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Massawyrm Studies THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP!!

Hola all. Massawyrm here.

Okay, Michel Gondry is one odd fucking duck. But he’s got to be one of my favorite odd ducks. As strange and bizarre as he is artistically, there’s this childlike innocence to it all, a sense of wonderment within every little quirky thing he creates. Unlike other dwellers on the fringe, like Lynch, Cronenberg, Jonze or Aronofsky, there’s no obsession with ugliness in his work, no attempts to provide imagery that will creep you out or disturb you. His work seems to entirely be about the joy of oddity, the sweetness of the strange. And there’s this overall theme of healing to his body of work, like a fractured psyche trying to put itself back together.

And if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Gondry were set loose to tell his own stories, look no further than The Science of Sleep. Truly the culmination of all of his work to date, Gondry mixes both the visual and psychological themes of all of his previous work into one definitive vision. This is the tale of a man trapped within the boundaries of his own dementia and trying desperately to communicate properly with the outside world.

And as strange as it is, it proves to be a beautiful little narrative. While the imagery is surreal, and the storytelling meant to keep you off balance, Gondry doesn’t pull any punches in fleshing out his characters or relating another tale of an unhealthy relationship. There are moments here when you realize that no matter how sweet his intentions, no matter how innocent he might be inside his own head, Gondry’s main character Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a very sick man. And that’s what’s so heartbreaking about this film. You want things to work out so badly, but Stephane clearly doesn’t live in the same world as the rest of us.

Bernal’s performance is absolutely top shelf. He manages both to convey a naïve charm while seemingly portraying just how dangerous he is to himself and others. At times he seems truly baffled by how the world views him, as his perceptions are clearly different from those around him. Gondry shifts back and forth between giving us a birds eye view looking out from Stephane’s own head and from the outside looking in. The juxtaposition is startling, giving a frank and honest look at mental illness, no matter how soft and endearing that illness seems to be.

Gondry pulls out all of his visual tricks for this, crafting a beautiful dream world filled with stop motion, blue screen effects and camera tricks o’ plenty. The film opens with Gondry’s concept of what makes up a dream and from that point on you watch that theory put into motion. Artifacts, songs and phrases bleed over from Stephane’s daily life into his dreams and his dreams bleed back into reality, all of which is handled beautifully. Fans will recognize recurring themes and imagery from earlier efforts as if everything before was simply working up to this single opus.

The Science of Sleep is the very definition of an art film. It has something to say and says it in a truly original and unusual way.

But it’s not for everyone. While a great character piece and a pleasure to look at, this is a complex film that asks you to participate and piece it together. It’s not really much of a puzzler, but with something of an ambiguous ending, as well as scenes that you’re not quite sure really happened outside of Stephane’s dreamworld, it requires some work to put it all together. This definitely isn’t a film to just kick back and watch – it wants you to invest yourself in it.

Of course, the slightly more cynical will have a problem with the prevalent theme of the film, a theme very similar to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love. The why can’t someone just love me despite my faults and instability plea. This is one of those films that will be absolutely adored by the crowd that likes to go home and write in their journal while listening to Morrisey and will no doubt find itself as a cult fave for anyone who thinks of themselves as both different and artistic. Anyone easily bugged by this kind of mentality may find themselves turned off by the abundance of effort put towards trying to tell the story of this kind of character.

And the movie is a bit slow while never fully resolving itself. It definitely makes sense and makes for a great ‘over coffee’ post film discussion as to what happens next (which Gondry leaves for the audience to decide for themselves), but it might be a few minutes too short for those that like definitive resolution to their stories.

And lastly, the film is in English, French and Spanish, something that may throw some viewers off as, no matter what language they speak, they’re going to be reading subtitles out of the blue (certain scenes contain conversations speaking all three intermittently.) It’s a bit jarring, but something I found fascinating as it truly adds the feeling of being VERY European. Watching characters struggle with various languages trying to find a language the other speaks (usually English) makes for some interesting character moments. But if you have issues with subtitled films to begin with, this might add an extra layer of frustration. Although most of the film is actually in English.

All this aside, I absolutely loved the film. It was positively enchanting. Every moment we spend in Stephane’s dreamworld is pure cinematic bliss and watching how Gondry weaves in and out of it made for one of my favorite independent efforts of the year. Uniquely brilliant and something film lovers will treasure.

Highly recommended for anyone that loves Gondry’s work, enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or simply loves inventive independent film. Not recommended for anyone with issues with subtitles, who hate vague or ambiguous filmmaking or anyone who hated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.


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Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:14 a.m. CST


    by JuggFuckler


  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:15 a.m. CST


    by FordPerfect

    That is pretty cool

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:19 a.m. CST

    Good work Massa...

    by brycemonkey

    although I think you are losing your tough guy image. Discuss it 'over coffee'? :-P Looking forward to this though. Interesting questions raised (nature of reality, mental illness etc.) good to see there is more to the Hollywood machine than SOAP.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:33 a.m. CST

    Did No One Enter Massers Picture Contests?

    by flamingrunt

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:34 a.m. CST

    I entered

    by jackinitraw

    Anyway....good review.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Sounds interesting...

    by dr_buggerlugs

    and an interesting step forward from Eternal Sunshine...though I bet that Be Kind Rewind is gonna end up his big pop culture masterpiece.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:53 a.m. CST

    If there are actually people who "don't like subtitles"

    by Monkey Butler

    Can I please recommend they kill themselves right fucking now. I'm not even kidding.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:59 a.m. CST


    by donNutts

    I just woke up...

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:04 a.m. CST


    by bigboxer

    That means the writer ran out of ideas...

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:06 a.m. CST

    This'll probably be

    by Mechasheeva

    in my year-end Top 5, right alongside Little Miss Sunshine. Anything Gondry touches turns to gold, and this sounds no different to me :)

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 10:18 a.m. CST

    I entered too...

    by Parallax

    Supposed to be a winner announced two weeks ago but I think this contest has been quietly swept under the rug for some reason. No sweat, I don't mind drawing stuff for no good reason... I do it every day.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 11:02 a.m. CST

    flamingrunt / Parallax re: avatar contest

    by Joseph Merrick

    MANY people entered the contest. So many that presenting all the avatars for reader consideration actually poses a substantial technical challenge. We're in the process of putting the finishing touches on a post in which you'll be able to see everything!

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 11:06 a.m. CST

    Regina you are doing my head in

    by Lost Prophet

    You denounce this as boring (without having seen it) despite having said in another TB that you prefer to judge films on Directors/ Producers- and Gondry was responsible for the magnificent Eternal Sunshine. Is there ANYTHING at all that you like?

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Very European = Gay

    by Jugdish

  • Aug. 22, 2006, noon CST

    It was all a dream.

    by Gay Jesus Christ

    Fuck! I can't believe Gondry will use the whole "it was all a dream" cliche. The most unoriginal and infuriating movie mechanism of all.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 12:11 p.m. CST

    wow, jugdish, profound.

    by Lost Prophet

    Stick to loud shit like 2 Fast 2 Furious and don't bother watching it then.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 12:32 p.m. CST

    Thanks Merrick!

    by Parallax

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 12:37 p.m. CST

    So, what are you saying?

    by Sasha Nein

    That douchebags will love this film and lazy people will hate it? (Wow, I'm artistic and different--this movie is for me!=douchebag) By the way, anyone who has issues with subtitles needs to sign up for some night reading classes, or crack a book once in a while.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 12:59 p.m. CST

    intelligent review, massa

    by oisin5199

    Very nice analysis of Gondry's work. While much of the imagery is beautiful (not ugly like the others you mentioned), it's still heartbreaking. Case in point: the crumbling beach house in ESOTSM, an amazing visual metaphor. And subtitles can certainly add something to even an English film (ask Lynch). My favorite film, Wings of Desire, was English, French and German and kept on switching.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 1:27 p.m. CST

    Is that you Galerie Chappe?

    by brycemonkey

    Ha! Ha! Finally.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 2:16 p.m. CST

    Lost Prophet-

    by Jugdish

    go listen to Morrisey and write in your journal...If that aint GAY I don't know what to tell you.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 2:20 p.m. CST

    thanks Massa

    by BadMrWonka

    I did a little mini-review for AICN after I saw this at the Seattle International Film Festival. the language aspect I LOVED (I grew up abroad and speak spanish and passable french) but I can see how it could be a significany caveat, it was truly weird. I love the film though, and mark my words, Oscar nomination for Bernal. who else is gonna get it? Cruise for MI:3? it's a good year for a film like this, I promise you it'll get some attention from the academy.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Dare I say it? Gondry's a ...

    by mattw

    wait for it...Genius. I think this will be one of the best of the year. Also, Wyrm rules.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 3:18 p.m. CST

    that review made my anus sooo moist.....

    by Ilovebigpenis

    I'd like to shove the whole thing up my pooper. Words like "enchanting", "fascinating" and "brilliant" give my butt the hot.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 3:45 p.m. CST

    Yeah, I won't watch an Australian film...

    by DarthCorleone

    ...because I hate subtitles. (Old joke from Cheers) I think I'll love this film. Not a big Morrisey fan, but I do write in my journal and bemoan the inability of women to put with my issues.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 3:48 p.m. CST

    put up, that is

    by DarthCorleone

    They have no problem tolerating my typing, though.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 3:51 p.m. CST


    by drave117

    There are in fact people who do not like subtitles. There are even people who cannot HANDLE subtitles. Almost every time I go to see a foreign movie, there is at least one person that gets up and walks out as soon as the subtitles start. Sometimes they even swear at the screen!

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 5:06 p.m. CST

    about the whole journal writing thing.

    by Cod Profundity

    Fuck off with that shit please Massa. I LOVE Eternal Sunshine and I've never had a journal, never written a diary never even had a myspace and decorated it with emo bollocks. That sterotype is such bullshit. I like the film cus it's a new take on an old theme that happens to have great perfomances and superb old school technique direction. It's nothing to do with being art or weird it's to do with having a little sensitivity and an appreciation of a well made film. I do think The Smiths are genius though.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 5:19 p.m. CST


    by 9SilentNine9

    I don't see a giant, pus - excreting vagina or a tool anywhere on this page... so I'm assuming your new avatar isn't up yet... or that it's not accurate to what you are.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Regina, the best word to describe your tastes:

    by crazyeyezkillah


  • Aug. 22, 2006, 5:55 p.m. CST

    I'm artistic

    by Windowlicker74

    so I should love it

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 6:54 p.m. CST

    Gael Garcia Bernal

    by fastersynergy12

    Gael creepy looking? I can't believe I read that. He has been referred as successful, amazing actor and heartthrob but creepy? Common you are just externalizing insecurities. He might not be famous in the US yet but you are talking about the biggest movie start in Latin America's cinema in the last 30 years of so. Getting that big takes more than good acting.

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 7:58 p.m. CST

    MiraJeff will box Uwe Boll!

    by Kink

    The story is over at Rottentomatoes

  • Aug. 22, 2006, 9:04 p.m. CST

    "other dwellers on the fringe"

    by beamish13

    would it kill AICN to mention Peter Greenaway just once? Damnit, his new film is in production, hasn't anyone tried to score an interview?

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 4:55 a.m. CST

    Jugdish- eh?

    by Lost Prophet

    Read Cod Profundity's post- it pretty much sums up why you are talking shit. Except one thing: I hate the smiths. Regina, the point is: you don't like anything. You either describe it as "overrated" (though how you can say that about Hitchcock is beyond me) or have some equally spurious reason for hating it. The only thing you have ever been positive about is Johnny Depp- as you think he is hot. So to put this to bed, once and for all: What do you like? Christ, it was easier arguing this with Moviemack- who openly hated everything.

  • Aug. 23, 2006, 5:12 a.m. CST


    by marcus torrance

    For fuck sakes, it's because people are too lazy (or too fuckin' dumb) to read subtitles in foreign movies that Hollywood has to do all these crappy remakes. And see only blockbusters that sucks hard. Those who don't like subs can kill themselves right now. I agree. And THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is one hell of a movie. Gondry's a freekin genius.