The Science of Sleep
Review By: Joe

Hello, chummies. How has your internet been doing? Mine's been getting a bit rank, actually. You know, you leave it out for awhile just sitting in the open air you get some problems, internet stink problems, most specifically. Where do you guys get your internet? Whole Foods? All organic internet for you then? I think it goes worse faster, honestly. Forgive me, but I think internet needs pesticides to get rid of some the filth that comes with it naturally. It just eats away at everything and then you get holes in your internet and it gets all brown and gross, you know how I mean? And what do we call that? Bad internet. That is what we call it, friends.

Michel Gondry is FRENCH! This is his first problem. I mean, really now, who likes a French? They are impossible to like if you are American! IM POSS I BLE 2 LIKE! Unless yous a gay, of course. Which brings us very neatly and exactly as I planned it to, to how I saw Michel Gondry's new movie, The Science of Sleep at a theater in Chelsea in NYC. What, did you think I was just ramblin' for the sake of ramblin'? This ain't no Lord of the Rings bullshit, man.

Michel Gondry directed that there Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was probably one of the more easily likeable films I have seen in a long time. LOTS of people liked that ish, myself included. It was like a phenomenon of liking! I generally do my best to pretend to be above the things the American public is fond of. Oh noooo, I never went looking for that Paris Hilton video, nooooooo, I ain't never seen that Lost show (actually, I really haven't), nooooooooooo, I don't dig that Since U Been Gone by Ms. Kelly Clarkson...OOOO-OH!!! NO! I cannot hide that one. It's such an awesome song and I like it so well. Then they remixed it and unlike other remixes that are just annoying and waste my time and have some asshole saying "REEEEEMIIIX," it was like, "Hell yes! I'll take some more o' dat! Sock it to me, Kelly!"

Anyhoo, I think Eternal Sunshine was a good time at the cinema and there's just no hiding those feelings. Now Michel Gondry is a weirdo (read: French), so he's got a new, funkadelic movie out and I went to see it. We were talking about this before, actually, but we got all sidetracked. Let's see if we can't get this criticism train heading back toward its intended destination of....um.....hmmmmmm...Review.....berg? Oh, well. That's all I got so that's what I'm putting.

Now, with Eternal Moonshine, Mr. Gondry had good old Charlie Kaufman on his side to write the script and who don't love that Charlie Kaufman? He isn't even French so you're allowed to like him without supporting the collapse of freedom as we know it. This time, however, that craaaaazy Frenchman said "Sacre Blues Clues! Ze direction, but of course, is my responsibilite! But ze script! Wee wee!! She is also under moi jurisdiczione!!!" For those of you that don't speak French, this means he both wrote and directed the film. As such, it's weirder than his last movie.

Charlie Kaufman tends to do well with his writing in that he uses outlandish, imaginative concepts, but he straddles the line between being interesting and alienating the viewers who don't go for that weird shit so much. He doesn't always pull it off perfectly, but Eternal Floorshine was probably the best example of him pulling off this balance. Michel, on the other hand, when left to his own devices, well, he doesn't do nearly as badly as I thought he might, but, eventually, he just might alienate you, or you, or even YOU.

The Science of Sleep is basically about an artist who moves back to his old home in France and gets a really shitty job there. He also falls in love (or doesn't, or does) with the girl who now lives next door to him and she also falls in love with him (or doesn't, or does, or doesn't) and then he has a bunch of weird-ass dreams. The main guy is named Stephan, with an accent over the "e" that I am not going to bother to include, and he is played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who does quite a phantasmic job of playing an oddly childish adult. The other actors do a fine job too, lalala, I ain't talking about it no more.

The dreams in the film are nice in that the effects involved are very, VERY low-tech. For those of us (supporters of evil) familiar with Michel Gondry's work, we know that before people started paying him any notice, he made lots of little stop-motion movies and such. Here, he has taken his old approach (stuff like a cardboard tube city and water made out of cellophane are things you can expect, buddy) and put it smack dab into a live-action film. Crazy fuck! It works pretty well. You have to be willing to accept it, though, because, for example, you'll see stuff like people standing at the top of a mountain and as soon as they jump down it they turn into little figures made of fabric with buttons for heads. Also, there are sequences of swimming/flying that use an effect that movies were probably using close to the inception of cinema; basically just putting the actor doing swimming motions in front of a video screen. At the very least, it's nice to know that Gondry is aware that we can see how fake everything is, rather than cramming some lame CG into a movie and pretending like nobody can tell Toby Maguire is not climbing that wall.

The movie is also nice-nice because it's really very funny. There's some pretty witty stuff, but there's also stuff that's just really basic and yet still hilarious, including a mention of a dirty sanchez! ROCK!!! If you do not laugh, you probably have a stick up your face.

The movie is overall pretty good, but the conclusion is open-ended and Stephan's behavior kind of seems to fluctuate wildly in ways that don't seem part of a logical progression of his character. I've actually just read some internet person's assessment of the whole movie and why this is and it suddenly seems to make a lot more sense and I sort of feel stupid now, but I won't say what this person said, so as not to ruin it for any of yous guys. Still, although it seems more cohesive to me now, plot-wise the movie has no great forward momentum. It's sort of just about the various misinterpreted signals of two people who live next door to each other, or, perhaps, a character study of Stephan. Either way, you aren't really dealing with a standard movie setup with any well-defined acts or major plot points or, again, even a concrete conclusion. It's this, as well as the fact that Stephan proves himself to be rather insane as the film progresses, that might alienate people.

In the end, the movie is funny and the look of it is definitely entertaining. I can't say that it's got an amazing plot or is even all that intuitively composed. Some people are saying it's like a movie-length music video (Gondry's career began in music videos) and that's not entirely off the mark, but, still, if you're open-minded (terrorist) and you like laughing at things that are funny and not things that are Not Another Teen Movie, give this sucker a chance. Assuming you can even get to a theater playing it. HAH, good luck with that, UTAH!


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