Friday, 5 June 2009

The Science of Sleep (La Science de Reves, 2006)

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Lapped up by hipster critics, Michel Gondry’s second film strikes me as a shapeless, occasionally dazzling, often tiresome piece of work, which applies to the lead character too. Gael Garcia Bernal is the coolest mofo in the business these days, and he imbues his character, Stephane, with rather more charm than he ought to actually possess. Matching Bernal with Charlotte Gainsbourg (as his alienated soul-mate Stephanie) is almost the last word in contemporary romantic pairings, but Gondry’s not chasing traditional romance, and his film bends over backwards to avoid an obvious cute-chick-falls-for-zany-guy narrative.
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Stephane and Stephanie are clearly meant to be together, but they’re also bundles of insecurity and retrograde personality flaws, that see them lock into a frustrating pas-de-deux of missed opportunities and misunderstandings. A lot of twee alt-culture retro-fetishism follows, but what kind of narrative Science wants to be never quite gels: even if it’s in part deliberate, the repetitive structure sees scenes, in essence, repeat over and over, and the flourishes of magic-realist whimsy (like a one-second time machine) never attach to anything of concrete importance.
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Gondry is too insistently delighted by his own inventions to establish a firm clash between the real and fantasy worlds – it’s too gutless to make a harsh commitment to showing up the dreamer, and Gondry can’t make you ache, like, say, Petulia, or Brazil, where fantasists are eaten alive by reality, make you ache. And he’s too worried about keeping his indie cool to chart a course for wondrous insanity. His low-tech special effects are amusing, but finally define the film more as an exhibition of installation art.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating!