Judge Victor Valdivia lives in a nightmarish world of biomechanical landscapes. It's called "Earth."
The H.R. Giger DVD.
Swiss surrealist artist Hans Rudi Giger has been painting, sculpting, drawing, and designing professionally since 1966 but has never become a household name. His vision is considered much too dark, too gruesome, too sexual, and too violent to ever reach a mass audience. Giger fans, of course, wouldn't have it any other way. He commands a loyal and devoted following, one that grows every year, of fans who build motorcycles, tattoo themselves, and sometimes become world-famous rock stars, screenwriters, and filmmakers. Giger's art is definitely not for the squeamish or easily offended, but for those on his wavelength, there's nothing else like it. Revealed is proclaimed to be the official Giger DVD for fans, but unfortunately it's nowhere near a definitive as it could have been.
There's no question that Giger deserves a DVD devoted to his work. He began his career as an artist in the late 1960s, quickly making a name for himself in European art circles because of his frequently disturbing works that mixed fearsome mechanical implements with unabashed sexual and gothic imagery. Giger first entered mainstream pop culture when British prog-rock titans Emerson, Lake, & Palmer commissioned him to paint the cover of their 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery. The success of the album led to the publication of several Giger works in the United States, where screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and director Ridley Scott instantly knew that Giger would be ideal to design the visual effects for Alien (1979). Giger's work for that film, where he designed the titular creature and the spaceship where the astronauts first discover it, earned him an Academy Award and launched him into prominence. Giger has since designed covers for such artists as Blondie's Debbie Harry, Danzig, and Billy Idol's guitarist Steve Stevens, has been engulfed in a free-speech controversy over a poster he painted for the Dead Kennedys (which landed Kennedys singer Jello Biafra in prison), designed the creatures in the film Species, and sculpted an intricate customized microphone stand for Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, amongst many other achievements. Even at seventy-one years old, Giger's ability to tap into the darkest and most rebellious impulses of his fans remains undiminished.
Giger fans, then, are eagerly awaiting a DVD. The bad news is that this is not exactly the DVD they're waiting for. On the official DVD website, the DVD's director, David Jahn, asserts that "the main purpose was not to create the artist's biography." Why, exactly, was that not the main purpose? What is so wrong with a simple straight-ahead biography? Maybe that might have been a bit dull and conventional but it certainly would be more satisfying than what this actually is. Giger himself appears to demonstrate his airbrushing technique and to discuss his early drawings and some of his childhood. These are the best segments but they barely last 10 minutes. The rest of the documentary consists of interviews with art critics, gallery owners, agents, and obscure musicians and tattoo artists who discuss Giger's influence. This is hardly anywhere near as interesting, since most of these people have little to say that hasn't already been said about Giger's work before. The interview with Ridley Scott is recycled from the Alien DVD and the interview with Debbie Harry is too short to add anything. Essentially, apart from the brief glimpses of Giger himself, you won't learn much that you don't already know if you're any kind of fan. If you have the misfortune of watching this without knowing anything at all about Giger, you'll find it pretentious and incomprehensible.
The remaining features don't add much to the DVD. "Art in Motion" (33:13) uses CG to render three-dimensional images of some of Giger's paintings, all set to spacey ambient music. It's not an embarrassment but the new graphics don't really add anything to the original paintings. You might watch this once or twice but it's unlikely you'll go back to it more than that. The featurette "Home Made" (15:22) is actually worth seeing. It has footage of Giger at home with his wife preparing for a American exhibit and designing some jewelry. It's the best behind-the-scenes footage on the DVD and the main documentary feature should have had more of this footage. The rest of the disc is rounded out by three short films shot over the years featuring Giger artwork dating from 1967 to 1992, as well as footage from one of Giger's exhibitions in Paris in 2004, a brief featurette on Giger from 2000, two trailers for the DVD and an extended interview with psychologist Stanislav Grof, a fan of Giger's. None of these are really all that illuminating and few are worth repeated viewings.
Ultimately, H.R. Giger Revealed is a disappointment. What fuels Giger's art? How does he view his place in the art world? How have the personal tragedies in his life (such as his first wife's suicide) affected his art? Does he feel his art has changed as he's aged? These are some fundamental questions that every Giger fan wants to know the answers to and since Giger himself rarely gives interviews, this DVD would have been the perfect opportunity to answer them. Instead, only the most devout Giger fans will get anything out of this DVD, and even then they will consider a hugely wasted opportunity. Giger's website (see Accomplices section) remains the authoritative repository for his life and work that both fans and newcomers should see. An artist of Giger's stature and influence deserves better than this DVD.
Technical specs are solid, if a bit overdone. The anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is reasonably sharp, although it does look a bit hazy in spots. The disc comes with stereo and surround mixes for both Dolby and DTS, although the surrounds aren't used except for certain segments of music.
Guilty of not having enough worthwhile content.
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