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|The Science of Sleep|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Michel Gondry|
with Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou, Emma de Caunes, Pierre Vaneck, Aurélia Petit, Sacha Bourdo, Stéphane Metzger, Alain de Moyencourt, Yvette Petit, Inigo Lezzi
release US 22.Sep.06,
06/France Gaumont 1h46
All thumbs: Chabat and Bernal
Michel Gondry takes on writing chores with this surreal and lyrical love story. It gets seriously under the skin, although perhaps not quite as cunningly as his two films written by Charlie Kaufman (Human Nature and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
Stephane (Bernal) has always had trouble separating real life from dreams. After his father dies in Mexico, he moves in with his mother (Miou-Miou) in Paris and takes a dull job in an office populated by bored but colourful characters (Chabat, Petit, Bourdo and boss Vaneck). He also starts falling for Stephanie (Gainsbourg), the young woman who lives across the hall. But they find it hard to connect, especially when she discovers that he fancies her friend Zoe (de Caunes). Maybe Stephane's dreamland holds the answers.
Two things set this film apart from the pack: First is Gondry's outrageous visual sensibility, which avoids digital trickery for on-set effects, stop-motion animation and general outrageousness that couldn't come from any other filmmaker on earth. It looks absolutely amazing, playing with textures, colours and periods (it seems stuck in the 1980s), and staying centred on the characters. Stephane's dream world is made mostly of cardboard and cellophane, with hilarious variations on places and situations both real and imagined.
Second is Gondry's boundless imagination, turning a simple story into something outrageously magical. Basically, the story is about a young man who doesn't have the skills to woo his soulmate, so he reverts into his subconscious. The film's jammed with wonderful touches that are both touching and hilarious (such as Stephane's imagined bestseller: I Am Just Your Neighbour and a Liar: By the Way, Do You Have Zoe's Number?). Through it all, there's a sense of real yearning and hope--disaster mingled with fantasy.
Bernal is at his most relaxed and charming here, and he and Gainsbourg share a wonderfully scruffy creativity that gives their interaction a zing of chemistry. The characters around them are equally goofy and likeable--and everyone gets the kind of terrific throwaway one-liners that make it a film you'll want to see over and over. It's busy, charming, stimulating and packed with heart and soul.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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