), Madonna’s “Bedtime Stories”, The Eels’ “Novocaine For The Soul”), then Williams gets more explicit in his melding of Martin Scorsese and Kubrick.

 

That melding, especially where Scorsese’s vision of Las Vegas from his grossly underrated epic Casino (1995), becomes a vital touchstone for Williams idea of a money-rich paradise despite the fall of the classical Vegas that film tells us the story of.  Of the many Kubrickian motifs, nobody has seized upon the fish-eye lens more that Williams.  Even above cinematographer-turned-director Barry Sonnenfeld’s take on the glasswork as counter to Kubrick, Williams made it a visual hallmark of post- Gangsta cycle Hip Hop.  The South Park camp even went as far as to spoof it in a hilarious sequence when Terrence and Phillip, in one of their many unlikely twists of fame fate, become Rap stars!  You can imagine how hard that is to duplicate in the world of animation.

 

Nas’ “Street Dreams” is a remarkable recreation of the look and feel of Scorsese’s Casino explicitly, while Mase’s “Feel So Good” is drenched in the city’s insane number of artificial lights.  The Nas Video even has cinematographer Malick Sayeed, who has been director of photography on several Spike Lee films.  Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” is one of the many brilliant, visually dense Videos that has made Busta the King of Video in Hip Hop, with cleverness, energy, colorfulness (literally in the clothes, sets, make-up, et al) that have yet to be appreciated.  Williams notes that there should be a Busta DVD and he is right.

 

Despite his recent scandals, R Kelly is boldly represented here with “Half on a Baby”, which wants to emulate Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941).  That is something no Video can hope to do without be laughed at, but it is even more ironic now with his recent troubles.  It does not succeed as much as Madonna’s Kane-influenced David Fincher-directed Video for “Oh Father”, but it is ambitious as anything and deserves major points for not being/going digital.

 

The last of the poignant video moments is with TLC’s “No Scrubs”, one of the groups last Videos before the terrible loss of “Left Eye” Lopez.  The Video is space-aged looking, with its metallic backgrounds, a few visual references to Mark Romanek’s “Scream” Video for Michael and Janet Jackson, and some new twists in its harder edge, wild clothing and make-up choices, and Williams twist on Romanek’s work.  This has aged incredibly well and remains one of William’s most accomplished works.  It also reminds us of the amazing chemistry these women had together,

 

The videos have various aspect ratios and they all look good.  The DVD claims they were from Williams’ master tapes.  Throw in that they were transferred right and you can imagine the quality for non-anamorphic, non High Definition is impressive.  The three soundtracks offered are 5.1 Dolby Digital AC-3, PCM CD Stereo and Williams’ commentary on every Video in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.  The Dolby is not bad, but is missing the fullness of the PCM CD tracks.  With the room left on the DVD, it is too bad these are not available in DTS, ESPECIALLY since these are Hip Hop genre recordings.  However, these will do just fine for now.

 

William’s commentary is among the best extras.  His isolated interview clips are not bad, but not as informative.  His biography is short and builds him up far too much and way too unnecessarily.  The Videos and his commentary more than make the argument for how good and relevant he is, so this part is almost embarrassing, undercutting his artistic merit.  There is also a listing of videos and TV ads he directed up to the release of this DVD, as well as other info about these videos.  Trailers for other music DVDs from Palm Pictures are also included.

 

There is a foldout with some pictures and writer/copywriter info on the songs and this all comes in a full DVD-sized Super Jewel Box.  In 99% of the cases, titles issued in these cases that are DVD-Videos in the U.S. are low-budget junk, but this is a rare exception.  The CD-sized version of this case-types is for Super Audio CDs, while the middle-sized version is the packaging designated for the DVD-Audio format.  Therefore, if you are looking for this disc, don’t be put off by the packaging.

 

Finally, I was surprised his feature-film debut Belly (1998) or thoughts on Videos were not included, but maybe well see that in a Volume Two whenever it materializes.  This is a key Music Video set to have and see, forerunning Palm’s Director’s Label DVD series.  All these artists can finally get their due.

 

For more on Belly, try this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/7340/Belly+(1998/Lionsgate+Blu-ray)

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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