Michel Gondry describes his Utopian ideals
American inventor and industrialist Thomas Edison once said genius is one per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration, but for Michel Gondry, those proportions may just be reversed or drastically readjusted.
The visionary Oscar-winning French feature film screenwriter and director (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) tends not only to find inspiration in unusual places, but uses his own wild creativity to expand and mould abstract visualizations into full-length movie ideas.
His latest film Be Kind Rewind — about a pair of slackers (Nacho Libre’s Jack Black and 16 Blocks’ Mos Def) who, after erasing their antiquated video store’s collection of VHS tapes, begin recreating the films on a shoestring budget and manage to unify and energize the residents of their rundown neighbourhood in the process — is a perfect example of director at work.
Gondry, who wrote and directed the film — and who sheds ample perspiration on his many groundbreaking music videos and television commercials — developed the plot when he moved into Paris’ Montmartre district and was struck by the sheer number of small theatres that had long since closed in the once-thriving artists’ enclave.
“The 18th arrondisement in Paris had the most small theatres and they were all closed when I moved in because of the emergence of the multiplex,” the 44-year-old Science Of Sleep director explains.
“I always had this vision to create a community around a theatre, buy one or rent one, (where locals would) not write films that exist, but create their own films. They would take a camera, shoot a film and then watch it, paying what they would normally pay to see a movie and that would be enough to shoot the next one and every week or month they would have new films to watch.”
Gondry calls this his “kind of utopian thinking,” a sort of perfect world where art and corporatism don’t collide, but instead co-exist in a mutually exclusive environment of harmonious creativity.
Some might call his disdain for corporatism somewhat hypocritical given the fact Gondry not only makes films that are marketed by major studios to large audiences, but because a large part of his income is derived from commercial directing work for companies such as Levi’s and Smirnoff vodka — a point he readily acknowledges. That critique aside, his ideal vision, although highly unlikely, would be of a world where everyone creates his or her own art and shares it, profit-free, with their closest friends and family.
But until then, Gondry continues to search for inspiration in his own creative milieu and commit those ideas to film.
“I think the difference between what you observe and what you put out, you put out in your way what you’re not necessarily in control of,” he says.
Be Kind Rewind opens in theatres Friday.