Wednesday, February 7, 2007

February 7th Log

2006, Michel Gondry, France / Italy
Repeat Viewing, DVD

The Science of Sleep is such a bizarre film that some audiences may be easily turned off. Others might be disappointed that it's not on the masterpiece level of Michel Gondry's previous feature Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, to me the film is a wondrous joy of endless imagination and romantic fantasy. This is Gondry's first film as the sole writer-director (his previous collaborations were with acclaim screenwriter Charlie Kaufman). I found this film so charming and full of imagination that it won me every way step of the way. The two leads are absolutely outstanding and when on screen together the films sparkles with appeal. There has never been a question that Gael Garcia Bernal is a brilliant actor, but Charlotte Gainsbourg is a revelation here. Gainsbourg radiates energy and charm as Stephanie, Bernal's neighbor and love interest. The film is magical in its portrayal of dreams and reality, as well as the combination of the two. Narrative speaking The Science of Sleep is fairly simple but Gondry (expanding on a basic premise from one of his own early short films) gives it such an appealing and extravagantly mind-blowing touch that is (like dreams and perhaps even reality) equally messy and charming. Gondry's influence roots stem from the French poetic fantasy realism of the 1930s, and ultimately The Science of Sleep is a romantic fantasy about innocence, longing, imagination, as well as an inner struggle with life and love. The film is certainly surreal, but with a tone of light-heartedness. At once, bizarre, beautiful, funny, and romantic The Science of the Sleep is a lovely film with loveable performances from Bernal and Gainsbourg. The joys and wondrous imagination grew even stronger with repeat viewings, such as these two souls (fittingly names Stephane and Stephanie) share what Bernal's character calls them "Parallel Synchronized Randomness". I really can't overstate how lovely these lead performances are. Bernal continually proves to be one of the most interesting actors of modern cinema, and Gainsbourg is an absolute charmer. It is not so much the romantic chemistry amongst the two, because there really isn't much of a romantic connection. It is more a chemistry of two people's chaotic mix of emotions and sensitivities that make relationships so complicated and complex. Through Gondry's vision the film captures this beautifully with a sense of innocence, longing, and doubt, as well as hope and letdown. Anyone who has seen Gondry's music videos from Bjork knows his imaginative vision, but this film (without Bjork or Kaufman) proves him to be a unique talent.

2006, Allen Coulter, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Hollywoodland is a finely crafted film which depicts the mysterious death of George Reeves, the actor who played the original Superman on television. Through flashbacks and non-linear narrative the film details various possibilities, and theories of the suicide death (among them is the possibility of murder). The films strength is in it's cinematic achievement. Featuring a talented cast (lead by the perfectly casted Adrian Brody as the investigating detective, the always under-appreciated Ben Affleck as Reeves, Diane Lane as the obsessive femme fatale, and a particularly exceptional performance by Bon Hoskins as MGM executive Eddie Mannix). The period details and wonderful sense of atmosphere and location (obviously!) give this the look and feel of a neo-noir. Thoughts of Chinatown certainly come to mind especially at the moment Brody continues his investigation with a bloody face. One of the films other greatest asset is the depth of the character development as well as the always enjoyable Hollywood references and chatter. Also a great use of noir-style dialogue (tough and sexy). There is a mysteriousness and complexity to these characters and the film as a whole that make this such an intriguing film, and one that will hold up on repeat viewings. This is the directorial debut of Television veteran Allen Coulter and together with his cast and crew he has collaborated on an excellent film.


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