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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 106 Minutes
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
o Commentary by writer-director Michel Gondry, Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Sacha Bourdo
o The Making of The Science of Sleep
o Featurette on Lauri Faggioni, creator of Animals and Accessories
o Linda Serbu "Rescue Me" music video
o Adopt Some Love: a Linda Serbu film
o Theatrical trailer
Michel Gondry makes the most visually expressive and uncompromised work of his career.
Babel‘s treatment of the communicative barriers between us was a little too on-the-nose for many critics’ taste.
Gael Garcia (The Motorcycle Diaries) Bernal, Charlotte (Jane Eyre) Gainsbourg, Alain (RRRrrrr!!!) Chabat, Miou (shitloads of French flicks) Miou
Stephane is a man-child who has trouble distinguishing between his fantastical dream world and the rather mundane and confused reality he truly inhabits. Moving back to his mother in France after his father’s passing, Stephane is stuck with a creatively bankrupt job position and winds up caught in a tricky situation with next-door neighbor Stephanie (Gainsbourg) where he can’t quite communicate what he feels anywhere but in dreams. The boundaries between his dream world and waking life begin to crumble, and Stephane finds out that the rules of romance isn’t what he dreamt them to be. It’s also a bracing portrait of a relationship that is fucked from the start, as the inability for either person to be upfront with the other results in a spiral of miscommunication that neither seems able to explicate themselves from.
In a year that will be remembered for numerous masterworks of the younger generation of directors (Cuaron with Children of Men, Arovonosky with The Fountain, Del Toro with Pan’s Labyrinth) that can also be seen as a summation of their careers up to this point, another filmmaker’s work could easily be brought up as another example of such work: Michel Gondry and The Science of Sleep. A sublime piece of filmmaking that harkens all the way back to the beginning of cinema (where trickery and the illusory nature of film itself was something that was new and being played with frequently), Gondry creates a work that is simultaneously visually extravagant while maintaining a human element through the strong work of its leads in Bernal and Gainsbourg.
Most impressive of all of Gondry’s in-camera wizardry is his harnessing of what’s known in the industry as ‘The Dinklage Effect’.
Of course the main attraction in a Gondry film is going to be the visual inventiveness that is always on display throughout and with Science he doesn’t disappoint. All of the dream sequences are fantastic and his low-fi handmade manner of composing special effects (including some pretty fantastic use of rear-screen projection as well as stop-motion and sets built with skewed perspective) pays off by creating a textured universe that doesn’t have the hollow feeling that so many special effects-laden works of the current era are saddled with. Especially fantastic is the studio for Stephane TV (the set of his dreamscape) and the re-dubbing of audio to catch that off-putting sense of something being not exactly right in one’s dreams. Noone has the ability to film dream logic quite like Gondry.
Paper, scissors, rock with ‘Hands’ Vasquez was always a risky proposition.
But without strong performances, this film would be nothing more than an exercise in visual expression. Bernal is playing an extremely tough role here, a real high-wire act. Stephane is a man-child who is unable to express himself properly in reality, and because of this acts in a state of arrested development throughout much of the film’s running time. He also has brief spurts of incredibly rude and hurtful moments that could completely take away any sympathy one has for the character (however, I think this is a movie that most men will be able to relate to in terms of a person’s failure to fix a relationship that just continues to snowball right from the get-go). To Bernal’s credit, Stephane remains a likeable and charismatic lead throughout. And Bernal shows off a dimension I haven’t seen from him before with some really rock solid comedic work in this film, both physical and verbal. Charlotte Gainsbourg is saddled with a role that is equally tough in playing a woman that bounces between different emotional poles throughout (approachable and altogether lovely in his dreams, and somewhat more complicated and confused by Stephane’s childishness in reality) and handles herself quite well. The supporting characters bring the pain as well, delivering comedy and reality in equal doses when called upon.
"The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a 100% chance of emaciated Sydney Pollack look-a-likes."
Science doesn’t have the narrative clarity or impact of an Eternal Sunshine (then again, that’s a pretty impossible goal to strive for, quite honestly, as that movie is a flat-out masterpiece), but part of this film’s unique quality is the fractured style of it’s narrative and the bleeding of Stephane’s dream world into the real world. And it’s a simpler, more child-like story at that: one need only look at some of the gems of the dialogue (“The brain is the most complex thing in the entire universe. And it’s right behind the nose”) to see that this movie is operating on an entirely different wavelength than the works Gondry has directed prior to this.
It’s a release for Gondry to work unfiltered like this on a truly personal work (one can see a shitload of Gondry in the shy and introverted Stephane character, and many of the film’s more excruciating relationship moments feel as though they had to have been lived to have been portrayed so achingly true) that has all of his hallmarks on display: the childlike state of arrested development evident in its main characters, the precocious misunderstood artist and the most remarkable visual inventiveness in cinema today are all part of what makes Michel Gondry’s works such a treasure. And much like in Eternal Sunshine, this film ends with a message that can be simultaneously read as hopeful and extremely melancholy, and one that’s worth dissecting and discussing. This is a work that may have gone unnoticed by many in 2006, but as Gondry’s career continues on towards bigger and brighter things this will be looked upon as a piece of work that defines his oeuvre. Highly recommended.
"Some say that as the morning dew settles one can still hear the galloping of mighty Barbaro throughout this great nation of ours."
The cover art retains the imagery from the posters but loses some of its magic by turning the muted colors of the posters into what amounts to clown ejaculate. The transfer is absolutely gorgeous (one small complaint: the layer change comes at a point that is quite jarring and almost feels like a skip from a scratched disc if you haven’t seen the movie before) and the 5.1 Dolby audio compliments the fantastic looking print nicely. There’s a handful of goodies here, but it’s not exactly a substantial set of extras. The commentary by Gondry and his cast is disposable, as there isn’t much in the way of revelatory information about the shoot or the characters and to complicate matters even more, Bourdo speaks mostly in French through the commentary. Un-subtitled. Add that to the already Inspector Closseau-esque accent Gondry’s equipped with and you have a seriously indecipherable commentary at numerous points. One highlight: Gondry nothing that Bernal and his mother in the film are believable as such because of their similarly “rodent-like groins” (somehow he confused noses with groins).
Numerous members of the cast and crew were ‘Pearce’d’ on the set of Ravenous.
The best of the special features is the making of which tops out at about forty minutes and is filled with really enjoyable behind-the-scenes looks at exactly how Gondry works his magic with those practical effects throughout the film. It shows how labor-intensive and effort-laden the shoot had to be in order to pull off the dream sequences. Also on board is a featurette shining the spotlight on a New York designer of some of the props and animals in the film which isn’t all-that-remarkable, but she’s passionate about the project which makes watching it hassle-free. The solid theatrical trailer (one of the few these days that is emotionally engaging, in this viewer’s humble opinion) is included as well. The most baffling of the extras are the ‘Adopt Some Love’ and ‘”Rescue Me” Music Video’ featurettes. Both highlight an adopt-a-cat program set up in New York that is run by the type of girl that frightens your penis into hiding. Calling the “Rescue Me” featurette a music video is misleading: it’s mostly this woman’s autistic ramblings about how much she loves her kitties followed by her lip-synching the lyrics while gyrating with or staring at cats. Truly out of left field and slightly unsettling, especially with relation to (or should I say the lack thereof) this particular DVD.
8.8 out of 10