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.)
A Very Long Engagement tells the story of a young woman (Audrey Tautou from Amelie playing a slightly less quirky version of the same child-like character) trying to track down her boyfriend who was supposedly killed in the trenches in World War I. Just about all the shots — from the warm, picturesque rural scenes to the cold, brutally realistic battle scenes — are composed like paintings, so much so that the subtitles are distracting at times. That’s one minor criticism. The other is the storyline which does meander a bit (some tighter editing might have improved the pacing). But the performances are great and there’s magic and fantasy and something beautiful in every scene, so who cares? It’s an excellent movie, one of my favourites from 2004.
The 400 Blows, François Truffaut‘s first feature film, does a wonderful job at capturing adolescence — and every minute of it will ring true for people who weren’t always on their best behaviour when they were kids. It’s one of Roger Ebert’s Great Movie picks: “The 400 Blows (1959) is one of the most intensely touching stories ever made about a young adolescent. Inspired by Truffaut’s own early life, it shows a resourceful boy growing up in Paris and apparently dashing headlong into a life of crime.” (Don’t read the whole review unless you’ve already seen the film.) Whether or not you relate to the main character, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy for him because although he gets into trouble, he’s not a bad kid; he’s just surrounded by stupid adults, at home, at school, everywhere. There isn’t much story to The 400 Blows, but it’s so well directed and acted and it all feels so genuine, it’s perfectly enjoyable just the way it is.
Movies like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly are why I love movies. It’s a motion picture that takes hold of you from the first frame and doesn’t let go until the end credits are rolling. It’s a true story of a guy who has a stroke that leaves him unable to do anything except blink one eye, and from that one blinking eye he writes a book and communicates with people.
In the opening shot (and for the first half hour of the film), we see what he sees after the stroke. His waking up. His distorted vision. We hear his voice — but no one else does because he’s unable to speak his thoughts. We hear his thoughts as he reacts to seeing his reflection for the first time, as orderlies clean his body that he can’t feel, as his children come to visit him, all of it. The experience of seeing what he sees is immediate and affective. (It’s also funny because he has a better sense of humour than most of the people around him.) I’ve never seen anything like it. I sat in my seat until the theatre lights came back on. It’s an extraordinary film.