Michel Gondry – French Visionary – Part 2
Following up their work together on Human Nature, Gondry and Kaufman began filming their next combined effort in cinema, once again directed by Michel, who this time also tackled some of the writing. In 2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind hit cinemas. The beautifully and enigmatic story of two loners who fall in love so deep that when their relationship becomes broken, they seek professional help in getting each other erased from their memories. This was perfectly in Gondry’s wheelhouse. A tight knit relationship with oddball characters that each had their own quirks, and a narrative that not only allowed for mind bending story telling but made for some very bizarre visual scenes. The story here is not told chronologically and therefore allows for lots of flashbacks and forwards, mixed with the dark psychology of muddled memories, many memorable scenes range from adults acting as their child selves to faceless ghouls inhabiting claustrophobically dark spaces.
Another reason for this film’s breakaway success is the use of comedian Jim Carrey in a serious role. Usually known for his high energy, highly emotive slapstick level humour – here he becomes quiet introvert Joel Barish. Jim’s performance on screen is largely a reflection of Gondry’s making. On set Michel purposefully disorientated Carrey, changing marks, giving him incorrect queues and not allowing him, an accomplished improviser, to ad lib during filming. Carrey even said that Michel picked him for the role knowing that he had just come out of a bad break up and thus his ‘brokenness’ would be perfect for the role. The film was highly praised winning an Oscar for best original Screenplay and Kate Winslet won for best actress.
From here Gondry was unchained, writing his next film himself he brought The Science of Sleep to audiences two years later. Another unconventional romance, this time stepping even further into the realm of weird. Mainly set in and around and office and a building that Gondry once lived in real life, Stéphane the main character (played by Gael García Bernal) lives a fairly banal life leading him to bouts of intense daydreaming. His thoughts here are shown seamlessly on screen by Michel’s own vivid creativity making for a film that leaps from mundane to cartoonish without prompting. Here characters can be seen with giant hands, riding imaginary horses and more as Gondry
injects his animated way of thinking right into the screenplay.
In 2008 he delivers another story that allows a brilliant flow into silliness with Be Kind Rewind. Starring comedic actor/singer Jack Black and Rapper/Activist Mos Def the level of creativity available within is clear. In this outing he chooses to pay homage to films of the past by having the pair create zero budget remakes (Swedes) of cinema classics which include Ghostbusters, Rush Hour and Boyz n the Hood.
With his style and fame secured Michel Gondry continues to make music videos, shorts and feature films that blur the line between reality and other realms of thought. He is currently working on Kidding with Jim Carrey once again, the show fits his bill entirely and has recently released behind the scenes footage of an in credible single shot take, showing that Gondry continues even now to push the boundaries.