Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Madonna: What It Feels Like For a Girl - DVD Single (2001)
Studio Line: Warner Bros.

Just about the only place you can see Madonna's controversial video is on this special DVD Single. Directed by acclaimed film director Guy Ritchie (also, perhaps you've heard, Madonna's husband), the video was cut to the song's "Above and Beyond" mix, available only on this DVD Single.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Madonna
DVD: Wide 1.66:1; audio English PCM Stereo; subtitles none; single sided - single layered; rated R; 5 min.; $9.95; street date 4/24/01.
Supplements: None.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B+/F

No stranger to controversy, Madonna stirred up another mess with her most recent video. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” comes from 2000’s Music album and was the first element of that platter to create any form of furor. The video for “Music” itself was a pretty genial good-time affair. It might have offended a few folks due to its strip-club segment, but it didn’t do anything terribly provocative.

That wasn’t the case for “Girl”, which is a much more edgy piece. It offers a story, though I wasn’t able to make much sense of it. Madonna plays some sort of outlaw babe who gathers up an elderly woman - her mother? her aunt? some nobody? - from the “Ol Kuntz Guest Home” and takes her for a literally wild ride. Madonna and Old Lady break many laws in a hot rod as Maddy a) rams a car full of dudes; b) stun-guns a guy at an ATM and takes his money; c) shoots two cops with a water pistol, scrapes the side of their cruiser with her car, and rams into them in reverse; d) steals another muscle car and blows up a gas station; e) crashes the second vehicle into a pole.

Whew! That’s a busy night! As for the meaning of the piece, that’s anybody’s guess. On one hand, it seems like an anti-male screed; the song’s point of view appears to feel that men find the idea of being a female degrading, so Maddy may have some axes to grind. That would explain her character’s nastiness, all of which is aimed at guys.

However, none of the men in question displays any reason to deserve such negativity. The dudes in the first car smile at Maddy; if that action merits this kind of behavior, remind me to remain stone-faced when I go to her concerts this summer. The other guys are all attacked by Maddy without any form of provocation; the ATM customer and the carjackee didn’t even know what hit them.

Thus we find another possibility: maybe Madonna’s promoting the theory at all women are psychotic criminals. Hmm… I’m not sure I can argue with that one! There’s also a chance that she represents women as the anti-Christ; at one point, the number on her hotel room reads “666”.

I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to see Maddy’s character as an abused woman who was reacting to male oppression; toward the end of the video, she reveals a nasty bruise. However, it seems likely that she got the damage from the multiple car wrecks she engineered, so any possible violence aimed against her by a significant other remains speculative.

In the end, I have no damned idea what the video was about. However, it’s a pretty good tune, and the clip was watchable enough. It’s oddly entertaining to see Maddy in such a nasty part; after sappy dreck like The Next Best Thing, it’s good to see her show some vicious spark. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” wasn’t Madonna’s best video, but it was a fairly interesting program.

The DVD:

What It Feels Like For A Girl appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it displayed a few concerns typical of video productions, the clip generally offered a fine visual experience.

Sharpness seemed consistently excellent. Throughout the video, the picture appeared crisp and well-defined with virtually no instances of softness to be found. As we often find during videos, I saw a few examples of jagged edges, but these were quite minor, and I saw no instances of moiré effects. Print flaws appeared nonexistent as well; I witnessed no signs of artifacts or video noise.

Like most videos, Girl featured a pretty stylized palette, and a variety of somewhat harsh tones dominated the proceedings. Clearly Ritchie wanted to make the clip look a bit ugly, and the mildly-obnoxious neon hues succeeded. However, they seemed well rendered throughout the video, as the mix of colors appeared clear and vivid at all times. Black levels were similarly deep and rich, and shadow detail looked appropriately dense but not overly thick. Ultimately, What It Feels Like For A Girl offered a solid picture during its brief running time.

The audio track of Girl provided a fine PCM stereo mix of the song. We get the “Above and Beyond ” remix of the tune, and it showed excellent breadth. Actually, the forward soundstage offered such a wide atmosphere that I thought it used my surround speakers; I had to closely inspect them to make sure they weren’t in action. That wasn’t the case, but the remix really seemed to fill the room.

Sound quality appeared very good. The different elements were neatly delineated and distinct within the mix, and Madonna’s vocals came across with appropriate tones. I thought that the track could have provided somewhat deeper and louder bass, but low end was still quite good. It would have been nice to get a 5.1 track, but for what this was, it sounded strong.

If you expect extras on Girl, you’ll be disappointed. The DVD offers absolutely no supplements. No lyrics, no links, no additional remixes - no nothing! Frankly, I thought that was lame; we should have at least been able to hear other mixes of the song.

That would have added some value to the package, but as it stands, it’s hard to justify $10 list for one video. I adore Madonna, and What It Feels Like For A Girl was an interesting clip, but very few people will think it’s worth the money. The picture and sound quality were very positive, so I had no complaints in those departments. It all comes down to money. A one-video DVD with no extras of any kind isn’t worth $10 to anyone other than the biggest die-hards. Since I count myself in that category, I’m happy to have the video, but unless you just have to own every piece of Madonna-bilia, What It Feels Like For A Girl isn’t worth the money.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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