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Michel Gondry talks SCIENCE OF SLEEP and BE KIND, REWIND with Quint!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a chat I had with Michel Gondry, director of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and the upcoming SCIENCE OF SLEEP. We talk a lot about SCIENCE, his fixation on flawed relationships as well as his upcoming flick BE KIND, REWIND starring Jack Black. That flick is about a man who accidentally erases all the videos in a small independent video store when he becomes magnetized in a freak accident. His friend runs the store and they find themselves in a mad rush to quickly "remake" the most popular rentals to keep their few, but loyal, customers happy.

The interview was done over the phone and at one point he was interrupted on his end. I've included that portion in the interview and I think it's really kind of funny. Enjoy!!!


QUINT: Hi. How's it going?

MICHEL GONDRY: It's good. It's the last interview.

QUINT: Ah, hopefully it won't be too boring for you.

MICHEL GONDRY: No problem.

QUINT: I saw the movie last week and I really dug it.


QUINT: I'm becoming a very big fan of your work. ETERNAL SUNSHINE blew me away.


QUINT: One thing that I really like about both ETERNAL SUNSHINE and SCIENCE OF SLEEP is that they both explore extremely flawed relationships. Joel and Clementine in ETERNAL SUNSHINE and Stephan and Stephane in SCIENCE... is this something that fascinates you personally or is it just a coincidence?

MICHEL GONDRY: Well... I mean, maybe I'm a retarded teenager, but I think it's something that preoccupies me a lot in my life. It takes a lot of space in my brain, in my emotion, so especially talking about dreams or memory... It's really connected to emotion. Obviously emotion... a lot driven by wish of relationship or past relationship or present relationship.

QUINT: So, a lot of it is autobiographical?

MICHEL GONDRY: It's personal, yes. I mean, I have great contributions from people around me, especially the actors, but the starting point is very personal.

QUINT: It's really refreshing for me. I mean, I'm a sucker for a good romantic movie, but I love that there's hope in both films that you've done. Some people might consider it, on the surface, to be a little cynical that these characters always seem to miss each other completely, but every film that you have this kind of relationship there's a hope to it. It's one of the main reasons I love ETERNAL SUNSHINE so much, the hopeful ending. The romantic in me loved seeing that.

MICHEL GONDRY: Well, I think sometimes... I mean, I don't want to hide from being romantic. I don't want to indulge myself, but I think showing a place where you're not romantic because you want to please the audience... (If) you really have those feelings, then it is okay and I think there is no limitation.

QUINT: I think one of the mains reasons these relationships you've shown us have been successful is because of the people you're putting together. I'm curious how long it took you before you realized you had the right combination with Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

MICHEL GONDRY: It doesn't take so long to think of them, but it takes some time to figure out where they can be devoted to the theme and do it together. Like, Gael, I really liked what he had to say about the project. I mean, he didn't say okay (at first). I think he wanted to get close to me before he'd commit to it. Then when I found him, I started to think about who could be Stephane. Charlotte was a dream to approach to work with. I couldn't image she would be so accessible, but she was.

QUINT: What was it in the chemistry between the two that you knew they'd be perfect together? Was there something specific...

MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, to find that Gael was younger than Charlotte was not what I expected in the beginning, but I remember the first time we had a conference on the phone. It was the first time that they met, it was through the phone and I was listening. Once they started talking to each other, I (found) elements that were key to the relationship, immediately clicking. The way Charlotte was kind of shy on one hand, yet on the other hand she was very reinsuring and charming. I think the way she's reinsuring to Stephan is what's addictive about her. She's reinsuring even though she's completely unsure of herself.

That complex personally fascinates me with Stephane. I would say Charlotte's maybe the other way around, but in a way that works perfectly. In fact, you see that she's very shy, but yet when she has something to say and she wants to create a limit she's going to tell you right away and be very strong. She has a quiet strength and I think the character is a little bit the other way around. She seems sure of herself, confident, and then she's really under confident and... not self-loathing, but she's not feeling so great about herself. It was interesting because it was a little bit inside out, but she worked perfectly to do that.

QUINT: Another thing I liked about the movie was the use of language. I take it you didn't start out including Spanish with the English and the French, that it was included when Gael came aboard...

MICHEL GONDRY: Oh, I'm sorry. Can you come another time?

QUINT: Umm, do you want me to ask the question another time?

MICHEL GONDRY: No, no... I think it's somebody trying to get into the room. Okay, go ahead.

QUINT: It was just a question about the language in the film: English, French and Spanish. Was the Spanish added when Gael came on to the film?

MICHEL GONDRY: Oh... ahh... I'm sorry. Somebody's...

QUINT: I can hold on a second if you need to deal with that.

MICHEL GONDRY: Okay, hold on. (to someone in the room) Are you... I'm on the phone, so... Sorry? You're not bringing the tables... No, I'm staying here. It's my room. Okay, so go ahead... (Back to me) There's a lady who is... Okay, carry on. I have a hard time to focus when there's people around me.

So, okay. You're talking about the three languages?

QUINT: Yes. And if Spanish was added with Gael's casting.

MICHEL GONDRY: Yes, of course. I mean, I already had written this character to be a foreigner in his own country. He's coming back home and he hardly speaks the language. I think it's a protection, I guess, to me to do a full French movie because I don't feel I would be capable. I liked Gael and I liked other English actors or American actors, so this character would be a foreigner anyway in France. So, he finally comes back to his country and he has difficulty to communicate only ads to the confusion about what's going on. It reflects perfectly what's going on between his dreams and real life.

It was something I experienced myself, of course, by working in London, especially, without speaking the language or hardly speaking the language. I thought it'd make him in a vulnerable position, which is interesting for the story.

QUINT: Where did you start when you were conceptualizing the look of the film?

MICHEL GONDRY: Initially... do you mean the first step of the writing?

QUINT: Well, did the way you visually approach the film... was that most inspired by the script or the characters? Where did you start visualizing the movie?

MICHEL GONDRY: Well, it comes together in the writing. I just envisioned the way I would do it. I try, and I guess everybody who writes a screenplay would do the same, you try to have characters that are engaging. Once you're with the character you just accept what they're doing, you follow their story. I think how it started. I was trying to depict these two characters with their own personalities. I used my own experience, obviously. I used my own experiences for most of the thing.

You just try to make them alive on the paper and then when you feel that it's really them talking and not you writing, then you just follow them around. It becomes more playful.

QUINT: Are you looking forward to starting BE KIND, REWIND?

MICHEL GONDRY: Yes. I'm shooting in 2 weeks.

QUINT: In my run-ins with Jack Black he's spoken very kindly of you.

MICHEL GONDRY: We've been talking to work with each other for years now. I'm really glad it's finally happening.

QUINT: Which film are you most looking forward to "remaking" in the movie?

MICHEL GONDRY: BACK TO THE FUTURE... um, RUSH HOUR 2... ROBOCOP. BOYZ IN THA HOOD... I won't tell you all or there will be no surprise. It's movies that people would rent in a video store which doesn't carry DVDs, basically.

QUINT: Which is the one that you're most looking forward to remaking?

MICHEL GONDRY: I don't know. BACK TO THE FUTURE is really a classic for me. But I have to do it in 2 hours. I wrote the screenplay of this scene... BACK TO THE FUTURE as somebody would direct it if he had only 2 hours.

QUINT: So, you're only going to give yourself 2 hours to direct the whole BACK TO THE FUTURE remake?

MICHEL GONDRY: If it was only with a video camera, yes, but there is a film camera that is shooting the making of, which is our actual movie, which slows us down, unfortunately. But it will be interesting to do it by memory, not watching the film. I stipulated that nobody should watch those movies on the crew because I know how people are. They would try to perfectly reenact all the cinema. They only had the right to (look) at the boxes, the pictures on the back and the front of the box...

QUINT: And their memory of the film...

MICHEL GONDRY: And their memory, of course. So nobody's cheating. Everybody comes up with their own visions in terms of art direction... it's how they would do it. But it's hard because we are making film for our living, so we are not like those guys. We have to think of how you would do it if you had 2 hours to do it.

QUINT: I'm really looking forward to it. Looks like a fun movie for a film geek.

MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah. It's not necessarily movie geeks... It's a lot about the community and there is a story of Fats Waller, who had been living in their building. He's, like, a legend. I think it's a sweet story.

QUINT: Are you still doing MASTER OF SPACE AND TIME?

MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, later. I don't know exactly when it's going to happen, though.

QUINT: Since you've been writing your last few projects, are you going to have a hand writing the screenplay for MASTER OF SPACE AND TIME or are you going to leave that all to Daniel Clowes.

MICHEL GONDRY: We'll see. I mean, SPACE & TIME I've started to work with Dan Clowes, who is great, but I have another project I started to write on my own, too, and we'll see how it goes. If I have some ideas...

QUINT: You're writing something else, too?

MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah. I have a French project I started to write.

QUINT: What's it called?


QUINT: What's your favorite dirty joke?

MICHEL GONDRY: What's my favorite dirty joke? I'm shy about it! I don't know what to say. A lady just walked into my room, so I can not be rude! But, let me find one!

Okay, this woman with two left feet enters a shoestore and asks for a pair of Flop-Flops. That's my dirty joke. It's not very dirty, but it's as much as I can be right now.

RETURN OF THE ICESKATE, huh? Sounds like a Michel Gondry movie! I must be honest that when he said that I had a hard time understanding what he was saying, so it's possible he said RETURN OF THE ICE KID. Neither makes much sense, but there you have it. I still can't wait for BE KIND, REWIND, even with the recent news that one of the films to be "remade" in Gondry's movie has gotten tangled in rights issues. Wonder which one? I hope it's RUSH HOUR and we still get to see that BACK TO THE FUTURE made in the backyard!

Going to London tomorrow, then back for a few days of Fantastic Fest, then off again, this time to Barcelona of all places. I've got a crazy week ahead, squirts. I'll fill you in on the details very soon.


Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 19, 2006, 3 p.m. CST


    by HardcoreRocker

    Gondry rules.

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 3:06 p.m. CST

    be kind

    by OneintenMan

    sounds like the bestest movie ever.

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 3:13 p.m. CST


    by ObiWanCon

    Be Kind Rewind Could be funny if done right.

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Every generation has a director...

    by vivavitalogy

    that takes the art of cinema to a level we ten years later will say "he/she has taken the art of cinema to a level..." You just wait.

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 3:21 p.m. CST

    This is obviously fake

    by georges garvaren

    and i want a blood sample of Mr Gondry to prove that this interview was even possible. And if you dont then my elite movie-gossip website will attract no readers at all and I will live in my mothers basement forever! You've been warned

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 4:01 p.m. CST

    The return of the dirty joke! <shudder>

    by brycemonkey

    What happened? I thought you'd lost it for good. Did you panic and not have another question left? Shame. I like your interviews but the dirty joke ending upsets me more than I can say... It's always such a let down. Other than that, good interview.

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 4:21 p.m. CST

    On an unrelated note who or what is "Plo Koon'?

    by brycemonkey

    At first I thought it was another unrecognizable Bond figure...

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Considering ESOTSM was my fave of '04,

    by jigsaw

    it's bizarre how unenthused I am about Science Of Sleep. Maybe it's becuase Eternal Sunshine felt like an organic idea that realized it's full creative and intellectual potential, while TSOS feels more like a well-marketed product that's pandering to the MySpace generation. Hope I'm wrong!

  • Sept. 19, 2006, 6:03 p.m. CST

    "Flop-Flops" made me smile

    by Novaman5000

    in spite of myself.

  • Sept. 20, 2006, 12:38 a.m. CST

    I can't wait for Be Kind, Rewind.

    by CoursinLarry

    One thing I liked about it was that all of these different studios agreed to let their movies be remade. It seemed like a sign that would could all hope to one day get along. Now Hollywood shows its ugly face. Shame on you.

  • Sept. 20, 2006, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Jeezus! The bugs on this site are driving me

    by brycemonkey


  • Sept. 20, 2006, 11:17 a.m. CST

    so this dudes name is michelle?

    by white owl

    i always thought his name was michael until i saw the preview on tv for science of sleep. it wont hinder the fact that the movie looks super trippy and mr bernal is in it so im sending michelle my ticket money in due time