Director and writer
(in English, French and Spanish,
with English subtitles) - Michel Gondry
photography, Jean-Louis Bompoint
- Pierre Pell and Stéphane
- Georges Bermann
by Warner Independent Pictures.
106 minutes. Rated R
for foul language, brief nudity,
and sexual situations.
Gael García Bernal (Stephane), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Stephanie), Alain
Chabat (Guy), Miou-Miou (Christine Miroux), Emma de Caunes (Zoe) and
Aurélia Petit (Martine).
Do you ever feel tempted by a
shiny new box of 64 crayons?
Do you ever pause before you
toss away the cardboard tube at the center of a toilet paper roll?
Do you ever hesitate before you
throw cotton balls in the trash, thinking, There must be some
creative use for this.
Chances are, you're an artist,
repressed or otherwise. Or, perhaps you're just one of the masses who
never quite made your peace with growing up.
You have something in common
with Michel Gondry, who wrote and directed one of this year's most
delightful films: The Science of Sleep.
Perhaps you're familiar with
Gondry's work. He's some kind of genius when it comes to dreaming up
music videos -- that's why groups like The White Stripes seek him out.
And if you saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you've seen
While that spectacularly
creative love story was written by Charlie Kaufman, Gondry was
responsible for its splendid visual trickery. Together, these two madcap
artists took us into the memory and the subconscious of
their characters’ minds. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet
created a couple lost in a bittersweet romance fraught with break-ups
and reunions, fractured by memory excisions and surreal excursions
through their own brains.
Sunshine was groundbreaking, funny, terrifying, and
sad. And it was a triumph. If you enjoyed it, than you know that you
can't miss a full-length film directed by... and written by...
this grown man with the imagination of ten children.
The Science of Sleep feels
almost like a thematic sequel, taking us on
what seems to be the logical next step... if, indeed, there is any room
for logic in Gondry's imagination. He takes us into the minds of another
couple -- this time played (and powerfully) by Gael Garcia Bernal and
Charlotte Gainsbourg. But instead of exploring memory, he takes us into
Sleep tells the story of
Stephane (Bernal), an artist who has
followed his mother's advice about a job opening and moved to
Paris. Working as an artist in
a company that makes calendars, he is alarmed to discover that his mother was altogether wrong about what the job
entailed. He is not being asked to contribute original, creative art at
all. No, he’s being asked to design the frames for the art, which isn’t
really art at all —
So, frustrated and disillusioned,
Stephane begins to look for another outlet for his
energies. His dreams are wild and outrageous. They
color outside the lines, just like he does. And thus, sometimes he can't
tell the difference between a dream and reality, which causes him no end
And when he meets an
imaginative French artist — her name is, of course, Stephanie (Gainsbourg)
— in his
apartment building, the two fall into a nervous, jittery kind of
One of the things that makes
this romance unique is that Stephane is initially attracted to
Stephanie's sexy roommate, Zoe (Emma De Caune).
But his heart is more powerful than his hormones -- a distinction that
most American romances fail to understand. And soon he realizes that
he's much more interested in Stephanie, who's awkward, mousey, and looks
more like a librarian than a typical big-screen dream girl.
And, come on guys... aren't we
all tired of typical big-screen dream girls? Haven't we learned how
disposable they are? Don't we long for someone interesting, intelligent,
unpredictable, and fun? We aren't likely to fall for Stephanie at first
glance, but, like poor Stephane, we'll probably all be longing for her
by the end.
While Stephane and Stephanie
seem completely unable to
communicate like normal human beings, when they turn their attention to
creative collaboration, amazing things happen. We might find ourselves
beneath a sky of cotton-ball clouds, riding a stuffed horse, driving
through a metropolis made entirely of leftover cardboard, or lashing out
at our maddening coworkers with hands that have swollen to ten times
their original size. Whether it’s a boat that carries a small forest or
a time machine with a range of only one-second, their inventions are
small wonders well-worth the price of admission.
A friend of mine called The
Science of Sleep "a Jim Henson movie for adults," and he's hitting
pretty close to the mark. This is the most imaginative big screen film
since last year's sorely underrated fantasy film from the Henson company
-- MirrorMask. Perhaps this reminder of the Muppets has something
to do with why, in spite of the whimsy and surprise, there's a current
of melancholy through Gondry whole endeavor.
We all find, as we grow up, that
age and experience bring with them responsibility. We can't go on living
as recklessly and indulgently and impulsively as we did when we were
small children. We can't live in a dreamland of our own making, or we
end up becoming selfish or worse... crazy. And yet, something inside us
longs for the carefree spirit of our childhood, for a time when
possibilities seemed endless and we weren't distracted by the pressures
and demands of adulthood. The film is bittersweet because it stimulates
that longing inside us.
At the same time, it's
inspiring. Most of us have swung too far in the other direction, and
left that childlike spirit too far behind. We've let the pressures of
adulthood harden us, diminish our imaginations, mess with our humor and
That's why I find Gondry's
imagination so appealing and necessary. Sure, his movie is bound to
offend some folks because, as recklessly creative as he is, he steps
over a line here or there. But if you're discerning and patient enough
to cope with his occasional missteps, you'll find that the rewards of
his work are treasure indeed.