Michel Gondry’s New York bus movie experiment
Not all teenagers are “young and dumb.” Although you’ll fooled into thinking this is the case at the beginning of “The We and the I.”
The film begins as Michael, Teresa, Laidychen, Big T and the gang trade high school in the Bronx for holidays and parties. Kicking and screaming, they pile up inside the bus, kick the small kids off the back seats, mistreat an old lady and shout insults at each other.
Throughout the entire film, the audience witnesses the emotional, but easy flowing evolution of the relationship between the teenagers. And there’s a reason for this: they played themselves.
The story line came to Michel Gondry as he was sat on the number 80 bus in Paris:
“It was the end of the day and I watched as these kids came out of class. It was such chaos, there were so many of them. As I saw them coming out one after the other, I started imaging the ties between and how they evolved. I’ve always wanted to make a film based on high school teenagers and I just happened to fancy filming it in New York.”
Larger than life
It was when Gondry came across an extra curricular activity program called ‘The Point’ offering lessons in “acting, photography and … activism” that he decided to organize a workshop to find his cast. He hired the first 40 that signed up and kept their original names:
“As I started to get the know the kids, I let their stories merge into the one I wanted to tell. The characters slowly grew from there.”
“The We and the I” addresses your typical teenager, moody and tormented: we sit through their stupid jokes, put up with obsession with sex and figure out the worries hiding underneath all that angst.
“My job gives me a good excuse to hang on to my teens. I did feel guilty about the fact that whilst I could act like a kid, I knew I was just playing around,” confesses Gondry. “It’s this feeling of guilt that forced me to tackle more serious, social problems some of these kids are faced with.”