“The Science of Sleep” is Still Funny and Bizarre

The Science of Sleep is the most fun I had watching a movie in 2007. Written and directed by Michel Gondry, it’s a trip to just sit back and watch the stuff that pours out of this guy’s head. The same goes for the main character of the movie. About half the movie consists of his dream life where everything is created from clay, yarn, cardboard, cellophane, dried macaroni — the kind of things kids create in art class, but fully animated and interactive. An accurate subtitle for the movie would be When Imagination Runs Wild.

The movie shares some of the same look and feel of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which Gondry co-wrote and directed). It has some sadness underlying it, too, but leans more towards the comedic side due in large part to the likeable, childish performance of Gael Garica Bernal. The movie is full of an unusual, infectious, innocent energy. Some might think of The Science of Sleep as a love story, but it’s more about the exploration of the inner world of a guy who has a lot of growing up to do. Sort of. (The DVD commentary is strange and funny, too.)

Wacky “Triplets of Belleville”

Some movies I watched over the past two weeks.

Sketches of Frank Gehry — A documentary directed by Sydney Pollack about Frank Gehry, an architect famous for designing buildings that look like things you’d see in an art gallery and wonder, “What the hell is this supposed to be?” It’s a straightforward telling of how and why he became an architect. A portrait of an artist / architect. Interesting to see how he works. (Mar. 2/08)

Interiors (1978) — Woody Allen’s follow-up to Annie Hall. A story about a dysfunctional family, a group of people so used to being discontent they don’t know how to just shut up and be happy. Somewhat agonizing to watch because no one ever stops complaining. It’s uncomfortably realistic at times. Reminds me of the wallowing misery of some Ingmar Bergman films. (Mar. 1/08)

Rescue Dawn / Little Dieter Needs To Fly — In Rescue Dawn, Christian Bale tries to escape from a Viet Cong prison camp in this by-the-numbers P.O.W. movie directed by Werner Herzog. Although based on a true story, it’s pretty light stuff compared to something like The Deer Hunter. The documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, also directed by Herzog, presents a slightly more compelling take on the story. Both films are interesting but seem emotionally cold and less affective than they could be. (Feb. 23/08)

The Triplets of Belleville — Crazy animation, definitely on the bizarre side, surreal, sad and poignant at times, grotesque, yet elegant and perhaps profound, and highly satirical. I just took a peek at Ebert’s review and I notice he tries to describe it like I just did: “It is creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth. What I did was, I typed the word “weird” and when that wholly failed to evoke the feelings the film stirred in me, I turned to the thesaurus and it suggested the above substitutes — and none of them do the trick, either.” Read the linked reviews to get an idea of what we’re talking about. (Feb. 22/08)

Be Kind Rewind — I’ll probably watch Michel Gondry‘s next movie without reading any reviews first, because even when he’s made a ho-hum movie like this one, it’s still more interesting than 90% of the movies that play at my local multiplex throughout the year. That said, I’m disappointed to say I wasn’t too engaged by this one. Jack Black’s magnetized brain erases all the tapes in a video store. He and his buddy set out to re-shoot all the movies onto the original VHS tapes, which are then rented out to customers. The tapes are a big hit and business starts to boom. It’s good-natured wackiness — and I love the idea of it — but it’s more suited for a short film, not a feature. (The Be Kind Rewind website looks like fun.) (Feb. 22/08)

I don’t highly recommend any of these films, but if I had to pick just one to see, I’d say The Triplets of Belleville, because it is so completely wacky and bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it. The animation is way out there (though I admit I don’t watch much animation). It’s definitely not for kids. This was my second viewing of it, and I enjoyed it more this time around. My reaction the first time I saw it was, “This is too much.” I still think it’s too much for most viewers, but it’s so unusual, it’s worth a look. People who know anything about animation will probably love it.