As with most of you, the name Michel Gondry first came across my radar with Massive Attack’s Protection video, followed by the sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where the French director’s lo-fi, off kilter palette seemed the perfect match for Charlie Kaufmann’s equally wonky view of the world.
But Gondry’s follow up to that, The Science of Sleep, was an indulgent mess: the epitome of a clever music video director who can’t handle a proper story. Well, that’s what everyone says about it. I watched the first half of it a while back and fell asleep. The fact that I’ve still not bothered to watch the rest speaks volumes.
But Gondry is back this month with the feelgood movie of the year: Be Kind, Rewind.
When Every Movie Critic In The World hailed No Country For Old Rope as the movie of the year early in January, I thought they might be jumping the gun a bit (true, as it turned out), but I’ve just seen Be Kind, Rewind on the last day of February and I’m jumping the gun. It’s the film of the year and I ain’t expecting a better one in the next ten months.
If you’ve not seen the trailer yet, it’s about a failing video hire shop where… oh, sod it, just watch the trailer…
Jack Black and Mos Def are a superb comedy double act once they start making their ‘sweded’ movies, but it’s the addition of Melonie Diaz as the love interest that catapults the film beyond the slapstick, and Danny Glover’s turn as the manager that gives it gravitas.
And it’s when their DIY Blockbuster caper takes off and becomes a catalyst for community bonding that this film takes Gondry out of his usual insular concerns and makes him a real filmmaker with something to say about other human beings.
In Blake Snyder’s new genre terminology, it’s a Golden Fleece story: there’s a team, a road and a prize, and by the time they’ve got the fleece they’ve discovered something profound about themselves (although it may be a Fool Triumphant story… I’m still not sure).
By the end I wasn’t so sure whether this was an honest attempt to make a Capraesque feelgood film about a small community finding itself through taking on The Man (well, Sigourney Weaver), or whether Gondry was actually deconstructing the whole idea of the feelgood movie. But I’m going for the former.
It’s unashamedly sentimental without ever being obvious or condescending. By the time the credits rolled I was wiping the tears from my eyes, and they weren’t all from the laughter.
It’s the film of the year. No arguments. Go and see it.
Here’s Michel Gondry’s ‘sweded’ trailer…