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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Dream Big: Gondry Chat Draws Hundreds in SoHo

Hate to say I told you so about getting to SoHo early for last night’s Michel Gondry appearance: A few hundred fans had packed the Apple Store’s second-floor theater by around 6:30 (for a chat that started at 7), but seats were gone well before that and the queue winding onto Wooster Street was little fun in the rain. With nothing to the left of the decimal point in The Reeler’s bribe budget, I blew the usher to let me sneak up to the front, where the filmmaker joined indieWIRE boss Eugene Hernandez for a comprehensive clip-show conversation and Q&A sprawling from his early years in music video to his superb new feature, The Science of Sleep, which opens Sept. 22.
I noted here what outtakes I could before giving up on the translating game; Gondry is funny, spirited and exceedingly smart, but fuck if I could not make out every third or fourth sentence. What I could decipher, though–well, I don’t know. It mostly makes sense:
ON SURVIVING HUMAN NATURE: “I was really depressed after Human Nature because critics weren’t so nice to me, so I took a notebook, and I wrote everything that was mean, and I tried to figure out why it was bothering me. The reason it was bothering me was that there was some truth in it, and I had to find out how I could make it develop. So I had this 40-page book that’s become my, um… It was pretty awful. But it really helped me when I did Eternal Sunshine. Everyday when I would go to the shooting, it would help not to forget the goal I had set for myself. Every time I would go in that book with the lists, it was a good thing.”
Hernandez: “So there’s 40 pages just from Human Nature?”
Gondry: “Yeah. But I’ve lost it now. It was too bad.”
ON THE IMPACT OF DREAMS ON HIS CREATIVE PROCESS: Sometimes I write them down, or I do drawings. I have a lot of paper; it’s not like I have a book. I don’t think I can do something that’s so organized. But I have a very bad sleeping pattern. I sleep very little, but from what I read in some books, if you skip a night of sleep, the next night, you REM sleep doubles. So particularly what it said was that if even if you sleep a little, the amount of dreamng is consistent. In my case, I sleep very bad and terrible, so the few times I sleep I keep dreaming. … And I wake up with very strong feelings that the dream was real. And I screened this for some therapists who are working on dreams, and we talked about what could happen to provoke that. I have sleep apnea, which is a problem. Maybe my brain has a lack of oxygen, but I work in a different way from other people when I wake up, and sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference from sleepy time. Maybe my brain wakes up in a different way. Basically I wrote this experience and this tradition; I thought it would be interesting to experiment.”
ON HIS FIRST MUSIC VIDEO: “The first video I made was for a girl who was six feet tall. She had a huge nose and big feet; I dressed her like a princess and she looked like a drag queen. I completely failed. And on top of that, her partner in the video–I dressed him like a drag queen because it was the song. It was a complete horror, this video. I remember when I showed it to my family, I had spent two months during the post-production, and they didn’t say a word. I knew they were horrified. They couldn’t look me straight in the eyes. It took me a long time to understand that I really had to fix this problem.”
ON HIS NEW FILM: “It’s called Be Kind Rewind. It’s a comedy with Jack Black and Mos Def, Mia Farow and Danny Glover, and it’s a story about theese two guys who work in a video store run by Danny Glover, and when he’s away for a week… Jack Black becomes magnetized and erases all the tapes by mistake. So they don’t want to disappoint their boss, and the only way they can think of to cover their mistake is to start to reshoot the films one after the other. The first movie is going to be Ghostbusters. They go out and take their camera and shoot the film in two hours, like playing all the parts and stuff. [Customers] realize they are not the real movies, but it is actually pretty funny because it’s Jack Black and Mos Def. And so they become a big hit in town, and little by little they reshoot the originals. … We’re in this little town, Passaic, New Jersey, where we found all of our locations. In fact, one of the mechanics who worked on Eternal Sunshine has his shop there, and so I went to visit him with the idea. His shop is next to a power plant, so he always complains he’s having headaches and stuff.”
The event wound down with a sneak preview of a new Beck video for the song “Cell Phone’s Dead,” a one-room, black-and-white exercise featuring the plaid-suited singer morphing into a hulking figure of cardboard boxes, wood blocks and, I think, a bedroom dresser. Or maybe he just climbed into it. I have got to take better notes. At any rate, give Gondry a shout if you happen to be traveling through Passaic (he starts shooting today) and get some Sleep later next month.
(Photo: STV)

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3 Responses to “Dream Big: Gondry Chat Draws Hundreds in SoHo”

  1. Maya says:

    Thank you for the recap. And I totally sympathize with your having difficulty translating. I did too when I was transcribing my interview. But he’s so fascinating that’s totally worth the effort.

  2. Liliana says:


  3. The Reeler says:

    Queue and Eh? Gondry Gallery Opening Baffles NY Art Blogger

    I thought I was pretty much done with Michel Gondry, but Art Fag City blogger and vaunted Reeler Pinch Hitter Paddy Johnson yesterday filed a dispatch from the opening of the Gondry show The Science of Sleep; an exhibition…

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon