The hallmark of Michel Gondry's work, whether he was
directing music videos or feature films, has been a strong visual
component. The images he has fashioned support and enrich the
storylines and he seemed to reach a new plateau in his collaboration
with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman on the award winning feature
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.
With his third film, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP, Gondry both
directs and writes what he has admitted is a semi-autobiographical
tale. The film begins amusingly: the hero Stéphane (Gael García
Bernal) is seen in a television studio that might have been crafted
by a child. Egg cartons dot the walls and the cameras are made
of cardboard. Stéphane is hosting a show and he is demonstrating
how to make dreams as if he were a male Martha Stewart.
It's a charming opening and sets the stage for the story that
unfolds -- one centered on a dreamer who has trouble differentiating
between his waking and sleeping moments.
Stéphane has been called back to France by his mother
(the underused Miou-Miou) after the death of his father. He
moves back into his childhood home which appears to have been
untouched for years. His toys and inventions litter the room and
his bed is that of a youngster's. His mother has arranged for him
to work at a calendar manufacturer, and Stephane is filled with
creative ideas which he hopes to present to the boss. He is
daunted to discover, though, that the job is terribly mundane and
the least creative thing he possibly could be doing.
On his way to work one day, he is mistaken for a moving
man and tries to help hoist a piano to the apartment across the
hall. Disaster strikes and he is injured. His neighbor Stéphanie
(Charlotte Gainsboug) and her friend Zoé (Emma de Caunes) tend
to his injury and Stéphane flirts with Zoé. The audience
immediately recognizes, though, what Stéphane doesn't: he is
meant to be with the similarly named Stephanie. The rest of
movie is about their tentative movement toward romance.
There are some marvelous set pieces and flights of fancy
-- running water is depicted by cellophane, tissue paper becomes
clouds, Stéphane shows Stéphanie a time travel machine that
allows one to move forward or backward by seconds -- and
many demonstrate the filmmaker's gift for animation and creativity.
For me, the basic problem with the movie was that the central
relationship remained rather nebulous. Stéphane is a character
who is an arrested adolescent and despite García Bernal's best
efforts, the part is by turns bratty, creepy and narcissistic.
Gainsbourg has a sweet gawkiness to her that works up to a point,
but after a while one begins to quesiton her continued interest in
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP has some magical moments, but
just as the protagonist struggles with finding a place that can
integrate his dream life with reality, the movie fights against itself
and eventually leaves the audience as the loser.
Rating: C +
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content
Running time: 105 mins.
Viewed at Magno Review One
|The Science of Sleep
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.