Michel Gondry explores "The Science of Dreams"
Michel Gondry is known as one of the more idiosyncratic directors in Hollywood.
He grew up in the suburbs of Paris, and cut his teeth making commercials and videos for the likes of Bjork, the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow and the White Stripes. He then went on to feature films, winning an academy award for the screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
This weekend Gondry appears at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis as the culmination of a month-long retrospective of his work called "The Science of Dreams."
St. Paul, Minn. — To get an idea of how Michel Gondry's mind works ask him about doing interviews.
He's been advised by publicists to go in with some talking points, and make sure he focuses on his message. Gondry says he did that for a while, but decided it was boring, particularly when he was asked the same questions again and again.
"I realized I have to dig deeper to find different answers to entertain myself, or to discover something, or to just use this process as something, not only promotional, but something educative for myself as well. So as people were asking those questions I try to find a new answer and respond absolutely the most honestly I could," he says.
Gondry comes from a family that celebrated creativity. His grandfather invented an early synthesiser.
So it was natural that when Gondry formed a punk band with friends he quickly started making inventive videos to promote the music. He combined animation with live action to create surreal worlds, a trait that appears regularly in his feature work.
Michel Gondry's films are both niave and deeply intellectuall, simple and extraordinarily complex.
The character whom he considers most autobiographical is Stephane in "The Science of Sleep." He's an insomniac Frenchman with an overactive imagination who has increasing difficulty telling the difference between real life and dreams.
Gondry shot the film in the same building where he lived in Paris. He says it's a reflection of the time when he lived in New York in a troubled marriage. He still wrestles with English, and the struggles of language, understanding and communication run though his work.
He says however what he strives for is simplicity. He is new film, "Be Kind, Rewind" started off with simple thought. He bought a boxed set of the five Planet of the Apes movies of the 60s and 70s.
He noticed each of the films was made on a significantly smaller budget than it's predecessor. The trend changed with the 2001 remake which eclipsed the money spent on all the originals. Gondry's mind started rolling.
"So I was thinking it would be interesting to really go back to that but in the most drastic way," he says." Instead to do a remake with more money, do a remake with absolutely no budget."
So he came up with the idea of two guys in a seldom visited video store, that stocks only VHS tapes. One day they accidently erase them all. They don't want to get in trouble, so they come up with a scheme. Each time a customer comes in to request a video they say they need a little time to get the tape, then they get to work.
"They have to reshoot themselves in the backyard in like two hours and do all the roles themselves," he says.
Gondry got Jack Black and Mos Def to play the roles. Gondry says nobody seemed bothered by them remaking classic films, but when they showed the video boxes on film, that's when the copyright lawyers turned up.
Gondry says it's vital for his characters to have the boxes for the story.
"And they just take the tape from the box , load them in an old VHS recorder, or videocamera and reshoot it on top of the same VHS tape, and then put them backl in the box," Gondry says. "So you needed to see the box. When you touch that, that's when all the legal issues occur. We had to work a long time to get all the rights for the movies we remade."
The movie is in post-production and will probably be released in December. Michel Gondry will talk about the experience, and how he is making a documentary about his aunt, at the Walker Art Center Saturday evening. The appearance is sold out.
- All Things Considered, 06/22/2007, 5:54 p.m.