Saturday, March 20, 2010

Whatever happened to Chris Cunningham?

For his model work on the film Judge Dredd, he caught the eye of Kubrick, who then died, but Spielberg hired him for special effects and models for his (dreadful) version of A.I. After that he became a film-maker.

For a while in the 90s, Chris Cunningham was making the best, most original and disturbing music videos in the world. I remember wanting to be him. His videos for Aphex Twin, Bjork and Portishead seemed like mini-feature films and I felt like he was too good for mere pop promos. He made cool ads too – remember that PlayStation one with the girl with the big head?

The next logical step for him was to direct features. I wondered if he was going to expand on his videos and make an urban horror (Aphex Twin's Windowlicker) or sci-fi porn (Bjork's All is Full of Love). Apparently he had plans to make a film of William Gibson's Neuromancer (the book that gave us the term 'cyberspace') which ended up amounting to nothing. Richard Linklater then beat him to adapting Philip K Dick's A Scanner Darkly.

In the early 00s he did some video installations. Then in 2005 came Rubber Johnny, a very disturbing (even by his standards) short film put out on the Warp label. This was his personal home movie (perhaps too personal), over three years in the making, and shot largely at weekends using the night-vision option on a DV camcorder, and demonstrates what happens when film-makers aren't given the constraints of time and budget. I saw it once when it came out and it's pretty gross. And pretty embarrassing as a home movie.

I revisited Cunningham's earlier work by watching his DVD put out on the Director's Label in 2004. Other film-makers on the label had gone on the great things – most notably Michel Gondry and Spike Jones, but Cunningham seemed stuck in the past. Some of his videos and a few of the ads still hold up well but there hasn't been anything by him like it since.

More recently he took some typically disturbing pictures of Grace Jones for Dazed & Confused magazine and produced a few songs on The Horrors fine album, Primary Colours (2009). He also directed a video for them. He's been talking about doing his own music for years. You might be able to hear some next month at London's South Bank Centre's 'hugely anticipated multimedia experience' combining new video work and his own music, as part of their Ether festival. Check it out here. I'm sure it will be great.


Anonymous said...

Barnaby said...

Thanks for that, saw it a little while ago. Was very underwhelmed to the point of boredom. Love the song though.