Tonight, I finally saw Michel Gondry’s latest film, The Science of Sleep, which opens in select cities on Friday. Having been a fan of Gondry’s music video work for years, I’ve always been a champion of his limited feature-film career. Before making a splash in the indie film world in 2001, with Human Nature, he directed intensely artful clips for Bjork, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Beck, and more. Hell, his Sheryl Crow video is easily the most engaging clip she’s ever had. And, while the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Human Nature got a smattering of kind notices, it was always sort of seen as the lesser sibling to Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich.
It wasn’t until Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2004, when Gondry made a feature that could really stand tall as a great piece of work. But, even that was Charlie Kaufman’s show (they even won Oscars together for it, but Kaufman was the one who spoke at the ceremony). And then you have Gondry’s unexpected concert documentary, this year’s Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. And, you don’t need me to tell you that film was all about Chapelle. So, when would Gondry get the auteur moment for his original and unique talent? He does, with The Science of Sleep.
This seemingly-autobiographical film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Stephane, a down-on-his-luck artist who moves to France to be closer to his mother and get some work. But, in between days, Stephane is distracted by the fanciful and vivid world of his dreams. Confusing matters is his newfound crush, a young neighbor named Stephanie. The two play in dreamscapes together, as the film becomes not a whole lot more than a whimsical romantic comedy. But, what sets it apart is that it’s heavy on all three of those things: whimsy, romance, and comedy. In ways, the film reminds me of Annie Hall, in that Gondry tries to reinvent and toy with romantic comedy conventions with very refreshing results.
It’s almost fitting that a framing device in the film is Stephane’s dreamworld talk show, where he plays host. That’s what Gondry is doing here, hosting the “Michel Gondry Show.” For his longtime fans, we’re dying to be in that studio audience. Because, at Gondry’s will, the audience travels on a visually explosive, funny universe where dreaming, waking, and loving collide. The Science of Sleep is a wonderful headtrip of a romantic comedy, and will hopefully win Gondry some newfound fans in addition to making us lifers proud.
For more on the film, and Gondry’s next project, check out Quint’s interview with him on AICN.