Friday, July 06, 2007

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Half good and half crap, this dollop of whimsy from Michel Gondry lacks some of the grounding darkness of his other dollops of whimsy. It's really quite intolerable for its first hour or so; all cutesy-poo and sugary "charm," it comes off uncomfortably like a flailing apologia for/endorsement of Gael Garcia Bernal's emotionally stunted man-child Stepháne and his grating fantasy world -- call it The Secret Life of Walter Shitty. Gradually, though, Gondry drops the pretense, gets behind the shiny surface that Stepháne presents, and what was a solipsistic film evolves into a film about solipsism. Gondry burrows in, shows us the rage and melancholy that lies at the base of Stepháne's regressive desires -- the whole "capturing seconds" scene, magical as it is, speaks to the frustration present when one realizes that we can't go back, that time is fleeting and sometimes that which is done can't be undone. The offbeat effects work, in which every seam is meant to show, also progresses from mere whimsy into something more interesting -- the idea seems to be the disconnect between seeing something for what it is and for what we desire it to be. There's so much discomfiting goodness in the film's second half that it seems a shame that it's attached to the first half, but there you go.

Grade: B-


Blogger James said...

Gondry needs a leash or some other kind of restraint. I found the movie pretty interesting in 10 second segments, which might explain why it took me seven or eight viewings to finish it. He makes a killer music video but should stick to that medium.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Paul C. said...

I think that what Gondry needs is a strong collaborator. Both ETERNAL SUNSHINE and BLOCK PARTY found him in fine form, in no small part because he had good help. Kaufman's ETERNAL SUNSHINE screenplay was pretty amazing (unlike HUMAN NATURE, which felt like something he dug out of a desk drawer after MALKOVICH brought him fame) and BLOCK PARTY had Chappelle to serve as a ringleader. Whereas THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is pretty much all Gondry, all the time.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I'm with Paul here -- Gondry works well with others. He's awesome at illuminating or illustrating the ideas and works of others, whether through his music videos or his collaborations with Charlie Kaufman. He kind of needs the restraint that comes with collaborating, with taking into account ideas and opinions besides his own.

However, Human Nature is an undervalued work of melancholy genius, and I'll defend it until they plant me in the ground.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Paul C. said...

I can kind of see where you're coming from on HUMAN NATURE, which although I didn't find it success definitely struck me as the kind of unsuccessful movie that only a genius could write. Most of the trouble I had, truth be told, was with Gondry's direction, which felt too whimsical by half, as though he thought the material somehow needed to be tricked up. Thankfully, he learned otherwise by the time he did ETERNAL SUNSHINE.

I hope that he has someone to keep him in check on BE KIND REWIND, which sounds awesome but could easily go off the rails. I can't imagine Gondry by himself being the sort who could temper Jack Black.

2:40 PM  

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