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Michel Gondry – Be Kind Forward

Submitted by on 28 Mar 2007 – 9:10 PM Comments

The Franco-American film director Michel Gondry has never stopped jumping and bouncing over reality’s boundaries. While you’re reading reviews of his new movie, The Science of Sleep, movmnt tells you about the next one: Be Kind Rewind.

Have you ever met an “experimentartist”? Nope? Well, here comes Michel Gondry, a 43-year-old Big Apple dwelling Frenchman. You may know him from his litany of bold music videos (“Human Behavior” and its freaky teddy bear), witty commercials such as Levi’s and Nespresso, or groundbreaking movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) or Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2005). Did this director invent his own unique style? Sure, but even more than that, he forges a new category for himself, something that follows his craft from the laboratories of imagination to the galleries of public consumption.

If you’ve been amazed by The Matrix bullet FX, you may be surprised to learn that Gondry designed it for the 1995 Stones’ video “Like a Rolling Stone,” as well as for a Smirnoff commercial. Much of his work is informed by a constant longing for a fusion between technology and art. Maybe it is because of his DNA his grandfather is said to have been the inventor of an early version of the synthesizer in 1947 and his father sold electric guitars during the heyday of the May ’68 cultural revolution in France. What purpose does merging music and science together serve for Gondry? “Movement of soul,” as he puts it. That is, the dance between fading, ever changing memories and yet to be realized fantasies.

A Director’s Spotless Mind

His biggest box office success thus far, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dealt with memories and the deceptive ways we attempt to control them when they make our lives uncomfortable. His last acclaimed feature, The Science of Sleep, focuses on our dreamscapes. This opus is not quite as amazing as one would have expected or hoped. A chain of funny and short cut sequences distract from a genuine narrative thread. But it is still a step forward in Gondry’s career. He believes that art – as well as science – is a vessel that should be used to travel from reality to a kind of terra incognita. There are plenty of worlds left to explore. When it comes down to you, and all the lives you have screwed up, dreamed of, and are about to live, you begin to experience an “Army of Me,” another Gondry collaboration.

The best is yet to come, and it already has a title: Be Kind Rewind, scheduled for a fall 2007 release. Forget the cast; frankly, to combine Jack “Nacho Libre” Black and Kirsten “Marie Antoinette” Dunst, is that art or science? Well, let’s just get to the story, a perfect blend of Gondry’s work with memories and dreams. The main character follows the classic mold of the reluctant superhero, an average guy who becomes highly magnetic after an accident. He involves his best friend, a video store manager, by involuntarily erasing the entire stock of videotapes. Fearing bankruptcy, they decide to recreate every movie in the store over the course of a weekend. They only have memories to guide them. The pitch is provocative, even crazy. You might be tempted to regard it as a phony attempt to blend colliding universes. But you may also experience this new film as worthy of an Einstein of the arts, shivering both your body and spirit. Michel Gondry will keep moving on, regardless. Keep a kind eye and look forward to this visionary director.

David Martin Castelnau

First published in movmnt magazine “Out of Line” Spring 2007 issue