Sunday, June 20

Pulling Rabbits: On Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry is one of the only truly inspired people working in the movie industry today. Whereas most cineasts are considered "original" if they don't work exactly by the books, Michel Gondry makes films that are so crazy you will hardly believe what hit you. Take, for instance, this video he made for The White Stripes:


Holy. SHIT.

Now THAT'S what I call original.

Michel Gondry's career started out a little different then you might expect. He used to be the drummer for the (actually rather horrible) French rock band Oui Oui. He made some music videos for them, which soon turned out to be much better then the music itself. Things started rolling, he got assignments from some big names, and things really got interesting then.

He has thus far made videos for Paul McCartney, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Bjรถrk, The Foo Fighters, The White Stripes and Beck, and they are all awesome. If you feel the need to catch up on your music and your cinema, you could do a whole lot worse then going through Gondry's music videos on Youtube. Also, make sure to check out his Rubik's Cube videos. In the first one, he is solving a cube with his feet. It took a while for anyone to figure out that he just made a video in which he messed up a cube and played the video backwards. In response to that, he made a video of him solving a cube with his nose. No, really.

Michel Gondry has made only four feature-length movies in his life, which is very little for a director of his renown. The best of his movies are undoubtetly Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. Of those, I think the latter is definitely more "Gondry-ish". This is mostly because Eternal Sunshine was written by Charlie Kaufman, who has a way to turn movies to his hand, but also because Sleep bears much more resemblance to his other work.

The Science of Sleep is about a dreamy young man called Stephane, who lives in Paris and is in love with his neighbor, Stephanie. He also has a soul-crushingly boring job at a calendar manufacturer, with a blue-balled guy of 40 who claims to be punk as his co-worker. This is only the tip of the iceberg of all the weirdness in the movie. But what happens in the film hardly matter, actually: it's the way it looks. Because it looks like this:

That is not a screenshot, but all those things are definitly present in the movie. And I'm not going to say anything more about it. Because you just have to go see the movie for yourself, but also because I don't think words can do justice to Gondry's fantastical imagination.

But perhaps the coolest thing about Gondry is that he doesn't work with great illusions. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite. You won't wonder: "how did he do that?". You'll wonder: "how did he come up with this stuff?"

The mantra of Modern Art has always been: "I could do that! Yeah, but you didn't." And in that respect, I count Gondry as one of the most original artists in the history of cinema.


EDIT: it turns out I made some mistakes. I'm glad my readers are so alert. They have been fixed :)

I could of course include one of Gondry's great, great music videos here, but I'll leave that to you. Instead, I present you: The Gentle Waves!


  1. 1) He made 4 movies, working on a fifth one.
    2) The Rubik's Cube video was made well on into his career. I believe post science of sleep.

  2. I'm quite sure Be Kind, Rewind and Human Nature (written by Kaufman) were directed by Gondry too. Eternal Sunshine and the Science of sleep are far better films, but as far as I know he made four, not two feature films.