Tag Archives: Charlotte Gainsbourg

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Michel Gondry achieved a rare thing with his 2004 breakthrough film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His surreal, twisty love story resonated with art cinema geeks, but it also acquired a new, more mainstream fan base for the French director. After garnering 2 Academy Award Nominations for Eternal Sunshine (including a well-deserved win for Charlie Kaufman for Best Original Screenplay), it seemed like all eyes were on Gondry’s next project…which turned out to be Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Uh, okay. Well, you know, that was really more of a documentary…I’m sure his next movie –

Wait, what?

Then he made some weird bilingual part-stop-motion thing? And he doesn’t even have any big stars in it?

Yes, believe it or not, not all directors sell out after success, and Gondry in fact took a step back in terms of accessibility with The Science of Sleep. It’s a meandering, strange little film, but despite its overall modesty, it’s actually quite ambitious. Melding together the mundane reality of life with a frenzied dream state, Gondry avoids every pitfall of the surreal and makes a surprisingly moving film.

Our protagonist, Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), is a shy singleton stuck moving back in with his mother. He meets an intriguing neighbour, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), but initially finds himself more drawn to her subtly cruel friend, Zoe. But throughout his struggles to find love, Stephane often finds himself interweaving fantasy with reality. And as his relationship with Stephanie evolves, both of them have trouble seeing the truth of their situation for what it is.

With such a simple plot, The Science of Sleep relies quite heavily on its visual style and overall whimsy. Luckily, Gondry is a master of such things, and the sheer creativity of his vision is a wonder to behold. Many scenes of the film evolve from being rooted in reality to becoming entirely bizarre, but like a real dream, it’s done so seamlessly that it never disorients the viewer. From Stephane’s imaginary talk show (which opens the film, and pops up frequently throughout) to the mixed media representations of his dreams, it feels like a school art project, in the best way possible. While Eternal Sunshine was slick with its quirkiness, The Science of Sleep is much more modest. At one point, Stephane and Stephanie create a sea of cellophane, carefully positioning the pieces to appear “random”, and this arts-and-crafts vibe permeates every corner of the film.

Also enhancing the unconventional tone are the performances. Bernal and Gainsbourg are well-respected actors in the world of foreign film, but they may only be familiar to American audiences for small parts in Hollywood films (Bernal appeared in Babel and, more recently, Letters to Juliet, and Gainsbourg can be seen in 21 Grams and I’m Not There). Both juggle English and French here (Bernal’s primary language is Spanish, while Gainsbourg’s is French), and both shine on screen. Bernal, especially, is both vulnerable and hilarious. He nails Stephane’s bumbling, unassuming nature and embodies every one of the character’s insecurities.

The visual flare and Bernal’s alternately charming and heartbreaking performance take this film far. Gondry also says a lot about love and our aversion to reality. But even with such a simple plot, I felt like this film could’ve been propelled along in a more engrossing way. It starts to sag in the middle, and there may be a few too many fantasy sequences to keep the concept fresh.

Gondry wrote the script without Charlie Kaufman this time around, and while he handles it fine, it lacks some of the punch of Eternal Sunshine‘s. The relationship of the two main characters here is poignant, but it never quite manages to transcend the modest vibe of the film.

The Science of Sleep‘s slow pace and inaccessibility will put off a lot of viewers. But I would recommend it to a larger group than merely Gondry fans. It’s funny and inventive, and the film’s charm takes it far. It nails a woozy dream world, but it’s Gondry’s depiction of the ups and downs of the real world that make it worthwhile.

8/10

8 Biopics That Need to Be Made

The “biopic” seems to be a genre of never-ending possibilities. From politicians to serial killers to the inventor of windshield wipers, it seems like every semi-famous person with a life story worth telling gets the biopic treatment at some point. Here’s look at a few famous people yet to have their lives put to film that deserve the same attention.

Mitch Hedberg

Played by Steve Zahn

Hedberg earned a devoted following for his bizarre, stream-of-consciousness brand of humour (currently, Demitri Martin is pursuing a similar style), but had his career cut tragically short in 2005 from a drug overdose. Zahn not only physically resembles the late comedian, but may be one of the few working actors who is genuinely funny enough to do Hedberg’s material justice.

Jeff Buckley

Played by James Franco

Most famous for his seminal cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Buckley only released one proper album (1994’s Grace) before tragically drowning in 1997. His haunting voice has struck a chord with critics and fans since. Though many are against the idea of making a Buckley biopic, the resemblance between Buckley and Franco is hard to deny. Franco did James Dean justice in the 2001 made-for-TV biopic, and I think that he’d do an equally great job with this enigmatic music hero.

Patti Smith

Played by Charlotte Gainsbourg

With her own musical talent and unconventionally good looks, Gainsbourg seems like a natural choice to play legendary punk Patti Smith. As well as proving her acting chops in I’m Not There and her fearlessness in Antichrist (or so I’ve heard – I’m far too weak-stomached to watch it), Gainsbourg exudes a natural cool that’s essential to pull off Smith’s persona. Maybe it’s something to do with being French?

Nick Drake

Played by Ben Whishaw

The diminutive Whishaw may be a bit short to play Drake (who is said to have been over six feet tall), but Whishaw has the alluring mystery needed to take on this enigmatic folk hero. During his career in the late 1960’s, Drake was a relatively obscure figure, but has since had a resurgence in popularity, long after his death in 1974. Whishaw (I’m Not There, Bright Star) has the kind of “old soul” aura about him that would fit with Drake’s music and mystery.

Jimi Hendrix

Played by Anthony Mackie

Mackie proved his acting chops in last year’s Oscar Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker, and he seems like a natural choice to take on this legendary musician. With many of his contemporaries receiving the Hollywood treatment, it seems likely that Jimi’s time will come soon.

Kurt Cobain

Played by Joe Anderson

Whisperings of a Cobain biopic have given bloggers something to speculate about for a couple of years now. Ryan Gosling, James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor (who would’ve been a good choice…ten years ago), and Robert Pattinson (don’t worry, that one apparently isn’t true) have all had their names tossed around, but to me, Anderson seems like the obvious choice. The resemblance is uncanny, and on top of that, he’s the right age, and he proved that he has the vocal chops as Max in 2007’s Across the Universe.

Elliott Smith

Played by Paul Dano

Revered for his hushed, tuneful music, Elliott Smith’s legacy has only grown since his tragic death in 2003. Casting a biopic for this complicated figure would be tricky, but Paul Dano is one name that seems to fit. Thanks to films like Little Miss Sunshine and Gigantic, Dano has quickly become heavily associated with quirky indie films (sometimes to the point of type casting), and his offbeat style would likely suit a Smith biopic well.

Rob Sheffield

Played by Eddie Redmayne

Rock critic Sheffield’s memoir, Love is a Mixtape, chronicles his early adulthood, and the short time that he spent with his wife before her sudden, untimely death. The story could make a great movie, and Redmayne (a recent Tony winner for Reds) not only looks like Sheffield, but has a soulfulness that would serve the story well.