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Mute presents
The Residents Commercial DVD (2004)

"No one knows exactly who she was or how she died, but when they opened up her purse, they found a snail inside."
- From Moisture

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: December 01, 2004

Stars: The Residents
Other Stars: Snakefinger
Director: The Residents, Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 00h:57m:49s
Release Date: November 02, 2004
UPC: 724596927595
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-A- D-

DVD Review

The Bay Area band of eyeball heads is at it again, revisiting some of their earlier works. Following up their avant-garde antics of Eskimo, in 1980 the mysterious foursome (or thereabouts) released what is probably their most accessible work to date: The Commercial Album. That would be "commercial" through the filter of the Residents, of course, as exemplified by the shanghaied and distorted cover image of Barbra Streisand and John Travolta. It was not only commercial in the sense of being an aggregation of catchy tunes and jingles, but that each was in bite-size commercial lengths of 60 seconds. Given how difficult it can be to come up with a single song, the 40 songs that make up The Commercial Album were a monument to the endless creativity of this group.

That same frenzy of creativity led to the One Minute Movies that set four of the Commercial Album tracks to film (or more precisely, video), with cryptic and often highly disturbing visions to go with the pop-tinged music. Now those four pivotal visions, which helped shape the music video in those pre-MTV days, have been supplemented by the Residents and over 20 other artists, filmmakers and animators for this Commercial DVD. In the tradition of the originals, there is a good deal of imagery of death and the morbid (though little comes close to the ghastly Lord of the Flies tableau set forth in the original The Simple Song), married to kitsch and yes, commerciality.

Secrets, by The Penguin Brothers, tells a cryptic story of obsession in miniature, while three films by John Sanborn examine aspects of fatherhood and his own life. Niffer Desmond's take on Margaret Freeman is a particularly ghastly piece of stop-motion animation not for the squeamish. Picnic Boy is examined by several artists, with hugely varied interpretations; one involves talking skulls and the other a lounge motif with candy coloring (but nonetheless also ending with a skull). The grim End of Home is similarly subjected to various treatments, all of them interesting. Shut Up, Shut Up features a cadre of cheerleader Barbies being abused by some kind of alien creature, while Birds in the Trees displays a dark humor behind its childlike graphics. Nameless Souls uses marionettes to enact a disturbing look at human relationships. Perhaps the most impressive of the new films is the gorgeous CGI interpretation of Red Rider as a paean to the urge to flight.

The word "disturbing" unavoidably comes up over and over when discussing these works and the Residents' music, and ten new films by the Residents show that they haven't lost any of that queasy edge over the intervening decades. For instance, Suburban Bathers features an uneasy marriage between frank nudity and a figure clad entirely in black rubber, with a gas mask, evincing a paranoia about exposure and uneasiness with the body. The music is memorable and oddball, and the graphics supplied here, while not always obvious, make an always interesting and frequently striking counterpoint to the tunes. The extremely short form almost requires the films to pass by before they've really registered in the tidal wave of visuals, making the disc a good one for replay. But there are no guarantees as to being able to make more sense out of the second viewing any more than the first. Highly recommended for Residents fans and those interested in the Lynchian unusual.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The films are presented in the original full frame (a few are in nonanamorphic widescreen in varying ratios). Color and detail are excellent, though the original One Minute Movies betray their video source through the expected softness and minor artifacting. Everything else looks quite nice, with some modest aliasing the only flaw.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The songs are remastered in discrete 4.0 (mains plus left surround and right surround, with no center channel). The audio is quite clean, which is not surprising considering the Residents have been assiduous about keeping their back catalog sounding fresh. Depth and range are excellent, with the surround being enveloping but not feeling forced.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 51 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 51 cues and remote access
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no significant extras on the disc, though there are several categorizations (weird, comic, depressing, etc.) of the films that can be selected, in addition to picking out those films by the Residents themselves. There's also a Play All button for being overwhelmed by the entire experience at once. An "Interactive Maze" just gives a confusing interface for selecting particular films.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Either you get the Residents or you don't. The visuals here will probably just alienate those who don't, but those who like the group will find this very intriguing. Just don't expect anything for extras.


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