Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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The Science of Sleep

October 9th, 2006 · No Comments

My, what a big imagination you have!Writer-director Michel Gondry’s artistic viewpoint can be summed up in the title of his collaborative auto-biographical documentary, I’ve Been Twelve Forever, which can be found on his volume in the excellent Director’s Label DVD collection, featuring shorts and music videos from some of the best short-format artists. Gondry’s latest feature length film, The Science of Sleep, is also clearly the product of his deep-rooted adolescent headspace. Gondry also wrote the story for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he directed from Charlie Kaufman’s script. Although Kaufman (Adaptation., Being John Malkovich) received much of the credit for the whimsy of Eternal Sunshine, an examination of the unique visual style of Gondry’s earlier short and video work clearly shows that the film has as much his DNA as Kaufman’s.

Do you dream in blue screen?The Science of Sleep tells the story of Gondry’s alter-ego Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), who returns to France from Mexico, where he had been living with his recently-deceased father. Stéphane’s French mother, long separated from his father, tells him she has arranged employment for him at a calendar-making firm that will allow Stéphane to utilize his creative talents. From the opening frames we realize that Stéphane is a dreamer in the most profound sense who, presumably like Gondry, has trouble relating to the construct of adult society. In fact, Stéphane often cannot distinguish his dream life from his waking one. As the movie progresses, neither can we. The frustration of his arrested development reaches its pinnacle with the inchoate love affair that develops between Stéphane and his neighbor, Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Cut from nearly the same cloth, as Gondry’s naming convention bluntly pronounces, this awkward romance manages to conjure the beauty and pain of young love in a way few films have, at lease since François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films (beginning with The 400 Blows).

I'm not sure this is what a hair band is supposed to be.The Science of Sleep is likely not for everyone, as it boldly inhabits a style of storytelling that is challenging yet requires childlike surrender. Likewise, the film’s visual language – you have never seen cardboard and cellophane put to so many uses since, say, kindergarten – is certainly not universal. But for someone who, like Stéphane, spent hours as a kid making things out of wrapping paper tubes and Styrofoam packaging, I say Gondry has created a film worthy of display in the most prominent place on the cinematic refrigerator.

Tags: Comedy · Director · Drama · Romance

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