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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Dream Big: Gondry Chat Draws Hundreds in SoHo

Hate to say I told you so about getting to SoHo early for last night’s Michel Gondry appearance: A few hundred fans had packed the Apple Store’s second-floor theater by around 6:30 (for a chat that started at 7), but seats were gone well before that and the queue winding onto Wooster Street was little fun in the rain. With nothing to the left of the decimal point in The Reeler’s bribe budget, I blew the usher to let me sneak up to the front, where the filmmaker joined indieWIRE boss Eugene Hernandez for a comprehensive clip-show conversation and Q&A sprawling from his early years in music video to his superb new feature, The Science of Sleep, which opens Sept. 22.
I noted here what outtakes I could before giving up on the translating game; Gondry is funny, spirited and exceedingly smart, but fuck if I could not make out every third or fourth sentence. What I could decipher, though–well, I don’t know. It mostly makes sense:
ON SURVIVING HUMAN NATURE: “I was really depressed after Human Nature because critics weren’t so nice to me, so I took a notebook, and I wrote everything that was mean, and I tried to figure out why it was bothering me. The reason it was bothering me was that there was some truth in it, and I had to find out how I could make it develop. So I had this 40-page book that’s become my, um… It was pretty awful. But it really helped me when I did Eternal Sunshine. Everyday when I would go to the shooting, it would help not to forget the goal I had set for myself. Every time I would go in that book with the lists, it was a good thing.”
Hernandez: “So there’s 40 pages just from Human Nature?”
Gondry: “Yeah. But I’ve lost it now. It was too bad.”
ON THE IMPACT OF DREAMS ON HIS CREATIVE PROCESS: Sometimes I write them down, or I do drawings. I have a lot of paper; it’s not like I have a book. I don’t think I can do something that’s so organized. But I have a very bad sleeping pattern. I sleep very little, but from what I read in some books, if you skip a night of sleep, the next night, you REM sleep doubles. So particularly what it said was that if even if you sleep a little, the amount of dreamng is consistent. In my case, I sleep very bad and terrible, so the few times I sleep I keep dreaming. … And I wake up with very strong feelings that the dream was real. And I screened this for some therapists who are working on dreams, and we talked about what could happen to provoke that. I have sleep apnea, which is a problem. Maybe my brain has a lack of oxygen, but I work in a different way from other people when I wake up, and sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference from sleepy time. Maybe my brain wakes up in a different way. Basically I wrote this experience and this tradition; I thought it would be interesting to experiment.”
ON HIS FIRST MUSIC VIDEO: “The first video I made was for a girl who was six feet tall. She had a huge nose and big feet; I dressed her like a princess and she looked like a drag queen. I completely failed. And on top of that, her partner in the video–I dressed him like a drag queen because it was the song. It was a complete horror, this video. I remember when I showed it to my family, I had spent two months during the post-production, and they didn’t say a word. I knew they were horrified. They couldn’t look me straight in the eyes. It took me a long time to understand that I really had to fix this problem.”
ON HIS NEW FILM: “It’s called Be Kind Rewind. It’s a comedy with Jack Black and Mos Def, Mia Farow and Danny Glover, and it’s a story about theese two guys who work in a video store run by Danny Glover, and when he’s away for a week… Jack Black becomes magnetized and erases all the tapes by mistake. So they don’t want to disappoint their boss, and the only way they can think of to cover their mistake is to start to reshoot the films one after the other. The first movie is going to be Ghostbusters. They go out and take their camera and shoot the film in two hours, like playing all the parts and stuff. [Customers] realize they are not the real movies, but it is actually pretty funny because it’s Jack Black and Mos Def. And so they become a big hit in town, and little by little they reshoot the originals. … We’re in this little town, Passaic, New Jersey, where we found all of our locations. In fact, one of the mechanics who worked on Eternal Sunshine has his shop there, and so I went to visit him with the idea. His shop is next to a power plant, so he always complains he’s having headaches and stuff.”
The event wound down with a sneak preview of a new Beck video for the song “Cell Phone’s Dead,” a one-room, black-and-white exercise featuring the plaid-suited singer morphing into a hulking figure of cardboard boxes, wood blocks and, I think, a bedroom dresser. Or maybe he just climbed into it. I have got to take better notes. At any rate, give Gondry a shout if you happen to be traveling through Passaic (he starts shooting today) and get some Sleep later next month.
(Photo: STV)

3 Responses to “Dream Big: Gondry Chat Draws Hundreds in SoHo”

  1. Maya says:

    Thank you for the recap. And I totally sympathize with your having difficulty translating. I did too when I was transcribing my interview. But he’s so fascinating that’s totally worth the effort.

  2. Liliana says:


  3. The Reeler says:

    Queue and Eh? Gondry Gallery Opening Baffles NY Art Blogger

    I thought I was pretty much done with Michel Gondry, but Art Fag City blogger and vaunted Reeler Pinch Hitter Paddy Johnson yesterday filed a dispatch from the opening of the Gondry show The Science of Sleep; an exhibition…

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg