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Old 13th Mar 2007, 16:03   #1
Noumenon
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Default The Science Of Sleep

Michel Gondry's 2006 feature La Science des Rêves appeared at my local Art House analogue cinema a few days ago and I popped along last night with moderately high hopes. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I've been a fan of his weirdly creative music videos for quite a while - however, one of the friends invited along turned down the offer having already seen it. Knowing his tastes in film generally meshed with mine, I started to worry.

The infuriatingly attractive Gael Garc├*a Bernal plays St├ęphane Miroux, an extremely sensitive artist who returns to Paris with portfolio in hand when his mother arranges a creative position for him at a calendar company - it turns out she simply wanted him close again and has dragged him all the way from Mexico for nothing but a menial office job. Moving into the now vacant apartment he was raised in years before St├ęphane meets his neighbour St├ęphanie, played by the unconventionally sexy Charlotte Gainsbourg, a creative hobbyist and his mother's tenant. There is an attraction but although they nervously become friends there are layers of insecurity and quirkiness on both sides to wade through. Maybe too many.

So, where's the weird? I hear you ask. Well there's plenty. St├ęphane has believed since childhood that his dreams are every bit as real as the waking world and from the opening shot they are as prominent as anything else that takes place over the next (nearly) two hours. Gondry's background in music videos is clearly at the forefront of his mind and anyone who has seen his crazy low-budget ideas put to good use will recognise the home-made look of some of this dream activity, but not all of it - some of the dreams (if that's what they are) are as naturalistic as the reality (if that's what it is, or if there is even any realism at all). The blurring of boundaries is the cleverest feature of watching TSOS, leaving the viewers to try and determine what level of Sh├ęphane's experience they are currently witnessing. But it's surprisingly hard work to follow and untangle.

I'm still not sure if I was right to worry or not. I can see why my friend was reluctant to watch it again, since it is a chaotic experience and feels longer than the running time. It is haphazard and open-ended in a way that makes Eternal Sunshine... look positively drum skin tight. At the same time, I doubt me bud dislikes it because it is a heartfelt story. The two leads have an affectionate and funny chemistry; Gainsbourg gives a strong performance and, when not being forced to mess about, Bernal shows again that he is a very good actor. The script is challenging to interpret but very entertaining and generated laughs and happy winces throughout.

One dream segment is highly reminiscent of Gondry's excellent video for the Foofighters track Everlong - like that piece, TSOS is very much based on powerful experiences from Gondry's own life; if not outright auto-biographical then at least deeply personal. It's a brave thing to bare one's soul so totally but I'm not sure he has done complete justice to his project. It feels as though it falls between two camps, only one of which I can easily identify (it is a film, after all). Having said that, this is not an American movie, where even indie films tend towards certain expectations of "professionalism". This is very definitely a Michel Gondry-like product.

Even devoted fans (hmm, which would include me) would have to acknowledge that this is no Eternal Sunshine... but it develops similar qualities of human pain and affection and is just as unique a vision. With my impartial hat on I will give it , but I might have an extra half star floating around in my subconscious for it, probably made of cardboard with scraps of cellophane glued to it and dancing in a stop-motion stylee.

Last edited by Noumenon; 14th Mar 2007 at 0:40. Reason: Compromised - I hereby submit to Strad's peer pressure!
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Old 13th Mar 2007, 18:53   #2
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Default Re: The Science Of Sleep

The Science of Sleep. Funnily enough, I slept through most of this.

Sorry Noumenon, but I thought it was embarrassingly bad, like a really bad student film.
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Old 13th Mar 2007, 19:10   #3
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Default Re: The Science Of Sleep

I'm almost relieved to read that! I don't know, I did enjoy it but at the back of my mind I was also wondering is there really enough here to justify someone I feel is talented committing so much time and effort? I realise this must look like a massive flip-flop and fortunately I plan never to run for a position of world power, but I thought I'd give it the benefit of the doubt and be positive. Maybe I just needed a...

...wake up call. I admit I found the home-made effects stuff a bit tedious, but what I interpreted as is-it-isn't it dream stuff I found interesting. I won't stamp my foot and call you blind or anything though!

Also, they screened a shockingly poor, that's-not-even-a-film short film beforehand, which made my jaw ache for teeth-clenching and would have made a snuff movie look watchable by comparison.
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Old 13th Mar 2007, 19:27   #4
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Default Re: The Science Of Sleep

Oh good - I'm glad you're almost relieved, (as opposed to hopping mad, buy a shotgun and hunt-me-down mad, I mean).

There was part of me that kept wondering whether I was missing something, but in the end I just decided that he (Gondry, the director) was being too cocky for his own good, and as a result, had omitted to create a STORY that was of any interest. It felt like they'd improvised a lot of it, and not realised how dull the results were. And, let's face it, aren't other people's dreams a bit boring?

The best bits, for me, were in the office. I have to say I really did like the actors who played his workmates, and the characters they'd created. That was where it worked best for me. I really like Bernal, and usually find him very watchable ( ) but here even he couldn't keep me awake! Mrs S and I dozed in relay throughout the whole film. Came out feeling quite refreshed though!
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