Michel Gondry may probably leap into the mainstream conscious with the big screen treatment of the upcoming The Green Hornet in January next month, even though his films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind had been played in cinemas here today, somehow The Science of Sleep had been given a miss, which is a pity. It's a romantic fantasy story that I thought would sit well, if not for its fantastical moments which were utterly and incredibly creative, a product I guess from an inventive mind.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays Stephane Miroux, a sort of mirror for the writer director himself like it or not, especially for his inventive and curious mind which slips into dreamland, and has trouble differentiating between his dream world, and reality at times. I guess even before Christopher Nolan came up with Inception, there's The Science of Sleep which deals with commonalities about living in a dream, but in a more surreal, romanticized way rather than to manipulate. Barnal aces his role as the good looking guy who is shy and sort of a recluse, a creative type looking for an outlet to showcase his abilities, only for his mom to con him to relocate from Mexico to Paris on the pretext of a suitable job available. In a wicked mood, you'll find pleasure as he stumbles through the language barrier, and plenty of Freudian slips that make him come across as an inconsiderate, impolite jerk.
While his career doesn't take off as he would like, being amongst a zany bunch in a calendar producing office, Stephane gets acquainted with his new neighbour Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who becomes in an instant an object of his affection, but being socially inept, he's absolutely clueless how to go about pursuing her, since she's quite direct from the onset that she doesn't have a boyfriend nor is looking for one. Stephane's pursuit slowly eats into his subconscious, and we get to see on an increasing scale how this wooing of an unattainable girl soon consumes his being, with little lies, and that mesh of reality and fantasy that exposes his insecurity. But hey, to an audience, this suits us just fine, as it provides for plenty of eye candy entertainment when objects come to life or when he creates some cheeky and fun inventions (check out the one second time machine, which makes perfect sense in execution!), and through stop motion, one of those techniques that I'd always enjoy and appreciate.
The best parts of the film are something like what Gondry did in his film Be Kind Rewind, where surreal dreamy moments are more "sueded" with simple common material found around the house, like cardboard rolls, rather than to get something more stylish or refined. There's some naivety and innocence when in this world and in some ways, play out like music videos, which is what Gondry had been working on before embarking on feature films. Like his previous film Eternal Sunshine, there's no escape from wanting or desiring life as it is in the dream, rather than to face the harshness of reality which almost always doesn't pan out like our desires and dream.
And of course the other bit which I liked tremendously, is to peer into Stephane's head, where there's him sitting in a control center aka his brain, with windows that peer through and sees what the eyes see, and a blue screen literally being the canvas of how the imagination work, superimposing recollected dreamscapes through which his fantasies play out, especially with the presence of the dreamworld Stephanie who obviously behaves in a way he desires, completely different from the real life experience.
I'm not too sure how Gondry will be able to stem his mark that he's established so far with the making of The Green Hornet, but I'm guessing it'll likely play out in more straightforward fashion than this one, which at its core is a pretty impressive romantic tale that has two lost souls, one who misses his mark on countless of occasions and groping very hard to find an emotional connection with the other. Excellent and seemingly improvisational production values make this a must watch!
The Region 1 DBD by Warner Bros Home Entertainment presents the feature film in an anamorphic widescreen format, with audio presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for this multi-lingual film, with a 25 chapter scene selection.
The disc begins with a set of trailers that autoplays, with The Painted Veil, The Fountain, Infamous, and For Your Consideration. Special Features included on the disc are presented in full screen format:
Commentary by Writer-Director Michel Gondry, Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sacha Bourdo - with an ensemble like that you'd either have plenty of nuggets of information coming your way, but unfortunately, this one is quite lacking in certain counts. While you cannot deny the fine camaraderie that had been built up over the production, most of the talking's done by Gondry and Bernal, who are the more chatty of the lot. Otherwise most of it is just plain descriptive about the scenes, the recounting of experiences in shooting them, in between chunky periods of silence.
The Making of The Science of Sleep (39:14) begins with an interview with the Director of Photography Jean-Louis Bompoint recounting his experience meeting Michel Gondry, and vice versa with working with Bompoint, where they had began working on a series of shorts. And some of the ideas actually came from a significant time back, where we can see influences coming from early in his life. As with any standard making of film, this includes interviews with cast and crew, and showcases the entire creative and production process in making this film to fruition. Surprisingly a lot of things are done through practical effects rather than to exploit computer technology, which I think the result is a film that's a lot more endearing.
Lauri (11:13) centers on Lauri Faggioni, the Animals and Accessories Creator for The Science of Sleep, who is responsible for every animal and thingamajig that we see in the film, their creation and design, so full credit to her if we enjoy and are amazed at these gorgeous and inventive creations.
Rescue Me (3:36) introduces us to Linda Serbu who runs Hollywood Kitty, a home for unwanted cats. Just how it ties in to the film? Well remember the song performed in Stephane's imagination involving his group of co-workers in their boss' office dressed as cats? That's the title of the song and it's about this! And this continues with Adopt Some Love (4:58) which is a short documentary by Linda Serbu about a colony of stray cats and the people who look after them. Rounding the features up is the Theatrical Trailer (2:17) for the film.