Full disclosure, I didn't like The Science of Sleep very much. I think European audiences will find it much more appealing, it's very stream of consciousness. I just couldn't find a way to get into it because I didn't love the focus of the film. However, Michel Gondry is a director I do love. He's was the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which won an Oscar for best original screenplay for his pal Charlie Kaufman) and Dave Chappelle's Block Party which I feel is the most underrated film of the year.
The Science of Sleep takes a look at dreams, how people come together in romantic relationships and the communcation gaps that haunt us all. At the very least it's ambitious and innovative which is more than 99 percent of movies (or directors) can claim. Gondry himself is a great guy, when I found out I had a chance to interview him I said, "Where, and how many mint Milanos are needed?" (he crunched on them throughout the interview, the perfect compliment to his tea). Read on to glean some knowledge on one of the best young directors on the planet and also to hear about Kirsten Dunst in Be Kind Rewind, an Extended Block Party DVD, an alternate version of The Science of Sleep and his feelings on Claymation. Enjoy!
When I entered the room Michel Gondry was working on a drawing, a picture of a scene from the movie (The Science of Sleep). I immediately coveted it and when he asked if I wanted one of those mint Milano cookies I asked for the drawing instead. Swell guy that he is, he even went to the trouble of making it out to me and autographing it. Now I call him a triple threat.. director, writer, artist. Check out the pic at the end of the interview. Thanks Michel!
Do you think most or all relationships are built upon a flawed premise?
It's a lot about timing, if you're not careful you fall in love too fast or too early. Your desire, your attraction can be very hard for someone who doesn't share it. If you don't have the same response at the beginning it can become too intense.
Can you talk about some of the effects used in Science of Sleep? Is it Claymation?
I don't like Claymation; to be honest it's not charming to me. I like Wallace and Gromit, it's a very good story but I like to take objects and transform them. We did two months of animation with a small crew eight months before we started shooting.
Do you consider yourself a director who pushes boundaries?
I like to try different things on a technical level. This idea of a character swimming in a tank with a flying view of Paris in the background, it's an idea I've had for ten or fifteen years but I've never seen it done. Now I understand why, because you shoot underwater which is uncomfortable and dangerous but it would have been boring on blue screen.
Do you feel like there are similarities between Eternal Sunshine's offbeat reality and Science of Sleep's offbeat reality?
It's difficult to follow up Eternal Sunshine because it was very well received. People say "It's too bad you didn't do this one with Charlie Kaufman," well, I wish I could do all my movies with him but he's busy doing other stuff! This one was started before Eternal Sunshine and I collaborated on both of them, but this one is more naïve and doesn't have that science fiction element.
As an aside, Dave Chappelle's Block Party is one of my favorites of the year.
Oh thanks. Yeah, I worked with my friend Jeff Buchanan, he brought so much to it, and it was such a nightmare. We had nine hours of concert with nine cameras and the rest of the day we had one or two cameras. I hope they are going to release a long version in September, an extended DVD. It's going to be every song, maybe 40 minutes more. On Science of Sleep I'm going to do a B version of the movie on the DVD that's made up entirely of the deleted scenes, it will be 45 minutes long.
Is Dunst official for Be Kind Rewind?
Yeah, we're shooting in September. She was supposed to be in The Science of Sleep but she got a little scared and decided not to.
You've worked with some amazing comics, Jim Carrey, Dave Chappelle, and now Jack Black.
I love comedy. Even working with Charlie Kaufman, they are really good at blurring the line between comedy and drama. Chappelle's method is he doesn't want to be funny at first, he wants to capture people's attention, and then he's going to cross the line, completely out of the blue. It's great.
Are you doing a lot of effects for Be Kind Rewind?
No, they are doing all the effects themselves. They take the tapes that have been erased, the VHS, they re-shoot them on top. Say it's an old movie they shoot through layers of hanging string to pretend it is scratchy. They shoot through a fan to make it flickering. They use firecrackers for sound. It's very fun. After all, I don't do movies to get bored.