In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb spiderverse poser

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman have breathed thrilling new life into the comic book movie. The way they play with tone, form…

Thumb beale street poster 2

If Beale Street Could Talk

Jenkins’ decision to let the original storyteller live and breathe throughout If Beale Street Can Talk is a wise one.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb tvovw7qjj63zbqw5tz8cjpthaud

Schindler's List

This was published on June 24th, 2001, and we are republishing it in honor of the film's 25th anniversary rerelease."Schindler's List" is described as a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

The Science of Sleep

The Science of Sleep Movie Review
  |  

Michel Gondry, 43, is a boy genius. Give him a pile of Legos and he might make an animated video of the White Stripes out of them. Give him some egg cartons, boxes, and a shower curtain and perhaps he'll construct an imaginary TV studio, where the programming consists entirely of the dreamer's dreams. Give him some cardboard tubes, and he can build an entire miniature city, complete with skyscrapers, factories and public transportation.

Gondry, the director of numerous music videos and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," creates those last two things in "The Science of Sleep," the hand-crafted fantasy he's written and directed about a little boy in the body of a small young man who confuses waking, sleeping and dreaming.

Advertisement

Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), a shy would-be graphic artist, returns to his mother's apartment after his father's death and sleeps in a child's cradle-bed, between colorful automobile-print sheets, in a room overflowing with toys and inventions.

Stephane develops a fitful crush on his across-the-hall neighbor, Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), in part because he imagines her as his ideal counterpart. After all, her door is opposite his, and she likes to make things with her hands, too, and they practically share the same name, so love must be inevitable. Alas, there's no chemistry at all between Stephane and Stephanie, and no good explanation for why there should be.

Stephane takes a lousy, uncreative job pasting together the boring parts of calendars at a small, technologically backward printing company, where an older co-worker, Guy (Alain Chabat), personifies Stephane's juvenile view of adulthood and adult sexuality. Guy is a bully, a gauche child-man obsessed with sex in ways that frighten and repulse Stephane, who sees himself as innocent and romantic.

And perhaps his objectification and infantilization of himself and Stephanie is romantic, in the solipsistic sense (the whole movie takes place in Stephane's head, anyway), but it's also kind of creepy and unsatisfying -- in the way that an insecure 12-year-old (who'd probably rather be playing with his toys) in the throes of an ambivalent infatuation with a girl he sees only as an extension of himself can be. Stephane eventually winds up in Stephanie's bed (a loft/bunk bed known as the mezzanine -- located between infancy and adulthood), but they never share a mattress at the same time.

"The Science of Sleep" is bursting with ingenious handmade retro-toys and gadgets (like a time machine, using an old Polaroid flash attachment, that skips only one second into the past or the future) and cleverly animated miniatures, all low-tech creations made from common recycled household items, like an ocean of cellophane or a thought-transmission device made from bicycle helmets and wire. Gondry fans will recognize some of the movie's motifs and images from his music videos, shorts and commercials, like the enormous clumsy hands Stephane grows (like Dave Grohl in the Foo Fighters' video for "Everlong").

Advertisement

Gondry appears to have designed "The Science of Sleep" as an elaboration on a short film, "La Lettre" ("The Letter"), which available on his DVD collection. In it, a real boy (10? 12?) believes he is in love with a girl, while his older brother pressures him to French kiss her. It works better with an actual child.

Although the diminutive (5-foot-6-inch) Bernal emanates an infectiously playful and energetic charisma, there comes a point when you just want to slap him with a big hand for being such a petulant baby. There's definitely something unheathly, even pathological, behind Stephane's notion of this asexual/heterosexual "relationship." The boy is charming, but not quite as charming as Gondry thinks he is.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Baffling Failure of Fallout 76

A review of Fallout 76.

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus