Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
We first encountered the bounties of Michel Gondry's imagination in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his second collaboration with Charlie Kaufman (after Human Nature) that earned both parties new legions of admirers. Gondry's latest film, Mood Indigo, is perhaps his most visually imaginative, bringing objects and ideas to life in a sweet, simple, sad love story about a French dreamer and his sick wife. In a conversation about the new movie, Gondry taps into the tenets of his mind, discusses bringing his visions to life, and even reconsiders the impeccable message that made Eternal Sunshine such a winning film a decade back.
When developing the more surreal elements of the film, is there a certain direction you go in visually? Were there margins you set for your aesthetic style, or do you just let your imagination run wild?
Michel Gondry: There is stuff that comes back, it’s funny that you mention the insects. I did something very close to that with the shaver in The Science of Sleep. And I was probably more or less consciously influenced by Boris Vian from a young age. It’s … just making you believe that objects can be alive, that there is not a strong difference between things [and people]. In the imaginary world, the table has four legs; I could put shoes on the legs of this table, and it is something different. So it’s how I imagine things. It’s sort of functional, it’s not really an artistic way of looking at things. So it might be messy at the end, but it doesn’t come from trying to be a type of image.
Is that just sort of how you live your day-to-day life, being an imaginative person and writer, just noticing things like that?
MG: Yeah. Things remind me of something else… or sometimes, even when you see something far in the distance, you don’t really understand what it is. So your brain tries to find an explanation. It can be the shape of a cow, or a shop window, or anything. But your brain tries to tell you what it is. In a way, my imagination takes from that. It’s like when you try to remember a dream, but it’s all messy. Sometimes you try to make sense, to make a story out of it, but it’s really hard. Your feeling tells you [that] you’ve been through a very complex and traumatic story, but then if you look at the detail, the rest of it makes no sense. I try to put that in order so it becomes something more explainable. So I do that with everything I touch.
Mood Indigo has a particularly unusual structure — the conflict comes to life very late in the film. And you can say the same for some of your other movies. Can you talk about how diverting from the norm helps you tell the stories you want to tell?
MG: I don’t know, exactly, the format… so that’s by ignorance, I guess. Some people say that there are only seven types of stories you can tell. That’s quite depressing! … In the movies, they don’t tell you exactly what kind of story it is. You decide it yourself. It’s just a story when it finishes. It’s my technique. so I don’t have the preconceived idea. Some people, maybe, say that I don’t know how to tell a story. Maybe we just on what the story is.
Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection
We got to spend a lot of time in the “happy chapter” in Mood Indigo, before the sadness sets in. Did you particularly want to immerse your viewers in this dreamlike state before we hit the hard stuff?
MG: In the French version, we had much more time on the dark side. Incidentally, when we tried to distribute in … some other countries in which Sarte’s part is a little lighter. In the first version it was much heavier. And some people felt, myself included, that it was a bit long. So I felt what I wanted, for sure – I didn’t think of balance – I wanted to start as ripe, full, inventive. A little bit shallow at the beginning to show the contrast with the really, really somber, emotional [ending]. So I didn’t see it in terms of balance, but in terms of cooperation.
Speaking of the mood, I wanted to hear you talk about the very interesting use of color in this movie.
MG: That was the first visual impression I had when I read the book. I discovered the book a long time ago, way before I ever thought I would become a film director. And it stuck with me. I though, if ever I was asked to do this adaptation I would do it this way: start in color, finish in black and white.
I feel like it’s very gradual.
MG: Yeah, it starts in the middle, when Colin is looking for a job. At this point, we lose 10 percent of the color, and then the next part is 20 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, and so on, until it’s completely black and white … We wanted to [shoot the film] in winter, and we shot in black and white. Even though it was digital, we set the camera so it was black and white. So we could not come back and change our minds. I didn’t want to give any possibility to anyone to influence me to change that.
And did you think that they would be able to?
MG: I had one bad experience on a video, where I was supposed to do it in black and white. We shot it in color for blue screen purposes, and then the producer convinced me to keep it in color. To this day I regret it. Stick to your plan!
You mentioned earlier that you had ideas for this book when you read it many years ago. Which ideas were in your head back when you first read the book, and which ones came to you as you were making the movie?
MG: I had a list of numerations in the book which I sometimes wrote down, and I wanted to present the film a little bit like a personal flashback of my first impression reading the book. I remember the ice-skating rink, the stretching guy, all the chaos … I had many impressions that stuck with me from the beginning.
Was there anything that came about during filmmaking that wasn’t among your original impressions?
MG: The characters were very transparent in the book. We needed these actors, like Romain Duris, who are emotional. In the book they are very transparent. We needed to correspond to how young people are hanging out in Paris. I couldn’t think of a French young actor who I would love to work with. So that’s why I picked these [actors].
Focus Features via Everett Collection
Like you said, the characters in this story are transparent, and in the movie can get a little wacky. Can you talk about finding the humanity and gravity in characters, and in a world, like this?
MG: A lot of [the writing process] gets in the way of directing the actor or finding right tone or finding the emotional thread. So I managed somehow, more or less, to forget all the technique. To really stick with the actors. That’s one of the most important things to do.
Was there anything specific that these actors brought to the film?
MG: Yeah. Romain did. Audrey [Tautou] had this idea that she would be – she would say “very, very, very, very!” … that sort of style. Just a detail like that. Aïssa Maïga, who played Alise, she had this idea that she had a secret in her mind: a love affair with Colin. And people add their own agenda, and their little secret carried that way enriched the character.
Sure. Like Omar Sy’s character and the money. There’s a lot of interesting side stories going on.
MG: Yeah, the money was a big issue, and it was even bigger in the book. The fact that it keeps shrinking, he had to count his money, and everything. So I sort of thought I’d diminish that in the adaptation. I thought it was a bit reductive.
You just felt like it was a little unnecessary?
MG: Yeah. Reading the book, it can really digress … [in the film it felt] a little more trivial. In fact, maybe now the money issue was it was trivial to push it so far. It was too trivial to be pushed that far.
I wanted to talk to you about the ending. The ending of the movie reminded me of the ending of your other film, Eternal Sunshine. Even if something ends sadly, it’s better to experience it. Since it can be seen as the theme to two of your movies, can you talk about what this message means to you?
MG: The idea is that if you just erase everything, then it’s like lazy eyes, it’s less intense. Every person might say there’s one specific memory that ruined all your life, maybe you should erase it. I mean, in movies it’s different. You can really enjoy a movie that’s really sad. Because it resonates with a part of your life that’s not necessarily happy. But we cry in movies… it’s one of their purposes.
You can catch Mood Indigo in theaters now!
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Israeli director Talya Lavie has become the toast of this year's (14) Tribeca Film Festival after picking up two major awards for her comedy Zero Motivation. The movie, about a unit of young Israeli soldiers, was named Best Narrative Feature and the winner of the Nora Ephron Prize, which honours the work of female filmmakers, at a gala in New York on Thursday night (24Apr14).
Paul Schneider and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi picked up acting prizes for their roles in Goodbye to All That and Human Capital, respectively, and the Best Screenplay (Narrative) was handed to Guillaume Nicloux for his work on The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, which also earned the Special Jury Mention. Meanwhile, Marshall Curry claimed the Best Documentary Feature prize for Point and Shoot, and Alan Hicks picked up the Best New Documentary Director title for Keep On Keepin' On, about the relationship between jazz legend Clark Terry and a young blind piano prodigy.
The winners of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival Awards were chosen by 33 jury members, including Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Lake Bell, Toni Collette and directors Catherine Hardwicke and Gary Ross. In total, the juries handed out $150,000 (£93,750) in prize money. The film festival wraps up on Sunday (27Apr14).
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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It hasn't just been a weighty year in politics -- culminating with President Barack Obama's inauguration. It was also an issue-heavy year in snowy Park City.
At the 25th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival, the issue-focused subject matter -- global and national -- spanned the gamut: from assassination-fearing, aspiring pop singers (Afghan Star) … to fastidious fashionistas on deadline (September Issue) ... to laid-off female factory workers in revolt (Louise-Michel) … to Chris Rock taking-on the politics of smooth vs. kinky hair (Good Hair).
And the big triple winner: Push, a story of survival, literacy and hope by Lee Daniels co-starring Mo'Nique, accomplished its own story-making feat with a captivating leading young lady (Gabourey Sidibe).
Out of the 118 features, 7 prestigious awards were won by a small group of buzz films we profiled in our "Sundance Preview Guide." Narrative winners: Push (Grand Jury Prize; Audience Award; Special Jury Prize for Acting for Mo'Nique) and Paper Heart (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award); Documentary winners: Afghan Star (World Cinema Audience Award); Good Hair (Special Jury Prize: U.S.); Big River Man (World Cinema Cinematography Award).
Not to mention the stars who created their own paparazzi avalanche -- some even splitting their time in D.C. -- on and off the slopes. This year's attendees included Spread's Ashton Kutcher canoodling with Demi; Twilight princess Kristen Stewart pushing Adventureland; Push's partying Mariah Carey and hubby Nick Cannon; Reporter producer Ben Affleck schmoozing at MySpace cafe; 50 Cent giving Phillip Morris' Jim Carrey a birthday shout out; Amy Poehler hangin' with Spring Breakdown co-star Parker Posey; Paper Heart's Michael Cera looking very Michael Cera; Kevin Bacon promoting Taking Chance, La Mission's Benjamin Brat adding to the hunk count; pink-hatted Emma Roberts on double-duty for Lymelife and The Winning Season, and Mr. Redford, himself -- and so on, and so on.
So on to the winners:
The Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary was presented to We Live in Public, directed by Ondi Timoner. The film portrays the story of the Internet's revolutionary impact on human interaction as told through the eyes of maverick web pioneer, Josh Harris, and his transgressive art project that shocked New York.
The Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels and written by Damien Paul. The film tells the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice.
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Rough Aunties, directed by Kim Longinotto. Fearless, feisty and unwavering, the 'Rough Aunties' protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. United Kingdom
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to The Maid (La Nana), directed by Sebastian Silva. When her mistress brings on another servant to help with the chores, a bitter and introverted maid wreaks havoc on the household. Chile
The Audience Award presented by Honda: U.S. Documentary was presented to The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos. The horrors of a secret cove nestled off a small, coastal village in Japan are revealed by a group of activists.
The Audience Award presented by Honda: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels and written by Damien Paul. The film tells the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice.
The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Afghan Star, directed by Havana Marking. After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. Marking's film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. Afghanistan/United Kingdom
The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig from a screenplay by Nick Hornby. In the early 60s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks both her and her parents. United Kingdom
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to El General and director Natalia Almada. As great-granddaughter of President Plutarco Eliás Calles, one of Mexico's most controversial revolutionary figures, the filmmaker paints an intimate portrait of Mexico.
The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Sin Nombre, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Filmmaker Fukunaga's first-hand experiences with Mexican immigrants seeking the promise of the U.S. form the basis of this epic Spanish-language dramatic thriller.
The World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary was presented to Afghan Star, directed by Havana Marking. After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. Marking's film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. Afghanistan/United Kingdom
The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic was presented to Five Minutes of Heaven, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel from a screenplay by Guy Hibbert. Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead. United Kingdom/Ireland
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was presented to Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi for Paper Heart. Even though performer Charlyne Yi doesn't believe in love, she bravely embarks on a quest to discover its true nature - a journey that takes on surprising urgency when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera.
The World Cinema Screenwriting Award was presented to Five Minutes of Heaven, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel from a screenplay by Guy Hibbert. Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead. United Kingdom/Ireland
The U.S. Documentary Editing Award was presented to Sergio. Directed by Greg Barker and edited by Karen Schmeer, the film examines the role of the United Nations and the international community through the life and experiences of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The World Cinema Documentary Editing Award was presented to Burma VJ. Directed by Anders Østergaard and edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros. The film takes place in September 2007 as Burmese journalists risk life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country. Denmark
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to The September Issue. With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler, cinematographer Bob Richman and their crew shot for nine months to capture editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 Vogue September issue, widely accepted as the "fashion bible" for the year's trends.
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Sin Nombre, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Cinematographer: Adriano Goldman. Filmmaker Fukunaga's first-hand experiences with Mexican immigrants seeking the promise of the U.S. form the basis of this epic Spanish-language dramatic thriller.
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary was presented to Big River Man, John Maringouin's documentary about at an overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer who resolves to brave the mighty Amazon in nothing but a Speedo. U.S.A./United Kingdom
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic was presented to An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig from a screenplay by Nick Hornby. Cinematographer: John De Borman. In the early 1960s, a sharp 16-year-old girl with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks both her and her parents. United Kingdom
A World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Originality was presented to Louise-Michel, directed by Benoit Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, about a group of disgruntled female French factory workers who, after the factory abruptly closes, pool their paltry compensation money to hire a hit man to knock off the corrupt executive behind the closure. France
A World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Tibet in Song directed by Ngawang Choephel. Through the story of Tibetan music, this film depicts the determined efforts of Tibetan people, both in Tibet and in exile, to preserve their unique cultural identity. Choephel served six years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet. Tibet
A World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting was presented to Catalina Saavedra for her portrayal of a bitter and introverted maid in The Maid (La Nana). Chile
A Special Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary was presented to Good Hair, directed by Jeff Stilson, in which comedian Chris Rock travels the world to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles.
A Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence was presented to Humpday, Lynn Shelton's farcical comedy about straight male bonding gone a little too far.
A Special Jury Prize for Acting was presented to Mo'Nique for her portrayal of a mentally ill mother who both emotionally and physically imprisons her daughter in Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire.
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Legendary TV cartoon The Simpsons made its debut on Arab television earlier this month, with a few changes to suit the local audience.
The animated show, retitled Al Shamshoon, is being shown across the region on network MBC. Among the changes are the characters' names--lazy dad Homer becomes Omar, while young rascal Bart is renamed Badr--and the removal of all mention of anything banned by religious text the Koran, like beer and bacon.
As such, Homer's beloved Duff beer has been changed into a fizzy drink, while Moe's bar has been written out of the show. Elsewhere, hotdogs are turned into Egyptian beef sausages and donuts are Arab cookies, or 'kahk.’
MBC's Michel Costandi says, "I think The Simpsons will open new horizons for us to the future by creating a new genre of programming that will appeal to young adults in the Middle East." The Simpsons has been entertaining Americans, and millions around the globe, for 17 years.
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